Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cheep Cheep Blog 2 - Joseph Workman

Uhhh, been pretty crazy lately, am behind on things, something-something, excuses, DOLLY WEST opening?! yada-yada - !

It is nice, though, to take a moment and reflect on how the process has been going.  The time between my sickness and running sound for "Dolly West's Kitchen" allowed for a brief interlude of gracing rehearsals with my presence, and to my pleasure and surprise I took on a much more active role than I had initially envisioned. Instead of simply staying on script for lines and lobbing the occasional feeble comment from the sidelines, Ries has had me taking the actors out to the green room to do one-on-one work.

This makes me nervous, as it puts me in an assistant director's position without supervision. Is this a good idea?  Why give me permission to screw this up?  What if we work at cross purposes?  

Alex and I direct differently.  He is direct; blunt and brief, but in an admirably efficient sort of way.  I am hesitant, at times to a fault.  I don't like to stop people until they've run the thing we've worked on all the way through at least once.  Most of what I do begins with getting the actor comfortable.  Getting them to feel open and trusting of me and our work environment is important to me.  I'd like the process to be collaborative instead of imposing my own dominating vision; I'm not one to pretend to have all the answers.  So building trust (perhaps even rapport) with the actors is a priority.

Teaching (or trying to teach :( ) someone how to act makes me think about why and and how and what I do what I do, and what makes that successful.  I try to understand how the actor feels, and then think about the times I've felt that way and how I overcame it.  Too often, though, I feel like a wild hermit who was deposited in the forest and raised by wolves, and those I'm trying to teach are perfectly normal upstanding citizens who have had the misfortune of winding up disoriented in my neck of the woods. Their survival is now dependent on my half-baked ravings and broken English.  Perhaps the occasional flung feces.  
I rack my brain for ways to help the poor actors in front of me - standing there, smiling and trusting - and tread carefully, paranoid that I'll lead them down the wrong path.

I've directed before.  Last year I chose a play called "The Sign" by Stephen Bittrich, and worked with Tom Nath and Brian Smith.  Tom was a novice actor, and luckily he was patient with me and good at listening.  I think the material was more easily accessible to sensitive, introverted types; it was sentimental and quiet.  It required very little blocking as both characters spend the duration of the play about 40 feet up in the air on a tree limb, which meant we could focus more on inner aspects of character rather than broad, physical movement.  All these things made our task in telling the story easier.

"Cheep, Cheep!" on the other hand, requires a bombastic kind of energy, the kind that took my nervous, restricted pubescent body most of high school to even begin to comprehend.  And that's the challenge we're facing with our novice actors in this piece.  We want to get people comfortable in their bodies and voices, willing to look ridiculous, willing to play, and bring a sort of hyper energy so that the piece is shot at the audience like confetti from one of those birthday popper things.

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