In bold contrast to Tuesday night's brief and almost effortless rehearsal of the diminutive Act II, last night we climbed the mountain that is Act III. Well, moist of it anyway, we were still missing several actors, as usual.
Yet before I get into the actual rehearsal, I want to speak on the subject of missing actors. Last night they were missing because they were absent. Yet due to an influx of interest in the play, (the result of recruiting from an unlikely source), we now have enough actors to fill all of the roles that had heretofore been uncast or otherwise left open by departures in the show. It goes without saying that this is good news.
Now for rehearsal itself.
If Act I is the introduction of the world of the play and its inhabitants, and Act II is the pipe-laying exposition of facts and plans, Act III is the lighting of the powder keg. It's an action packed group of scenes that moves a long with barely a pause, (ideally) for I am guessing between 20 and 25 minutes. Not to mention, it is the act in which I have the most to do. I am in four of the scenes in Act III. The biggest of course being the much blogged about crowd scene. More on that in a bit.
I was able to perform about 85% of the act without my book last night. I could have done more perhaps, but for one scene I am off book at the beginning, but still struggle with the end. It would have been odd to leave the script behind and then retrieve it mid scene. So I had it for the whole scene, though referred to it little until the end.
First up, the greeting of the Prince upon his arrival from school. A bit mechanical in nature, but nonetheless quite revealing of several things, namely the first obvious example of the conspiracy between Buckingham and Richard. They are obviously allies before this, but at the end of this scene they are clearly partners. I am not playing it as though they are friends, but certainly a mutual admiration society has been formed, let's say.
My next scene in the third act involved the nobility sitting about a table discusses the upcoming coronation. Not many lines for me in this scene, but several chance to reveal, through body language and facial expressions what each character may think of the other at the table. I, for instance, have Buckingham viewing Hastings as a pompous horse's ass, and some eye rolling ensues to this end. Then we have the puzzling absence of Richard and Buckingham for no more than 90 seconds. "Richard" and I have discussed what exactly is happening in this moment, and the best we have come up with so far is that Buckingham has led Richard away to come up with an off the cuff plan to trap Hastings. (Which is what happens upon their return to the room.) Not much time for such a plan, but this one may have to be chalked up to a theatrical conceit.
Either way, the scene went well.
Next is a scene that was truncated for our production to save on time, as several of them were. Nonethless, I enjoy this scene quite a bit. It's one of, if not the only time I am showing a degree of playfulness in Buckingham. I let him move about, make some fun faces, and overall be almost clownish for about a minute. I see that moment as a time when he is quite near his goal of enthroning Richard, but of course not there yet. It isn't over, but he can see the endzone, and he thinks he need only rush a few yards to get there. (Little does he know.) I was off bookfor this scene as well.
Then comes the big one. The crowd scene...
Not at all off book for this one. I need to be getting on with it, I realize. Though I would say I am close to a third off book for it. There are about five medium length speeches in it, and I am off book nearly for three of them. Plus several little one liners sprinkled in.
I was familiar enogh with them to look up from the script most of the time though. And last night was the first time we ran it with the crowd cheering and hollering and clapping when moved to do so. This unpredictability of the actors in the crowd, combined with my need at times to shout over them made for quite a visceral scene. Buckingham may only be pretending to persuade Richard, but he is legitimately trying to stir up the people and create this scene. So while the official outcome may be in doubt, his effort must be real. he must lead a crowd, and I as the actor must portray this. (Oddly, I have played the crowd rousing guy before in different plays.)
The pacing of this scene felt good. It was potent. Fast but clear. Exciting. The director agreed, saying that this scene, and indeed much of Act III was almost at performance levels already, despite most people still having books intheir hands. Which is good news for the show. If it looks this good to the director this early, I assume that bodes well for the production itself when the time comes.
Plus, if any act in the play needs this sort of energy and drive this early, it is Act III. All sections need energy of course, but III is the swign for the fence, as it were. If we flop in this section, the play in all likely cannot recover. So we are in good shape in that context.
I must get off book for that big scene as quickly as I can so i can sustain this momentum.
Tonight, Act IV. Fewer lines for me, but a deeply significant scene-the reluctance of Buckingham to assent to the murder of the princes. This too is a vital scene for which I am nearly off book. I think I can be totally so by tonight if I work at it today. Tune in later, loyal blog readers, to see how that one turns out.