Getting started

So Blog Buddies – as I sit here: I am roughly four weeks away from the start of rehearsals for Red: a play that has occupied a lot of my thinking for the past two years. Pressure…excitement…anticipation….the occasional moments of doubt and panic. This is as good as it gets.

Why does a play resonate? Why one project as opposed to others? We see it in film all the time. Why – in a particular year – do a number of independent film companies release a submarine film….or a certain kind of survival film…or an outer space film? We take it for granted and assume that there is a certain amount of imitation going on….but sometimes it just happens. Sometimes certain stories just make sense.

I remember a number of theatre seasons ago that a huge fuss was being made over the fact that five major theatre companies in America all independently decided to mount a production of Shakespeare’s Pericles….a play that is almost ever done. What is in the air at any given time that makes the message of a particular play touch a broad range of artists and audiences in a variety of markets? It’s easy to dismiss this concept in the framework of the modern viral world we live in. A world in which thought can travel the globe instantly in 140 characters or less. But the resonance of stories – the simultaneous and unconnected outbreaks of interest in an idea – is a concept that predates viral connectivity.

I don’t pretend to understand why this is – but i certainly recognize it as a fact….and have long-ago learned to  act upon it when I see it.

So again – why Red? Who knows. It moved me from first reading and that, sometimes, is enough for me.

I recall an odd Artistic Director notes from another theatre which stated ( and I paraphrase – and will be vague so as not to implicate anyone ) “When I first read this play, it didn’t interest me at all. After reading it a couple of more times it started to feel like it might work”. Guess what? – the play didn’t interest the audience any more than it interested the Artistic Director when he first read it. 

I was fortunate to have a teacher in early days who drilled into me the concept that I needed to pay very close attention to first impressions. The things that leap out at me on first reading of a script are very likely the same things that will leap out at an audience upon first first viewing the production of that script. If it bores me at first-read…that isn’t a good sign. John Logan’s Red did not bore me upon first read. In my multiple readings of the play it became clear to me that this was an extremely worthwhile script and should be performed. It has always been important to me to explore new material, new scripts, new production methods. It has been important to me to find interesting new stories and bring them to our audience. Red fit the bill. period.

I was highly interested in bringing this play to my audience. But how? Putting together a theatre season can be a difficult task. Where would it fit? What would be the hook that would pique the interest of an audience? Remember – I knew nothing about it and picked the script, literally, at random for the first reading. How would we get an audience to choose to see this work that has a limited  legacy.

I was considering these questions when – in late 2011, I was having one of my regular discussions with fellow Artistic Director, Caleb Marshall from TNB. As our companies are geographically close, we have long ago learned to discuss programming so as to eliminate needless duplication. Coincidentally – he was also interested in the script and we were each considering ways to include it in the 2012-2013 season. It didn’t take much discussion from there to come up with the seed of an idea for a co-production. In general terms – we decided to cooperate equally in the development of the project and then each organization would present the play to our own audience.

While this is an idea that generated a lot of excitement fairly quickly – unfortunately we came up with the plan a little too late in the game to allow a sufficient developmental period so as to be ready for the 2012-2013 season. So we decided to wait until this season to offer the production to our audiences.

While I will touch on many subjects – this co-production of Red will be the main source of my musings over the next two months.

To be clear: as a courtesy to our organizations and to my fellow artists on the project, I will offer very few insights into overall production issues. Nor will I offer any insights into the rehearsal hall….unless they are specifically about me and my process. I won’t be offering a tell-all. Nor will I share any rehearsal hall gossip. Just like Vegas…if it happens there – it stays there. The focus of Red from now on will be strictly related to the process as I see it. How am I personally getting from here to there as an actor and a theatre artist. I hope, Buddies of the Blog, that there will be some of you who will find some interest in that.

Next – I guess I’ll muse about some of the homework I have been compelled to do in order to feel ready for the start of rehearsal.

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