From Page To Stage: The birth of Artless Charlie – Part 18

3/28/03

Tonight, I again stressed the importance of tying things together as we attempted to stumble through Act II.  In 2.1, I worked with Kirsten on finding the separation that exists in her conversation with Walter.  That is to say, there are two types of moments in this scene.  One is the awkward, friendly conversation with Walter and his persistent attempts at snaring Grace’s affections.  The other moments are about her and Charlie more than anything else. I n this scene, Grace has purposely come to speak with Walter for a number of reasons, because she’s concerned about Charlie and, more importantly, because she needs someone to talk to.  There is a level of guilt and necessity that accompanies her seeking out another man because she can’t get anything out of Charlie and I want her to show that.  Previously, all of those moments were running together and it was very hard to decipher what exactly the relationship between Grace and Walter was. Hopefully these changes will help clarify their relationship, as well as her feelings about Charlie, while making room for Walter’s awkward attempts at intimacy.  I am toying with the idea of having Charlie seated at the piano during portions of her scenes with Walter, in order to make Charlie more a part of Grace’s relationship with Walter.

In the following scene, I worked with Andrew of finding the moment before he enters Charlie’s apartment.  We’ve discussed in the past how this scene really needs to show the height of Joe’s manic energy, as the dialogue almost requires it.  Given that, I talked about his entrance into the scene and how he can establish all of those feelings without saying a word by carrying that energy with him into the space.  Additionally, this makes for a great contrast to Charlie’s sulking and depression.

The second half of that scene also required a bit of tweaking.  When Charlie tells Grace about his suicide dream, I asked her to explore some feelings of fear.  I want her to be frightened of his remarks, not so much for herself, but for him.  This speech makes Charlie sound like he might have some seriously loose screws, and Grace needs to reinforce that.  Another moment in that scene seemed to give me a bit of trouble.  It’s a moment that had been bothering me for some time, but I had never been able to get it right.  The moment in question is when Grace receives her VCAT scores in the mail.  This occurs in an awkward place as it is in the middle of a tiff that Charlie and Grace are having.  I felt that the placement of this moment was not only awkward, but her unveiling of “96th percentile” scores was a bit much.  Adam and I discussed some further text changes but weren’t coming up with anything.  

The issue was brought up of if and how Grace shares this news with the seemingly apathetic Charlie.  We decided to take a five-minute break from it, and during this break, Dan and I discussed the moment over a cigarette and tried to pinpoint what was missing.  He suggested that Charlie turn to see Grace open the envelope containing her scores.  This was the fix we needed.  We ran the moment and I found that by making that simple turn and “sharing the moment” we eliminated all the need for exploring how and why Grace would electively tell Charlie about the scores and we also got rid of the awkward pause right before.  This is a great example of how something so small and so simple can really make all the difference.  Additionally, this is a testament to how well we’ve all worked together on this project.  Discussing the moment with an actor and being able to find the solution through their insight is just what I was hoping to get from this process.  It’s moments like these that arise out of a great cast, a comfortable atmosphere, and a group that listens to each other.

In Madeleine’s last scene, I worked with Evelyn on developing her climactic moment and subsequent outpouring of emotion.  This had a lot to do with the simple employment of that aforementioned “tying together” of moments.  In her speech where she finally reveals all of her fears to Charlie, I had her perform it as though it was all one thought coming out at once.  This helped the speech a lot.  In the past, she has taken way too much time to get these thoughts out and I’ve felt like that goes against the grain of the scene.  Essentially, Charlie has just assaulted and badgered her to admit to her being afraid, and when she finally does, it should be like the dam has just burst.  Evelyn said that those changes helped her a lot, and I felt like it helped the scene as a whole.  We still need to work on other elements of that speech, but we’re much closer to where we need to be now, as far as her emotionality is concerned.

In the same vein as the “tying together” issue, I spoke with the cast about volume and projection.  As we all know, the Spiegel Theater eats up sound, and getting the actors to project is not something that I want to be doing only in the last dress rehearsals.  Dan, in particular, has some absolutely touching moments in this play where he has pinpointed and delivered the emotional content perfectly. The problem is, they are delivered in a barely audible whisper.  If we don’t address the issue of volume and projection now, one of two things will happen: either no one will be able to hear those moments and they will be lost, or he will end up losing all of that hard work he has put in by trying too hard to project at the last minute. It is for those reasons that I’ve told everyone to think about how we can transmit such moments in an audible manner.  I am glad that we are in a good enough place as far as blocking and character goes so that we can focus our energies on these smaller points.  It is my belief that neglecting such issues is the downfall of many student productions, and I hope to be able to avoid such pitfalls by addressing these issues now.

I mentioned to the cast that we are now moving into the next “phase” of rehearsals wherein we will try to run multiple scenes together and I will avoid stopping the action unless it is absolutely necessary.  I will try to start taking notes during these runs and discuss them afterwards.  This will contrast with how I’ve been running rehearsals thus far. I ’ve tried to be as involved with the cast as possible by sharing the space with them and creating a sense of intimacy on stage, but now that we’ve established the emotion and blocking of each scene, its time to start looking at the show as a whole.  I would also like to get a rough clock of exactly how long the show is running to see where we stand insofar as overall length goes.  Ideally, I’d like to keep the show down to about an hour and a half, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to do that. I’m betting we’ll run closer to two hours.

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