Saturday, October 29, 2016

Long Division: First Week of Rehearsal

Today is the end of the first week of rehearsals for Long Division. In fact, as I write this our amazing cast is still hard at it in Richmond, taking turns working on their respective monologues with director Richard Wolfe and Assistant Director Keltie Forsyth, while presumably also running lines from the choral group scenes under the watchful eye of stage manager Jethelo Cabilete. Having worked our way through the beats of those scenes and any lingering questions about them by the end of the day yesterday, I decided to knock off from today's rehearsals as I have so much else to catch up on.

Not that I regret for a moment being there the rest of this past week. It's such an exciting--and terrifying--thing to dive into the rehearsal process. The exploration and moments of discovery are so stimulating; at the same time, one is always in a bit of a panic about the steadily diminishing amount of time one has for said exploration and discovery. In our case, because there are so many different moving parts to the production--not the least of which is creating and learning actual physical movement--juggling available time is one of Richard's main priorities. Fortunately, choreographer Lesley Telford hit the ground running during the first three days of rehearsal, aided by the emerging dance artists from her Arts Umbrella class with whom she has been building much of the choreography for the show, and many of whom have very generously agreed to accompany Lelsey to our rehearsals to help teach the material to the actors. And in this respect, one of the delights so far has been to watch the dancers' and actors' mutual admiration for each other's specific performance gifts. The entire cast has done an amazing, and exceedingly fast, job of absorbing into their bodies some fairly difficult physical phrases. At the same time, they've also absorbed much of the text into their brains, with several of them already off book in terms of their very long monologues. Composer Owen Belton was also present to observe what Lesley was working on in relation to his music, and to get a sense of what he still needed to come up with to accompany the rest of her movement score.

Yesterday we also got a glimpse of Lauchlin Johnston's mock-up of the set, which blew me away with its elegance and beauty. The Gateway's Studio B is not a huge space and we're losing some of that to the backdrop that Lauchlin has created, and that will additionally serve as the surface onto which video designer Jamie Nesbitt's will project his images. One thing Jamie flagged for Lauchlin and Richard was the colour of the floor. If, as originally intended, it remained white, like the backdrop, then it would create a lot of bounce from the lights that would make it hard to see the projections. This would only be exacerbated if, as planned, lighting designer Jergus Oprsal used a series of shins to provide side light from the wings. So the lino floor will now be a light shade of grey. If everything goes accroding to plan the set will be installed by next Thursday, with the lighting grid hung soon after and the cue-to-cue happening much earlier than usual so that the performers will ideally have three full tech runs instead of cramming everything into one half day.

It was also useful to have Jamie at the table yesterday for our final beat-by-beat read-through of the text, as he asked a lot of tough dramaturgical questions about what exactly was going on in different sections, and how video might support them in some instances, or conceivably work against them in others. Combined with the cast's similarly probing questions from the rest of the week, the rigorous text analysis has really forced me to justify my choices, and to explain their relevance to the overall structure of the play and the respective inner worlds of each of the characters. It also required me to not be precious about material that clearly had to go, or about changes to specific lines, however micro or macro. I really appreciate the attentiveness of all involved to my writing, as it has indeed made the work stronger and, in one instance spotted by Keltie, saved me from making a pretty glaring mistake in the math!

Lots more work to do, of course, but so far the process has been thoroughly rewarding. The level of collegiality and collaboration on everyone's part has been inspiring, and that's in no small measure to the open and non-hierarchical environment Richard has worked hard to create. I can't be in the studio on Monday due to teaching commitments, but I look forward to being back at rehearsals on Tuesday.

So stay tuned for more.


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