Hello, loyal blog readers. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was directing "Art", and that despite this being an acting blog, I'd give you the occasional update. Here's one.
For the last two rehearsals, the cast has been on the stage for the first time. Not alone, as the set for the current (and soon to be concluded) production is still there. But by the time we rehearse again, the stage will be 100% ours. This is good news, as we have practiced in more than one place under some trying circumstances since we got a full cast. (Which didn't even happen until three weeks into the production, given that a lead quit on me five minutes into the very first meeting.)
This is to be a dramatic reading of the play. But a stylized reading, if you will. I will have three podiums on the stage, and if all goes well, each will have a shelf for the few props the script requires. The actors will be free to move around a bit within the "orbit" or their particular podiums, thus making the presentation neither simply a reading, nor a full out production. Rather my goal is to have it taking place in this sort of parallel dimension of theatre, wherein the actors are reading, yes, but are able to present, interact with one another (and the audience) and most importantly invoke the story being told. It wasn't what I originally envisioned, but I think it will work out nicely. Based on the results so far after two rehearsals on stage, anyway.
I have actually been in favor of dramatic readings for other works. They are faster, require less time and less money, and with some imagination can still be a moving experience for an audience as well as for an actor. Not every script would be suited for a reading like this, but I feel a good deal more of them would be, if directors and theaters would be willing to attempt them.
The key is for the actors to make the characters as alive as possible. To make the performances more important than the source of the lines. (A script in front of them as opposed to their own memory.) If actors can do that, and I know my actors can, audience will respond.
That's one reason I made it stylized in this fashion. I've seen readings wherein it the actors simply stood at a music stand and read from a script. Otherwise they worked around with a script in their hand. Good things can happen from either approach, but the limitation of those (particularly the second one) is that the audience feels as though they are watching actors read scripts. They may concede that fine actors are reading the script, but reading nonetheless. Put another way, many readings emphasize the reading as opposed to the acting. I am aiming to reverse that with my stylized presentation.
Much like in a musical where one accepts the conceit that people will at key moments break into song, the goal of this type of reading is to make the audience accept the conceit that these characters are real and interacting in a sort of undefined space that nonetheless represents an actual location. When the performances are real, this conceit becomes acceptable. That in a nutshell is my goal for this. Based on what I have seen so far, my cast is well on its way to achieving that vision.