Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bil - A Night at the Opera (and Other Places)

The Civic Opera House.
Our rehearsal at the Civic Opera House was a smash success - we went through the first meditation exercise of the rehearsal process for "Devilish Children" and we even got our first scene up on its feet.

We also got a preview of what Sigi Sleeplessness and Sigi Awakedness will look and sound like.

Annelise amuses the crowd.
The meditation exercise is a Dream Theatre process tradition, where the lights go low and the sound comes up, we close our eyes, and typically Jeremy walks us through various points of interest inside the world of the play.  This time around, however, he simply provided sound and let us travel around on our own separate journeys, using only the sounds we hear as the one link between us.  We spent a good deal of time listening to various German songs, or else children making some kind of communal noise (either all crying or all laughing), or in between the highlights, a brooding, deep hum that both moved and didn't move, like the ocean.

This was the first time we'd gone without guidance, and it was also the longest meditation exercise we'd ever done.  Each of us had our own respective idea of who we were and where we went during this time, and the songs and sounds had different effects on all of us.  Some of us started out as our own characters, some of us did not.  Some of us spent a lot of time inside the theatre where these children reside, some of us did not.  Some of us flew, some of us walked.

All of us had some kind of particular revelation about the play.

 Personally, I realized most strongly that the scene where our play takes place – a run-down, dilapidated old puppet theatre in the middle of a nineteenth-century German city – was the most colorful, warm, and safe place we could possibly be.  I started out as a sort of steady-cam-style omniscient presence, not myself or the character Conrad.  The sky was gray and overcast, but the day itself was bright and clear.  I moved slowly from the outskirts of town, where the rich people live, inward, watching the city get dirtier and meaner as I wandered closer to the center.  Buildings got denser and darker as I moved in.

In my mind, I could see the entrance to the theatre as I reached the center, but for some reason I always hesitated to go inside.  With each new song or noise, I'd instead sneak into some place of work, either where back-breaking factory work is carried out, or else a business office filled with unsatisfied middle-class clerks or lawyers or accountants maintaining a brain-numbing bureaucracy; or, if not a place of work, it would be a home, with an over-crowded family inside, all screaming and miserable.

Eventually I did go into the old puppet theatre, and I found our characters (including Conrad) antagonizing Little Karl as they do in this play.

What occurred to me by the end of it was that these children in here have no good cause to escape their theatre-school-prison.  The harshness and misery of the outside world are worse than being locked in a school of manners for children.  And the way we, the children, take it upon ourselves to teach Little Karl to behave properly in society is not for the purpose of preparing him to go back out into that world, but for...some other purpose.  I'm not sure we've decided exactly what.  But part of it involves staying in the school, not escaping.

I don't want to give away the end of the play, so I'll stop here, but I do want to say that this revelation will definitely inform the intentions we have as actors, and ultimately, it'll make us move toward the more interesting choice.

And when that happens, the audience always wins.
A view from the stage at the Civic Opera Studio Theatre.

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