Saturday, February 07, 2009

Love Letters, Continued

I have finished reading the script. I think it does have it's ups and it's downs. Most of which I cannot really talk about, in fear that someone who plans to see the show will follow a link to this blog, and have the ending ruined for them. I know that that is a silly fear, and one that I will probably have to get over, if I am to keep an honest blog about my acting adventures in the future. But for now, I will try to be as specific as I can.

For starters, though I agree with some of the playwright's notes about how to stage the production, I am always a tad insulted as an actor when playwrights include such notes. You worked hard, got your script published, and now make money every time someone performs it. Your advice, (as in this case) to "trust me, I am the writer", applies in reverse as well. Actors have to be trusted with a work once it is out there. To do what I call "ghost directing" is outside what should be a playwright's sphere. I just find it presumptuous.

As for the script itself, I have a hard time related to some aspects of it. I never had the classical little boy crushes, or the awkward teen realizations of love, as are expressed so often in Hollywood and on stage. While this script, thankfully, moves beyond such things, I personally do not always enjoy such run of the mill love journeys. Perhaps because I did not experience them, or perhaps because of an instinct which tells me that most people, in fact, do not.

This may have presented a greater problem if it were a conventional play. However, as I have mentioned, it is not designed to be memorized. It is a reader's script, and as such, should be approached from the first moment as a reading as opposed to a play. With that in mind, I see several ways it can be presented to an audience.

1) The letters can be read by each actor with all of the expression and realism of a monologue. Almost as though the two are talking directly to each other, sharing their feelings in the same room.

2) The letters can be presented in a manner that is slightly detached. Not devoid of expression, naturally, but expression of a different cadence then when we are speaking. Even the most informal of people tend to be a bit more formal when they write letters. Such has been my experience in the matter. At any rate, I have concluded many times that people just do not write and speak in the same manner. They are two different ways of communicating thoughts and feelings.

I prefer the second approach. That difference I mentioned I feel should be respected. And though I have not yet had a chance to go over things with my scene partner, I am tempted to suggest that the letters be read as though they have been recently rediscovered by someone. Even one's own letters have a certain detachment from us after a time. If my partner and I proceed to read the letters in this fashion, I think the words of the letters become the focus of the piece, as opposed to vocal inflections and facial expressions.

Indeed, I think the very nature of the piece lends itself to this. It is the love letters themselves that are to be felt by the audience...not the characters who wrote them. This being the case, I feel a certain degree of realism should be let the letters speak for themselves. Almost as if the audience were reading them individually, and responding in kind to them.

I emphasize again that this does not mean to suggest that I will not be performing these letters. I shall be, and so shall my partner. But different scripts call for different types of performances. The detached type that I have described above seems best to me.

Before reading it, I had thought that each actor read the OTHER persons letters. As written this would be impossible, but I think would make for a very interesting variation. It may enrage Gurney, who clearly has little trust for the creativity of performers of his works, but I am intrigued by the possibility.

Yet, a week from now is not the place to tempt fate, and lawsuits, with experimentation. We shall be proceeding as written. Though, as I pointed out already, there is leeway even within those boundaries.

I have read it once. If my partner and I get together for a read through, I shall read it one more time then. And that is all I plan to review. Some may wish to pound these letters into their heads, but again, I do not believe the piece lends itself to such conventional preparation.

When I write a letter, I sometimes feel as though I am a different me than I am when I am not writing a letter, or even as soon as I finish it. I can have written something myself, something I have poured a great degree of sincerity into, and when I read it back, feel as though someone else wrote it for me. It is almost as thought I am reading parts of it for the first time. This is often all the more potent the farther I get from having written something. Again that detached nature. If I can capture that when reading the letters in this piece, I think something special could emerge next week. In order to capture it, i think a minimal amount of review is advisable. (Subject of course, to the agreement of my scene partner.)

I have done readings before, but this is certainly something a bit different, both in format and in subject matter. I am curious to see how it unfolds.


Michael Clark said...

Do you know your scene partner? I saw Love Letters performed a few years ago. The "gimmick" they used was each night a different couple from the community performed the reading. The mayor and her husband, the president of theater group and wife, town council member and spouse, etc... Since the two actors knew each other very well, the performances felt very real, especially at some of the revelations during the show.

Ty Unglebower said...

I do know my partner quite well in fact. I have known her for more than five years and worked with her several times. And I would agree with your assesement that this particular play would work better with two people who are familiar with each other.

As with any play, I do not think this is required for it to go well, but certain roles certainly go better for the actors when a personal comfort with co-stars is present. It makes that "extra" intangible that theatre is so famous for all the more likely.