Makin' Some Dirty, Sexy Fun
A read-through or two is pretty typical of any rehearsal process. This production of Macbeth is no different in that regard. Shortly after casting we held our first read-through (complete with pizza and snacks). Afterwards, the cast was sent off, scripts in hand to (hopefully) learn lines and ruminate over their characters and the play itself. The first cast meeting is also a nice place for us all to see each other face to face . . . the raw materials that are going to get together and make a play happen. We gathered for that first meeting on June 8th on the Withycombe Mainstage to hear the play (complete with cuts) together for the first time.
After some time away as a cast, we met for our second read-through on the 20th, which marked the official rehearsal process. Hearing the play from the first reading allowed me time to make some decisions based on what everything sounded like together. A second reading (this time with cookies) brought us back into that space with a little more familiarity with the text. It also gave Barbara a chance to show her sketches and renderings for the costumes and for us to go over the ground plan for the set. While these little pieces began to fuel the general excitement that comes with putting together a play, we were met with a couple of unexpected pieces of rather bad news. The first being the fact that we wouldn't be able to work in the Quad immediately and the second being an unfortunate turn of events in the legal status of one of the actors. Chee, an international student from Japan, had spent the 2009-2010 academic year studying at OSU. Her visa, however, was about to expire, and the channels she thought would ensure her legal status for the summer had not worked out according to plan.
Needless to say, Week One in the process included some rather stressful elements that were completely out of our control. These unfortunate surprises could not deter our process and we forged on focused on the elements of the show that we could control. Technical director, Jordan, taped out the best approximation possible of the Quad space on the Mainstage. Although working on a two dimensional plane is wildly different than the space itself, it served its purpose for blocking Act I. Blocking the individual scenes went smoothly with the knowledge that adjustments would invariably be made once we moved to the outdoor space.
Then came what everyone was eagerly awaiting . . . Day 1 of fight choreography. Wanting the show to conjure the images of a Tarantino movie, I was determined to revel in the play's violence. Partially this adds to the spectacle of a production, but in this case it helps to tell the story of a gritty underworld. After several meetings and excited e-mails with Amanda and Jon, we decided that the fight scenes would mostly work with found objects (rusty tire irons, dirty chains, etc.) I also really want to portray the character of Macbeth as a deadly bad-ass. Amanda and I loved the idea of him being able to disarm anyone who comes at him and turn their own weapon against them with deadly results. This savagery plays into one of the character's great internal paradoxes- he is a killer and in many ways seems to have little regard for life . . . and yet his choice to betray Duncan ultimately causes him to unravel.
Fight choreography is an interesting element to add into a piece. It infuses energy into the scene, but unless it helps to tell the story effectively it can actually take away from the narrative. Act I has two fights. We blocked the simpler first where the two murderers take out Banquo and Fleance. In this case, the story became about a surprise attack and Banquo being left vulnerable. Fleance attempts to save his father, but Banquo demands he save himself. The second fight was far more complicated to put together. Although it still stands unfinished, the first several sequences are coming together nicely. The first street brawl must convey and establish several key relationships and demonstrate the comradery between Macbeth and Macduff and Macbeth and Banquo. It also must poise Macbeth as a powerful and clever warrior. So far it seems to be coming together.
When Sunday rolled around, we were still stuck on the Mainstage for our first slop-through of Act I. It went smoothly overall and the pace seems to be heading in the right direction for where we want to be. With any luck we'll be "home" in the Quad soon.