News from the Dramaturg
Monday, April 16, 2012
"I love the rehearsal process in the theatre, and the visceral sense of contact and communication with a live audience."
-Judd Nelson, August 2003
Wendy Dann’s production of Measure for Measure is designed to feel like a rollercoaster ride, with twists and turns at every corner. This imagery intends to convey the feeling of the emotional pressure experienced by the leading characters. In rehearsal the actors explore emotional exercises necessary to create their dramatic journeys.
William Shakespeare’s rehearsal process tended to focus on his actors, including himself, memorizing their lines. Once the lines were learned then the company would have no more than a single rehearsal. Shakespeare’s company, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and later the King’s Men, would put on at least six different shows a week, thus leaving no room for a long rehearsal process. Actors would go into the process without knowing the whole of the play. Due to the quick turnaround of each show, forgetting a line was all too common. Most actors would rely on cue acting, which meant there would be a person backstage whispering lines to an actor. His process was hurried, but Shakespeare understood his audience and grasped ideas that were unique, thus causing his writing to be a success. To his audience it didn’t matter that the production was untidy, the message was received.
In contemporary practice usually the first few weeks of rehearsal are devoted to table work, a process in which the actors, director, voice coach and dramaturg dive into the script for a deep textual analysis. This process is long and arduous, but the end results are inspiring, eventually leading the actors to use this breakdown while on their feet. Wendy Dann had the actors develop movements that fit into the world of this production and she would expand on the movements to complete the scene. This style of directing immersed the actors in the play’s world, but also involved them in its creation.
Shakespeare succeeded in telling his stories, so much so that he is listed as being the most produced playwright on the American stage. Many of Shakespeare’s techniques have been altered, but his productions’ purpose still remains the same. No matter how long the rehearsal process, the job of the production team is to convey a story to the audience.
- Char Manlove-Laws, Dramaturg
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