Category Archive: Tartuffe

Nov 03

Tartuffe–4th Rehearsal

I’m constantly amazed by what a good group we’ve assembled for this show.  I’ve got a huge mix of people with lots of experience, and people with almost none, and they’re working very well together.

Tartuffe_image_1

I’ve heard from several people now that they’re still panicked about not having a script yet, so I gave another talk tonight, emphasizing that I’m not fiddling while Rome burns, but that even if we were working from a finished script, I’d rather not have given it to them at this point anyway.  I don’t want people memorizing lines yet.  This is a play, and we need to learn how to play together.

 

I would rather have a show with a few line flubs, where the actors know who they are, and what they’re doing, and what’s happening next, and in which they totally have bought in the world of the play, than a show in which people have memorized lines and are just marking things through.  I think, if compared side-by-side, this is what an audience would prefer as well.

 

After having said that, we continued the tactics/objectives work we started yesterday, and then moved into a Meisner exercise, courtesy of Jon Reimer (who teaches this stuff: http://tokyoplayers.org/?lang=1&page=58&mode=detail&event=38 If you’re in Tokyo, take his classes!), which deals with truth in acting.

 

I think his exercises clearly showed the idea that in truthful acting, emotion is a by-product of action.  (And yes!  This even applies to “stylized” acting, which is the same as “normal” acting, except that the rules of the world are different!)  This is really important to the framing section of our play (called the “1941 section”), because we’re striving for naturalism (although, of course, the stakes are high enough that people can be reasonably big without blowing the audience’s acceptance of the situation), and really don’t want to end up with anything that looks like self-conscious acting… or what my first acting teacher called “shmackting”.

 

Actually, that whole attitude is summed up by a story told to me by the great and intense Canadian director Paul Lambert.  I may get details of this wrong, but the point is the same:

 

One night, a relatively famous director who was guesting at the National Theatre School  was holding court in a bar.  All the young acting students were there asking him question after question.  After a long evening of this, and a perhaps particularly obtuse question from a first year, the director took a drag on his cigarette, and a sip from his full-to-the-brim pint of Carlsberg.  After he put the glass down, after seeming to consider the whole evening worth of questions, he said simply: “Just be there.  Fuck!”

 

Best advice for actors I’ve ever heard.  I wish this was my story.

 

Just be there.  Fuck

 

I believe that all the actors I’ve assembled for this show can be there.

 

Damn!  This show is going to be fantastic!

 

JustBeThereFuck

Oct 30

Tartuffe – Rehearsal #2

Well, we’re on our way.  I revealed the outline and the main ideas of the show to the actors after sending out the cast list (with final casting for both parts of the play).

 

I guess I should explain a little bit here what I’m doing so that this and future entries make a modicum of sense to people other than me…

 

The play opens in 1941.  When the audience walks into the Theatre, they will be confronted with a 1941 Japanese train station.  Through sound (mental note: need to recruit a sound designer) and dialogue, it will be revealed that this is February xth, at 23:30, and there is a blizzard raging outside.  The station is rural, but it is a major rail hub nonetheless.

 

A variety of people are trapped here: from foreign amateur actors, to a war widow, to a girl being sold by her family into factory work.  Between themselves, to pass the time, they decide to put on a play: Tartuffe.

 

Using items from their suitcases, they dress the station up to look finer and make themselves costumes.  The Station Master volunteers his gramophone for music, and they’re off!

 

The idea behind my production is the transformative power of Theatre, with a touch of the usual Tartuffe moral about blind faith vs reason.  Each of these individuals is changed somehow (maybe not obviously to the audience) by the performance of this play, and they all leave the station different from the way they were when they arrived.  (And, with luck, some of this will rub off on the audience.)

 

In any case, I gave the cast the whole breakdown of the show, including Tartuffe scene breakdowns, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that I’d unintentionally laid over the production.

 

I’ve also assigned research topics to each of the actors, which, in all the cases it was possible, I’ve tried to tie in with their 1941 character.  Presentations are next Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to see what they come up with.

 

We played some status games tonight, since status is so important in Japanese society, particularly in the era in question, and particularly across the lines of nationality and gender.

 

From here, we start working and developing  the 1941 characters.  Once that process bears some fruit, it will give me some options on how to attack the Tartuffe adaptation, which I’m trying to tie in as closely with what I’m seeing in rehearsal.

 

Getting excited!

Oct 05

Callbacks

So tonight I ran callbacks for Tartuffe, the production I’m directing this winter in Tokyo and Yokohama.  The people I called back were all definitely people that I plan to cast, the question is just placement.

 

The concept for the show is this:

 

A bunch of passengers, which includes the audience, are stranded in a rural train station during a snowstorm in early 1941.  A number of the stranded passengers are members of a Theatre troupe, and they decide they want to put on a show for their fellow passengers.  They recruit some people from among the other passengers, figure out casting, dress the station house up as a set, pull “costumes” out of whatever they have in their suitcases, and start to do Tartuffe.

 

So tonight, I put the callbackees through what a rehearsal with me might be like.  I’ve decided for this show that I want to do much more ensemble work; I felt that group unity was really lacking on R3, and I really want to build a strong bond between the cast members.  So we did a warm-up, played some games, did some physical Theatre improv work, and then did some show-related improvs.  Overall, I was really impressed with the group, their instincts, and their willingness to just go for it.  Casting is always very difficult, and I saw some good actors during the audition process who I felt unable to cast because I felt they were more talented as solo actors; more at home in a professional production in which people come in, rehearse their scene, and go home. The point is, I felt vindicated in my choices tonight.

 

There’s still a lot to do.  I’m missing three or four actors still: two Japanese men, one Japanese woman, and a Japanese teenage girl.  I can probably work around some of those roles, but I really would like to create a more realistic balance of foreigner to Japanese.