Scorched-post 3: between the table and the butcher block

We are up on our feet for the first time today, and I am experiencing another benefit of all that table work. We are nearly exploding into our physical choices. It feels like a party to be able to move around, even if we don’t have any idea where to go and are groping for lines.

Before rehearsal began in earnest, Blanka took us to the theatre, where the set is nearly ready for us to rehearse on (we get in there Thursday). The great wooden platform is breath-taking. I have nick-named it the “great butcher block”. As actors, the three of us had the same reaction: Oh shit, no place to hide. The set says: no artifice, no lying, no escape. This is about the story being told, and the people telling it. It implicates the audience in something immediate, something right here in front of them. It says to the actors: bring me something to offer, something worthy of this place, of you, of the witnesses.

So back we went to the rehearsal room, and as I rehearsed the opening speech, I had the sensation of being on that great expanse, and looking out in to the sea of darkness, peopled with dimly seen beings beneath, ablaze with blinding light from above. I took my first few steps and felt Alphonse come to life a little more.

Some final thoughts about the table work. Blanka gracefully gave all of us the following note at one time or another, after minor fits of actor self-indulgence: “it’s not about you, it’s about the words, about reaching the other actor.” This is exactly what I say to my students.

There was a remarkable amount of group input around the table, which Blanka invited. On her left and right are her trusted advisors: Walter the dramaturg and Pat the stage manager. Both offered helpful insights and ideas as we went along. It really felt like we were discovering it together. As the table work came to a close, I said that I felt like I was acting in scenes I’m not on stage for.

Originally published on iWeb in 2009