From Page To Stage: The birth of Artless Charlie – Part 10

3/16/03

We’ve made some big changes in the last week or so, and each one seems to have improved the production.  First are the textual changes: Thus far Adam and I have discussed in great detail what changes need to be made, and he has re-written the each one of these except the final scene.  That scene will obviously be affected by the new versions of prior scenes such as 2.3.  We talked about the climax of the show and felt that, in the original version, most of Charlie’s recognitions and realizations occurred offstage.  In the re-write, a cut scene has been added to tie 2.2 and 2.3 together.  In this cut scene, Charlie expresses his emotional breakdown through a monologue that is largely centered on the issue of his dead father.  There is a dreamlike quality to this scene, as the visions in Charlie’s head of his friends and family will be manifested physically through their presence on stage.  This should be a nice moment, and help heighten the drama in the second act.  This, in addition to the new version of 2.3, really helps the play’s dynamic, and everyone agreed that these changes are for the better. I think Adam did an excellent job with these re-writes, and I’m very pleased with the final product. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the last scene.

The Walter/Grace supplement scene has been written and is now going to be placed right before 1.4. This will be known as 1.3a. I am confident that this addition, along with the shortening of their scene at the beginning of Act II, will help define their relationship more clearly, and keep the momentum going throughout the play.

As far as the final scene is concerned, I would like to see a bit more ambiguity as to whether or not Grace and Charlie can resolve their differences.  I feel like the original version is way too convenient in that their dialogue touches perfectly on all of the issues at hand in a very clean, simple manner, and I’d like to see it be a bit more difficult for Grace to take him back.  It feels a little too much like an after-school special in the last scene.  I am even interested in exploring the possibility that they don’t work it out in the end.  We have to look at the other elements of what Charlie is trying to fix in his life, i.e. his hands, his relationship with his mother and father, his spirituality, and then balance that with the resolution with Grace.  The music box is also very important – if he’s fixed the music box, does that mean that he’ll fix his relationship with Grace?

Royston will be coming to rehearsal tomorrow for the first time. He will see, hopefully, most of Act I.  I am anxious to hear his feedback on my work so far and get his suggestions on certain things. It will be a very rough sketch, but it is still early and everyone is working very hard.

Thus far, my biggest hurdle has been working with Evelyn.  She is a much younger and seemingly less experienced actor than the rest of the cast, and I’ve found myself having to spend a lot of rehearsal time working on some very basic fundamental acting points with her.  Some of these points include: objective, breathing, grounding (both emotionally and physically), eye contact, listening and motivation.  To her credit, she appears to be trying very hard and is showing some improvement, but it is slow going.  She is starting to act with Dan for the first time instead of at him.  Consequently, this has helped Dan focus himself much more as well.

In an effort to resolve some of theses issues I have elected to bring in Emily H.  to help out with Evelyn.  I feel like Emily will be able to explain some of these points and techniques to Evelyn in a more detailed fashion than time has allowed me to do. Additionally, because Evelyn seems to be a bit nervous, a factor that is contributing to these problems, I feel like Emily will be more successful relaying some of these points her in detail.  I’m sure than Emily will also relate to Evelyn better than my overbearing, goal-oriented, insane self.  Essentially, I’ve brought Emily in to compensate for what my rehearsal schedule doesn’t allow me to do at this point, and I am confident in Emily’s ability to complete this as I feel that she is a superb actress with excellent rehearsal demeanor and technique.

Emily and I talked about using more in-depth warm-ups to relax Evelyn and hopefully wake up some parts of her body that she hasn’t been utilizing.  Specifically, she needs to get her voice out of her throat and allow her breath to drop into her belly.  I have also been working with Evelyn on trying to stay grounded, both emotionally and physically, as well as getting her to make some more specific choices overall.  She seems reluctant to commit to any explicit actions or emotions and instead, just seems to be “shooting from the hip,” so to speak.  She is doing very well, but she could be doing much better, and I’d like to help her get there.

Dan is also doing a nice job with his character of Charlie.  He appears much more focused than I’ve seen him on past shows that we’ve worked on together. Though his work is pretty widely varied from rehearsal to rehearsal, I feel confident that he will even out as we move on.  It’s interesting, however, to see Charlie go from one end of the emotional spectrum to another in the course of one day.  One night it’s like watching a bad Woody Allen impression, and the next night he’d be Charles Bronson if you stuck a gun in his hand.

As far as the show’s actual composition goes, I’ve been toying with the idea of having the audience following Charlie through the transitions whenever possible. This seems like it could work, as Charlie is in almost every scene in the play, and I also feel like it would make the transitions a little less belabored.  I’m hoping that the rewrite of 1.5 will work with this idea, because it transitions us from Charlie and Grace in the Doctor’s office to Charlie alone in the attic.  This should work much better than the five minutes of needless dialogue between Madeleine and Joe in the first version.  I’m hoping that this method of “following” Charlie as the surroundings change around him will help establish the dreamlike quality that is echoed in the overture, entr’acte and breakdown scenes as well as create a nice through-line for the show.  Speaking of which, I’ve worked a little bit on the sound design and Adam and I are working with musician Donna M. on the original piano music.  This is an integral part of the show, so I’d like to get the ball rolling on it as soon as possible.

I can’t wait until we have our first full cast rehearsal tomorrow so I can see some of these scenes in succession.  I’m hoping that the visions in my head turn out to match what appears on stage.  I think that we’ve worked hard enough to allow the action to translate well.  I feel like all my actors are on the same page as I am, emotionally, and they’ve certainly been putting in the effort.  

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