Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Structure and the Dubliner

(if itʻs 3:20am in the time zone I just left, does that count as my usual insomnia?)

Iʻve become fascinated with the way Friel has structured "Translations." There are four scenes. The first is completely additive: it starts with three characters onstage, then another enters, then more, until finally all 10 characters are together for the only time in the play. The second scene is essentially a two-hander between Owen and Yolland, but single characters keep popping in: Doalty, Manus, Hugh, Maire. The third scene is outdoors, itʻs only Maire and Yolland and only 4 pages long. (This reminds me of Chekhovʻs four-act plays with often one outdoor act). The fourth scene starts with Owen onstage, and is a series of characters coming in and then leaving him: Manus, Doalty, Maire, Sarah, Bridget. We were laughing in rehearsal tonight about how many times heʻs left onstage to comment after someone departs. But noticing this has given me a clue to the turmoil in Owen's character. By the end of the play, he sees his presence as a pivotal aspect of the tragedy at hand. The irony is that he is the one who left Baile Beag for six years to become a Dubliner, and now he is the one stuck in the classroom while everyone else leaves it. In the end, he leaves it as well, and I think that decision to leave is made more powerful by the structure of his "stuckness" since his arrival.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Heading into a break

I'e haven't updated this blog since we started rehearsals on 11/24, and now we are almost headed to a significant break (12/18-12/28) in which the cast will be learning lines and also recovering from a grueling end-of-semester push.

So much has happened. Since we started rehearsals in the Lab School cafetorium, we couldn't focus much on blocking at first, so we did some character exercises I like to do, such as having characters write a letter or journal in first person, writing observations about the hedge school, focusing on character walk and body development. Plus my patented footwarmups.

By Dec. 8 we were able to get into our real playing space, the Lab, and I was finally able to confirm what a perfect configuration the alley is for this show. I knew it in theory, but it's working beautifully in practice. Thanks to scenic co-designer Andrew Varela and T.D. David Gerke, we have a lot of our needed furniture and have now been able to sketch out a lot of the show's blocking.

The best one for me is that in scene 2 Yolland mentions that he will send a crate of oranges that recently arrived from Dublin. I now have it just sitting there in the final scene, after Yolland is probably dead. I think it will make a nice symbol of him, and of course it's orange, the color of the British loyalists in Ireland. By that scene, Sarah will be in her green dress so there will be 2 striking new colors on set, each symbolizing different sides of the conflict. Hm, I feel a bit odd talking about such things publicly before the show, knowing that readers will be audience members later. Not sure how much I want to "give away" at this point about my intentions.

Another crazy idea that I finally got to see Friday night was the clothesline hanging diagonally across entire space, with maps all over it. It's one more way I'm trying to create a border, a divide. And, practically, to get Owen's face up as he looks at the various maps. But it's proving to be a wonderful obstacle for all the characters.

Yet to work in: live violinist, ASL interpreters . . .

I think the break is going to make me incredibly antsy to get going again!

Poster Image by Laura Ruby

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

no name

A few of you know that I'm a fan of U2. This song has been in my head lately, it seems another take on the naming theme of Translations. Bono had this to say about writing it:

“An interesting story that someone told me once is that in Belfast, by what street someone lives on you can tell not only their religion but tell how much money they’re making - literally by which side of the road they live on, because the further up the hill the more expensive the houses become. You can almost tell what the people are earning by the name of the street they live on and what side of that street they live on. That said something to me, and so I started writing about a place where the streets have no name.”
Bono, 1987

Where the Streets Have no Name

I wanna run, I want to hide
I wanna tear down the walls
That hold me inside.
I wanna reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name.

I wanna feel sunlight on my face.
I see the dust-cloud
Disappear without a trace.
I wanna take shelter
From the poison rain
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name.

We're still building and burning down love
Burning down love.
And when I go there
I go there with you
(It's all I can do).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sea Change

It all started a few days ago with my noticing that the stage directions mention a creel. When I looked it up, it turned out to either be a "large wicker basket for carrying fish." And it began to slowly dawn on me that these people are not only potato farmers, they are coastal people. They farm AND they fish.

Then two nights ago o I realized that I should look back at the photos I took during my 1999 tour of Ireland. We had spent some time up in County Donegal, exploring some of the islands there and checking out the Donegal Castle. And I began to realize how many of the photos show both ocean and farmland.

And I realized that I'd always visualized this barn as a farmers' barn, with scythes around and other farming implements. But now I realize there's another aspect: creels, fishing nets, etc.

Which led to a meeting today with set designer Melissa Elmore in which we reconceived a previous idea for a backdrop. It had been going to be burlap, but now will be both burlap and fishnet. The brown rusty tones of the burlap, and the bluish aquamarine color of the fishing nets.

Which made me realize that my Hawai'i connection is now richer. The ancient Hawaiians sustained themselves within their ahupua'a, their strip of land which included both farm land and ocean for fishing. From hawaiihistory.org: "Each moku was divided into ahupua`a, narrower wedge-shaped land sections that again ran from the mountains to the sea. The size of the ahupua`a depended on the resources of the area with poorer agricultural regions split into larger ahupua`a to compensate for the relative lack of natural abundance. Each ahupua`a was ruled by an ali`i or local chief and administered by a konohiki."

I remember a similar late-to-dawn realization in Streetcar that the lampshade that Stanley rips off the lamp should be globe-shaped and light-colored, to be the paper moon Blanche sings about. How many times have my eyes passed over that word "creel" without really seeing it? I love the process of SEEING every aspect of this play.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Irish Three Sisters

Geoff Bangs, a Theatre Major who will be playing the role of Doalty, had these observations about the play in comparison to one of Chekhov's major plays, and said I could share them:

"Hey, im reading 'The Three Sisters' by Chekhov right now. If you haven't read it and you have some time i suggest you check it out. I think there are quite a few similarities to Translations. I thought the repeated speaking in Latin, the out of towner that comes in and falls in love with the lead female who in turn falls in love with him, and the fire in Act 3. Also there may be ties with all of their glorifications of Moscow to characters’ in Translations desire to get out and see the world, and the fact that Andrei is a insecure proffessor with an unstable emotional relationship. I haven’t read Act 4 yet. I will do that tomorrow morning and let you know if I have seen any others. But right now I’m seeing so many connections that I believe it could have easily been a source of inspiration to Friel when he wrote the show. Maybe Maire, Sarah, and Bridget are the three sisters!! :D

[about 12 hours pass] I just finished the show, I forgot to point out that along with the many familiarities between Vershinin and Yolland they are both also high ranked people in the army. I discovered they are speaking French not Latin in Three Sisters. Also the Baron was murdered in the end which could relate to what supposedly happened with Yolland. One thing that became very clear was that in both plays the characters spoke frequently of wanting to escape the place they live and the value that knowledge can have in their life and some of their desires to expand their knowledge.

I am attempting to make a connection with the motifs. At the end of Three Sisters Chebutykin says 'What does anything matter, anyways?' which has a different way of expressing itself in Translations because of the different characters and cultures but i did get a sense of 'lets get drunk, history repeats itself, what does all this drama really amount to in the end' kind of vibe from Hugh at the end."

Thanks, Geoff! Very perceptive! Friel is often compared to Chekhov, glad you can see it so well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Translations Cast

Translations by Brian Friel


MANUS Brad Larson

SARAH Eleanor Svaton

JIMMY JACK Tommy Barron

MAIRE Rikki Jo Hickey

DOALTY Geoff Bangs

BRIDGET Jenn Thomas

HUGH Craig Howes

OWEN Danny Randerson

CAPTAIN LANCEY Adrian Fiala-Clark

Lt. YOLLAND Nathan Garrett