Wednesday, March 28, 2007

pre-paris crash course: how to direct shakespeare with 25 13-year-olds.

some more, before i get to paris:
remember how i said i was directing some youths? learning experience all around- those youths (average 6th-8th grade) damn near killed me, then turned around and told me they love me and i have to come back and direct them again next year. i just ran into one of the gremlins during tech-dinner with a few edward3 cast members (rosie, who it's good to work with again, and a chick i was briefly in university with).
so, starting late (other schools cast it by december for an early march performance with christmas break in between) with only 6weeks total going into auditions, we originally called 2days of auditions- day1 for general auditions, day2 for conflicts and callbacks.
lesson #1: the audition process is indicative of how the whole production will operate, start to finish.
they said they usually did a "workshop" before auditions, where the auditor would help the determined analyse text and work on their pieces. i said it wasn't necessary- i wanted to see how quickly they grasped the language on their own and how well they took direction, so i sent out sides on monday for semi-cold readings wednesday-thursday. anybody who didn't take sides in advance got them when they arrived, and auditioned last so they had some prep time. i just used scenes from midsummer for auditions because i didn't want to choose a play before i saw the talent pool, so i was simply looking for 22 students who looked like they could handle performing shakespeare for a healthy audience (the folger's stage limit is 25, and we wanted offer the opportuntity to as many as possible, leaving room for musicians and/or stage crew).
lesson #2: at this age, in urban america, the confident students seem to be white girls and black boys; overall, white boys and black girls made a poor showing @ auditions.
lesson #3: they are not professionals- if taking on a similar challenge, remember this detail and bring a camera to auditions (so glad i thought of it in advance) because they don't have standard headshot/resumes so you have no other way to put faces to those names on the pages post-audition. also remember this lack of professionalism applies to timely progress, commitment, and similarly important parts of the process of creating theatre- not that i expect them to be professional @ their age+stage, i'm just saying recognise the ramifications.
auditions took so much longer than i expected. we could've used another day, but couldn't afford the time, which was the theme of the process.
i racked my brain trying to figure out what shakespeare worked with the audition fallout. i asked for suggestions on the audition form because i wanted to know what they were interested in, but the few who suggested all said midsummer, which i'd suspected since the reason i refused to do it is that every year, way too many @ the festival do- there's nothing quite as lame as the day's 4th mediocre half-hour cut of midsummer, featuring an overly-shrill helena-hermia-catfight delivered by non-professionals with no vocal variation, comic timing or real stage combat, no matter how much you like shakespeare or working with youths, or both. i wanted my students to do something different from the rest. i thought about richard3 and would've done it with more time, but it didn't seem wise to try anything requiring too much backstory- 5weeks of rehearsal isn't enough to explain the relationships and histories. thus, choices were narrowed to a comedy. then i realised the thing to do was the comedy with the right number of characters- i picked as you like it because it had so many characters in its simple plot.
i cut it to what i thought was a half-hour script (i'd thought we got 45minutes onstage, but no) which i was to find out too late, was not half-an-hour-long in their hands. i set up a rehearsal schedule, assigned roles, shifted some lines and characters to make best use of what i had, and started working through the text with them, making sure they understood every word, so they could deliver with verisimilitude.
lesson #4: no matter how many times you tell them to ask about anything they don't understand, they won't. and then, when you ask them what something means and they can't tell you, they'll promise to ask in future, but still won't. they're not that smart yet.
it was like pulling teeth. it took forever. i'd eased them up by breaking up rehearsal to only call those i'd need for a limited number of scenes each day, since we were starting @ the top and working our way through, in order, deconstructing language along the way. every day we didn't get as far we should've because those gremlins were always late, in spite of the fact that they didn't even have to change buildings to get to rehearsal after school, with time accomodation for lockers, bathroom and babble before they had to be ready. i also never had a single rehearsal with every cast member called, literally until the final rehearsal, on the day of the performance @ their school (day before the folger). they drove me to distraction.
lesson #5: do not assume that because they chose to audition for a play they must know that the point of being in a play is acting, and thus it doesn't matter whether they like each other in real life or not.
lesson #6: do not assume that they can see far enough past who they like/hate this week to recognise that if they don't come to rehearsal, they'll be the ones onstage not knowing lines+blocking, and that when they don't turn up others in their scenes can't rehearse either.
i damn near killed some of them. repeatedly. there was a point when i genuinely believed that they wouldn't be ready to go on, and cried. and that's not even counting shit like the school having to go through dcps to get a ladder delivered to the premises to hang the backdrop for the performance @ the school, never getting it, and parents having to weight balls of twine and throw them up+over the grid to hang it from the corners without support so it never looked right; or facilities never cleaning up the broken glass offstage right, or the fact that of all the stage lights we only had lamps in a maximum of 7, and sometimes none at all- it was the worst.

but those youths was a best- i had a girl come and tell me she wanted to play jaques because she wanted the "all the world's a stage..." monologue. i made her audition with it, and she rocked it, so i had a killer jaques (she was awarded for excellence in acting @ the folger)- plus, the youth i cast as touchstone because he had so much damn lip was so amazingly good that he shared the top award of the day with a little feste who looked to be barely 11 but delivered one of the best feste's i've seen, making the day's other, very good and noticeably older feste look slight by comparison, making me relieved that 2nd-best-feste distinguished herself by closing with such a sweet little a capella solo that everybody went home deservedly rewarded.
and apparently, my touchstone's mom ran into the mistress of the revels smoking a cigarette outside and the mistress, knowing i'd directed one of the schools, asked who she was there to see, and was told "my boy markus; he's playing tombstone"...
we had a ball, in spite of glitches like my silvius (dopey sweet, very smart, but seemingly dyslexic) missing an entrance and keeping us waiting for about a minute during the school performance because he thought he had time to go to the bathroom down the hall during a supposedly half-hour performance, then @ the folger, cracking the back of his head on the ground during his stage-fall and scaring the shit out of us, minutes before his mom arrived, late and having missed the whole performance because he ignored my advice to call parents during the break and let them know we'd be going on earlier than previously stated- he went down and just didn't get back up, which made us all think he'd forgotten his line and was stalling- it took a minute to realise he wasn't up because he couldn't. i had to run up onstage and help him up but he insisted on finishing the show- grims got him an ice-pack and he got hugged+kissed and publicly lauded by the mistress and was everybody's hero in the end, after nearly giving me a couple of low-grade heart-attacks.
they were so good @ the folger, after being so bad. but by the end of the process they were loving the daily warmup, which they'd hated when i instituted it to strengthen+loosen bodies+voices- reminding me if i left out anything (even pelvic isolations, which they're usually way too embarrassed about @ that age), remembering that nobody goes to theatre to see ordinary people living ordinary lives, using correct stage vocabulary and etiquette, and plus, they somehow found much better manners than they had when i met them. some of them truly learned what actors', directors' and writers' tools are and how to develop them.
i was really proud of all the work they did, their parents were thrilled to bits, and they all want to work with me again, so my standard concept worked: treat them like the young adults they are instead of like children, assume they can rather than can't, and they'll live up to the standard you set.
walk good.

2 Comments:

Blogger Peong said...

It went well because you are a star!!!

7:06 pm  
Anonymous zed said...

well done my sis, i'm proud of you, i hope you filmed it, so that one day when we have time and we in the same country i can see all this amazing work....miss you

8:50 pm  

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Monday, March 26, 2007

travelogue

in spite of its forcing me to type the words baby g and dizzle's kiwi experience, this is me linking up giri+knol's dc-to-new-zealand blog (now also linked on a sidebar near you).
paris sooncome.
walk good.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

misspoken, but still 1 step closer...

i know i said i'd start the paris posting today, but in my haste i forgot the "catching up" that has yet to happen. as such, this post is a mishmash- apparently my enormous ego will allow no random thought to go undocumented, and thus i must use these notes before i move on to paris...
small world: the other day somebody called my mobile and asked for peter (my uncle peter is dionne's father) so i confusedly told him he had the wrong number, wondering if i were in trini where our phone number and the dacosta's were once close enough to be mistaken- confused not that someone might misdial, but confused because when a call reads "unknown" i assume it's my parents calling from trini and as i said to derek(sp?) alexander, he had the wrong number but right accent- he managed to dial the mobile of this unknown fellow-trini from a random call centre in trini, while trying to reach another trini in the d.c. metro area whose digits differ from mine by one (one of the 10digits differs from mine by a value of 1). this was within days of randomly chatting with a french youth on the train en route to the radio station because he was listening to something in his headphones that sounded suspiciously like soca- i was eyeing him, trying to figure out how this unlikely character happened to be bubbling to soca, and when he caught me looking he blushed and turned down his music; so i said it was nothing but curiosity about what he was taking in. he smiles and starts trying to tell me all about this cool trini music, i laugh and tell him where i'm from, find out he's from france, tell him we were planning a trip to paris, come to find out he got turned on to soca, calypso and dub while kicking ball with some west africans in high school in d.c. later that week, walking from the station to the metro, arms overladen with literary booty, i see this beautiful dreadlocked man walking toward me. as he comes up on me, he smiles (even more beautiful) and offers to help me carry my shit, and my smile back is one of pleasant surprise @ his mellifluous trini tones. d.c. was feeling like home home for a hot minute there.
less cool: delineating a rape "timeline" is so fucked up- somehow, the state of maryland has decided that a woman can only give or deny consent at the very beginning of sex, and no later, regardless of the fact that any human interaction can shift radically in a moment. or the fact that there are things that a man-cum-rapist may opt to not disclose until well after the beginning of heated activity.
and an academic accent-related question: where are you from, and how do you pronounce the name "alyse"? elise? marcia? aaron?
something interesting before i go: foundmagazine, and this illness, which sounds like one of the biggest causes of daily stress i can think of (post-paris, even going to rehearsal is too many people for me, far less if i knew i was supposed to know them, but didn't).
walk good.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

lady e, it's so wonderful to read your blog. i'm looking forward to hearing more re. paris. i miss you. -giri

1:43 am  

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

paris preview

although i won't have the time to begin my paris posting until tomorrow (thursday), grims has something up already...
walk good.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

a post for nico

i'll chronicle paris the way i did oz, but 1st must fill in some experiences because i am, at heart, an archivist. but even before that, with such dire need that it cannot wait and succeeds in vanquishing my ocd, i have to pong nico. yes, my best friend, the one i braved chicken pox for, which is why it must be said publicly, by myself, that he is lame:
me+grims went to paris via london and got to spend the night by zed and lime with chad, and since i had to interview him for d junction blog anyway, and he's my boy who i rarely see, i called, expecting his black ass to want to lime since we find ourselves in the same town about once every 3years since i started university.
but no. nico leave me out, dread; say he ent feeling good- as if he could pass some other time, easy easy. so i will end up interviewing him by phone instead, in spite of having been within a half-hour ride from his home.
is a good thing i love you, star.
walk good.

1 Comments:

Blogger Peong said...

yeah

8:08 pm  

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

let the catching up begin...

i see that it's been a month since i last posted; in my defence, in that time i've been performing, rehearsing edward3, directed a show, worked the secondary schools shakespeare festival, and been to paris with a pulled groin and still climbed the 422steps @ notre dame. so i'll be posting about that. after i sleep off today's intercontintental commute.
walk good.

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