Last night there was a planned table work session for the cast. The director, who is out of town for a few days, asked me to be the facilitator of same.
I was left with specific instruction and exercises to lead the cast in, all with the intention of exploring the identity and relationships of the characters. To give the actors more with which to work as the build the personalities of the play.
Sadly, only five people showed up. I knew that some would have to miss, but I admit that I had previously thought a larger percentage of the cast was going o be present for the exercises. The smallness of the group made the nature of some of the exercises more tricky. I am proud to say, however, that we did engage in all of the exercises as required, and that the entire play did not in fact collapse under my brief administration as custodian.
Reporting the overall results of such a day to you is somewhat problematic, because much of what happened dealt with questions and decisions of other actors pertaining to their characters. I can't truly comment on such things because they are not my characters, of course. I can say that t he exercises did illicit several discussions which I think were revealing, and hopefully helpful to the cast members that showed up. I can say that several of them did come up with what I felt were quite solid and intriguing points about their roles. I told them that such ideas could serve them quite well in their performances, and I meant it. Some interesting perspectives were emerging last night.
As for my own character, I didn't come to any new realizations per se, but some of my previous decisions and perspectives were solidified somewhat. Particularly in an exercise wherein we had to have a conversation in-character.
I will admit that improvisation in character has always made me somewhat nervous. I have not done it often, I will say, and it has never been a disaster for me. Still, having a conversation as my character, (or whatever aspects of my character are formed by that time) tends to rattle me a tiny bit. However last night it was helpful. I was able to "test drive" some of the attitudes I have been thinking of giving to my version of Buckingham, and based on the exercise they felt like they could work, with some tweaking here and there.
Those qualities I mentioned are the weariness of court life, the overriding desire to spend most of his time alone, a preference for quiet and order. Yet also a willingness to fight when compelled to do so, if truly there is no other course. Also, an certain eloquence in speaking that despite his usual desire to remain reticent will nonetheless get utilized to help achieve his purposes.
Buckingham's religious views come into a somewhat clearer focus as well, as a result of an exercise pertaining to the religious beliefs of our characters. In brief, I determined, based on text and my interpretation that he is probably what I have called a "deistic-pagan" of sorts at first. Something is up there, but he is unsure is it is involved in our daily lives or not. Leaning towards "not", until the end of his life. (Though Queen Margaret's curses put him on edge somewhat early in the play.)
So a few questions were answered, and one or two more question came up. That was true with several of the cast members last night after the exercises. More questions. But at this stage in a production, more questions is good. I don't know how or if any of them will answer the questions that came up, but if what we talked about got them thinking more about how they will proceed with their performances, I have to rate the evening a success overall.
Our director returns on Monday, which is when the next rehearsal is scheduled, and I believe I am in attendance for same, though I confess I don't have the calendar right in front of me. Either way over the next few days I will be pondering what we talked about last night, and trying to get off book for my shorter scenes.