Tuesday, August 07, 2012

First Run-Through of Richard III

At least almost. We had to skip a section here and there because of a missing actor, but for the most part, we did the entire play last night for the first time in one sitting.

The first run-through of any play is always somewhat clunky, a tad chaotic, and certainly longer than the finished product. Such was the case last night, and yet it went better than I think most people expected it to. Despite being about an hour later than our normal rehearsal endpoint I can't complain about our progress.

One problem is that I have yet to commit to memory the exact order of the scenes I am not in, so i have to keep referring to the script. This isn't a big deal of course, but I prefer to know it cold. I assume by the end of this week I will. It's important not just to prevent me from missing any entrance cues, but also so that I can get an idea of how much time off stage I will have available at any given point. I like to know if I have time to get a drink, use the bathroom, sit down and have a breather, or just barely have enough time to go check something in the script before I have to be back out there. And of course the timing for that won't be absolute anyway until the whole play is running smooth. Yet now that I'm offbook and we are rehearsing everything at once, it's something to which I need to start paying some attention.

It also means that I will probably have more to cover here on the blog after each entry. I don't feel I need to go into great detail on every scene I run, however. If there is a specific problem or noteworthy breakthrough I will get into it.

My first scene in the play, the one with Queen Margaret, continues to improve. I had been quite concerned about it, and rough edges do remain. However it feels as though I have located the balance I want for that encounter. I just have to work at getting to that place, and I get closer each time we run it.

The second scene is mostly incidental for me, save for the end, when Richard approaches me in conspiratorial fashion for the first time, and my perceptions on him, for a moment, appear to shift. I don't anticipate much to report about my performance in that scene from here on out. The moment I described required very little time.

My third scene requires me to console the members of the royal family upon the death of Edward IV, and to suggest that his son be brought to London as soon as possible. The only changes I have made to that are allowing myself to move around the stage as I deliver those lines, as opposed to standing in the same place the whole time. Makes it feel more urgent and alive.

I next appear in a scene welcoming said Prince. I stay in the background for most of this scene, so it is vital I remain aware of my inner monologue, and the more subtle, silent performance. As I am playing him in this production Buckingham remains unaware that the young princes will eventually be killed. It is possible even that at that moment he doesn't yet no that the young prince will be discredited. Merely under the manipulative influence of the Lord Protector. (Richard.) In either case Buckingham is impressed by the Princes, or at least enjoys them, and I am working to make that clear to the audience. (Though it may be difficult to truly project this, as Richard is pretending to feel the same way at this point as well. But for the audience that may just add to the intrigue of the scene...not knowing who thinks what in the grand scheme.

That scene, near the end, has a line with 13 beats in it for Buckingham. We discussed it a bit a few weeks ago during a session on scansion the director held for the actors, and it was concluded that it is quite unusual, at least in this play. (Another one has not been located at the moment.) I have determined, and I have touched on this here on the blog before, that the large amount of beats in the sentence may indicate a slight excitement on the part of Buckingham as he addresses Catesby. Not a kid in a candy store type, but certainly someone who has just lined an RBI double to centerfield, if you will forgive the sports analogy. Plus, I think Buckingham likes Catesby, for whatever reason. That line was a bit of a chore to memorize, and I still trip over it here and there, but last night I had it.

The next scene, wherein we meet at the Tower to ostensibly talk about the coronation, was more comfortable last night than it has been before, because we had a table for the first time. I don't know if it's the actual table we will be using in the production or not, but it worked for me. Up until then we had been hunched over a single layer of crates and boxes to represent a table, or otherwise had to pretend a table was there. It felt good to actually have something on which to rest the papers I had Buckingham reading. (Though the director felt the scene was a bit flat, and needed more urgency. She is right. It did go kind of slow.)

I enjoy that scene mostly because Buckingham gets to subtly mock the Lord Hastings, whom I have concluded Buckingham has never liked at any point in time.

In the next scene I have one of my favorite speeches. The "counterfeit the deep tragedian." One of the few moments of near-comedy for Buckingham. He gets to goof-off a small amount as he describes how he can give a performance when needed. I made several exaggerated faces that the crew seemed to enjoy judging by the laughter I heard. Just a little looser moment before my next appearance, which is my biggest responsibility of the entire play. The oft-blogged about crown-offering scene.

I almost made it through this long scene last night. But dammit, I got tripped up in one of the speeches. Of course, it was not the same speech that tripped me up the last time. That only confirms that I have all of the speeches down, I just need to iron out some of the wrinkles, work it a few more times, and concentrate a bit harder. I am proud that I have that much of it, but I know I have all of it, and won't be satisfied until I can deliver that whole scene without issues.

One problem is that the crowd interjects here and there now. I need to get used to that. Particularly because they don't always shout at the same times each night. The ideal scenario would be that no matter what noise is going on around me, I can get where I need to be in every speech. Which of course is the goal for all scenes. But because this one will have distractions built in, I must be extra diligent.

I also want to convey, at the end of it, that having played this part and given these oration, Buckingham is exhausted. I don't have a lot of time to make that clear and I am not sure the audience will notice. But I am trying to just sink into fatigue and relief as I exit my longest scene of the play. Hopefully that will convey what I want it to convey.

Then we have the "betrayal" scene. Buckingham, loath to consent that the princes be murdered, loses favor with Richard. I still want to give more to this scene. I must find a way to make that huge transition between satisfied and relieved that the plot is over, to disgust and horror at the suggestions of murders. on top of that, the director wants me to take more time to register shock later in the scene when Richard declares he is "not in the vein." This is a pivotal moment in the play, as Richard has jettisoned his only true ally, and Buckingham has been denied everything for which he had been working up until this point. For surely he knows that he will not be allowed to simply return home to his lands and pursue the quiet, country life now. So he does the only thing he can do, and something that my version of Buckingham is not known for...he will go and raise an army against Richard.

So much is going on here. Such huge changes. Almost all of the extremes of Buckingham are touched upon here. Most of which we have not seen at all in the play until this moment. And the scene moves so quickly. I have a lot of work to do in order to get this scene where I want it to be. The key will be to make the shock visible, but not distracting. Yet how shall I do so? The anger later in the scene I have covered. But the shock..the disgust over killing the children. It must be clear why he has turned, so that everyone can realize that Buckingham has that line. That he is not merely along for the ride, but has a compass guiding what he does, and that once done, he wants out. Murdering children very much crosses that line for him, and the audience needs to know. This will be one of the top tasks I will be contemplating for the rest of the rehearsal process.

I am not scene again for quite a while. I think it is the largest section of the play wherein Buckingham does not appear, in fact. Not until the opening of Act V, where he gives his farewell speech if you will, before his execution. I have talked about this speech before as well. I memorized it early on, so that I could own it as soon as possible. For the most part this has helped me, but I still want it to be more tender, or at least more reflective than it is coming off now. I am pleased with the scene, as is the director. She said last night in fact that the scene is always good. But for me, I do want something more. I am getting closer, though, as I play with pacing and facial expressions.

There is a small gesture we had talked about for Buckingham to deliver towards his jailer (Catesby in our version, due to cast size.) I forgot to implement it last night, so I have to remember to do so from now on. I might ask "Catesby" to go over that small moment a few times to see how it feels. But if that moment can be timed well, it may in fact give me some of the extra to the scene that I am seeking. I won't give away too much detail here, though.

Then I come back as a cocky ghost, and that is pretty much that. (Buckingham's ghost doesn't do all the crazy dancing about stuff the other ghosts do. He is, as the director said more than once "a different kind of ghost". Somewhat less tortured than the others perhaps. Almost satisfied. So I deliver that speech in a self-satisfied sort of way to start, and then accusatory at the end. Even then with a slightly different edge. As though betrayal of the one that helped him is among Richard's worst sins. Perhaps it is...

And so begins the stretch of longer, more tiring rehearsals. Truth be told, sometimes this is my favorite part of rehearsing, because it is the biggest investment. People get cranky, and I can't swear that I never will. Yet looking back on my career as an actor I have often had less of a problem with the later, longer rehearsals than most other actors. Perhaps that is because the entire experience is beginning to come into focus. It is do or die time. It can no longer be half-assed. Or maybe I just like the atmosphere. In any case, we have come to that part of Richard III, and that means the real deal is not far off now.

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