From Page To Stage: The birth of Artless Charlie – Part 15

3/22/03

Sunday’s rehearsal was dedicated to polishing/finalizing the last two scenes between Charlie and Grace (2.2 and 2.4).  We spent the first half of rehearsal doing some more work with the fight scene, but this time we had the new lines of text that Adam had prepared for us.  I thought that the new lines were great, if not a little too directly subtextual, but there still seemed to be something missing at the end of this scene.  Then, Adam suggested that I let Dan and Kirsten break the confines of the apartment space/platforms.  We tried it out and it really seemed to help the scene by opening up the amount of space that could exist between Grace and Charlie.  This was a great suggestion on Adam’s part, for though I really like the way I’ve laid out the space, sometimes the apartment can be a little small for dramatic staging.  Taking off from this idea, I had Grace move along the outside edge of the piano and continue along its side, using the piano as a means of physical support and resulting in some great ironic symbolism. Pairing Grace with the piano at that moment in the play made for a nice image of the two things that were slipping away from Charlie, and that he needed the most at that time, as one entity.  As sort of a last ditch effort, I tried to have Kirsten relate that moment in the play with a personal experience, and she did so nicely with a memory of an old boyfriend of hers.  This seemed to help her heighten the emotional stakes in this scene.

From there we moved on to the final scene of the play. Though we had read through the new version of this scene before, we had never gotten it on its feet. After trying a brief stumble-through, we discussed the issue of Grace making the decision to leave Charlie at the end, an idea that I am very partial to.  We agreed that the image of Grace watching Charlie play the piano in the last moment was just too powerful to cut. Additionally, Adam and I also enjoyed the ambiguity of this moment, a quality that we had been toying with using for quite a while now.

In the end, our final decision basically came down to some minor textual alterations. In the final version, Grace tells Charlie that she’s “sorry” and heads to the bedroom to finish packing after he kisses her. When she re-enters the space, presumably on her way out, she stops and watches Charlie as he plays the piano. This version works much better than having Grace say she’ll “stay for a little while” because it maintains the ambiguity of the moment while shifting the tension to the last action of the play.  The blocking in this scene also worked out really nicely.  For instance, when Grace turns to go to the bedroom for the last time, her movement leaves Charlie staring no longer at her, but at the piano. This is perfect because he says to her moments earlier: “I don’t care if I never play the piano again, as long as I have you”.  The audience then sees that Charlie has to have his piano because she’s not staying, or so she says.

Again, I’m happy with the ambiguity of the last moment of the play.  Personally, I feel that Grace does not stay with Charlie in the “moment after”, but I like letting the audience decide on that for themselves.  Overall, I think that Adam did a nice job with the textual changes in these last two scenes.  It’s interesting to note, however, that I made the textual suggestions that worked in the fight scene and Adam made the blocking suggestions that worked in that scene.  We obviously complement each other very well in our respective positions.

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