We’ve reached a pivotal point in our rehearsal process for Ivanov. Actually, not just pivotal--that’s not a strong enough word. I’ll go ahead and say it: we’ve reached a scary point in our rehearsal process. I was actually scared walking into rehearsal today--my stomach physically ached at the thought of what lay ahead of us.
We have to stand up.
For those who don’t know, we started the first 5 days of rehearsals at the table, meaning that we sat in the safety of a chair, hidden behind the comfort of a table, and spoke the play aloud, analyzing certain moments of the text, clarifying the choices that we wanted to make, and indulged in the fascinating conversations we can have about this play. As an actor and director, I love tablework. I could spend hours and hours discussing plays, characters, and scenes. Not to mention, my butt is safely in a seat and I don’t have to stand on my own two feet.
Because somehow, when you stand up in an empty space, everything changes. What do I do with my hands (that is, what do I do with my hands once I get rid of the stupid script I have to hold onto)? How do I stand? How do I sit? Do I look at this person in this moment or should I look away? Oh wait, I should really cheat out, shouldn’t I? Because that does feel physically honest and real for this moment, but the audience won’t be able to see me, right? And wow, this space is way smaller than I anticipated so how do I get out of everyone’s way? How do I get out of my own way? And oh wait, I still have to actually speak text and communicate with my fellow actors--how on earth can I accomplish that?
Those nagging, unhelpful questions spill endlessly out of my mind during these first few days of blocking. And those are just if you’re only acting. Now that I’m acting and directing. I have to the be the one who not only has the insight to say, “no, that doesn’t work. Try something else.” --I have to be the one to offer a solution. I have to say, “Try this instead.” or “What if this happened?” or “Explore this.”
And in my opinion, that is the key word that helps everything in this point in the process: explore. Yes, this is scary. Yes, we are in uncharted waters. Yes, we now not only have to speak, we have to move and sit and stand and physicalize these characters we are working on bringing to life. And yes, the first few days may be a little bit wonky. We will not figure everything out in the first few rehearsals. That’s okay. That’s not only okay. That’s good. That’s necessary. The only way we are going to discover this play is to find how it stands on its feet together. We have to make a few mistakes so we can go “this is a mistake--what can I do to correct it?” And then we can build the play from there.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’ll probably be making most of the mistakes. I’ll watch a scene I helped block a few days later and think to myself “What was I thinking? Why did I tell him to do that?” And then we’ll fix it together. We’ll explore the play together. Just like you have to break a few eggshells to make an omelette, you have awkwardly block a few scenes to find the physical life of a play. It’s the only way we will learn how Ivanov lives in the space.
Granted, I will say that we just successfully blocked all of Chekhov’s Act I in less than three hours, so we can’t be making too many mistakes. But I know as we continue to move forward, there are bound to be more than a few bumps in the road or hiccups along the way.
Well, here’s what I say to that: bring on the mistakes! I can’t wait to see what they will guide us to discover about our wonderful play!
I’ll keep you posted how it’s going. Thanks for reading!