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