Sold out night tonight @agaredux @rshotel. Still a few tix left tmrw night for you Oscar-haters… http://bit.ly/wzqAjt
Starting a new play is the beginning of a tumultuous and intense relationship for an actor. While in rehearsal for my current project, Agamemnon:Redux, I have become particularly interested in the nature and development of this alliance.
At first, the play is a mystery to those involved. It’s like the latecomer to a party where all the guests have just started to get to know each other but have heard a lot about the final guest - the play - and want so badly to meet him (or her, depending on the play, but Agamemnon:Redux is most definitely a man so I’ll refer to the play as him for today) and find out more about him, befriend him, get under his skin, get drunk and share secrets with him and welcome him into the newly formed group of friends. It is through this journey that the play will eventually become the final character of the production, rather than a wild beast that all the actors are trying to tame.
However challenging this first stage is - grappling with the themes of the play, the characters and their relationships, the time period, the social influences, and even the story itself - it is crucial in forming a bond between the actors. Everyone comes to rehearsal from their own angle, having done their own research and discovering different parts of the story or characters. It is in these early rehearsals that discussions take place and choices are made that cause the production to grow and evolve from these different points of view, guided and sculpted by the director.
As rehearsals progress and the actors settle in to the writing and style of the show, they begin to play around a little more, like a cheeky child pushing the boundaries with a new babysitter. At this point the play is most certainly in a position of authority over us, the actors. We are still unsure of how our impulses will fit with the overall concept of the show and how far we can take things before we cross a line and are given a ’time out’ - yet we’re comfortable enough with the material to act out a little (if you’ll pardon the pun. I hate puns, I assure you that this was unintentional.)
After some exploration, some boundary pushing, and probably more than a few ‘time outs’ (i.e.actors being reigned in and guided gently - or sometimes not so gently - by the director towards making choices more in keeping with the vision or the piece itself) the play becomes an old familiar friend. We, as actors, have fallen into a comfortable rhythm with the play, we’ve gone for coffee with him on our own, gotten drunk with him, we have our insider jokes and we understand his temper. Those challenging passages where cues can get lost or lines forgotten or paragraphs skipped, become areas of tension in our relationship - seas of anger and hostility that we do our best to navigate, with the hope of coming out alive, if a little scratched and bruised. These areas, more often than not, stay a little shaky. It is not for lack of rehearsal or line running but simply because that’s how the play is. You can’t change him, you just have to accept him as flawed, it’s part of his character and in real life we know better than to try and fix people - that never works.
Eventually, once we’ve all accepted one another (I like to think that it goes both ways and that he loves me for who I am too) we all become one, big, dysfunctional family - we still piss each off at times but we get through it and hopefully resolve our issues by the time we make it through the last scene. Finally it feels like the play is part of the gang and that we’re all hanging out as peers (ultimately he still has a little power over us but don’t tell him that!). This is usually the stage in the relationship when the actors find themselves using lines from the play in their every day life - and finding the experience simultaneously hilarious and mildly terrifying. He’s in our brains, we really can’t escape him now. At the time that the play opens there is enough trust (and sometimes blind hope) in the gang, that we feel like we can do the show justice in performance and all of us are in it together to make it work. We want each other to shine and we stick together, no longer fighting against the written word but with him on our side, striving to make our voices heard and to create space in the world for the story we want to tell - we want you all to meet our buddy and just want him to have a fighting chance out there - the world’s a scary place don’t you know? Now the actors are like protective older siblings, sending their little brother off to university and hoping that they’ve done enough in bringing him up for him to be successful and have fun when he gets there.
Of course, like all relationships, it keeps growing. Every performance brings new discoveries - he tells you a new secret every night or introduces you to his new friends (the audience) who he behaves a little differently around. That always changes the vibe that has been established by the gang who have been through so much together. The audience sees and reacts to things that we, as actors, have long since forgotten or maybe never even noticed at all. The relationship becomes organic once more and some of the nerves and excitement that have been lost over time, find their way back into our everyday relationship, keeping it fresh.
For non-actors who are reading this, maybe this’ll explain the bizarre post-show blues that actors go through at the end of a run. We’ve formed a group, a gang, a family - shared highs and lows, created a world that we only got to know more intimately as we shared it with others. It comes to feel like something that we have been part of forever. The break up, however expected (and sometimes even anticipated) feels abrupt. It jars us, leaving gaping holes in our schedules that were once filled with date nights of rehearsals and run-throughs, techs and Italian runs, performances. It is not just those dates that we lose, but the family atmosphere - the cast jokes and relationships that form from seeing each other every day - and just like after a break up, there is a shift and you know that everything has changed. No matter how much you promise to stay in touch and have reunions, it’ll never be the same again.
By Anna Frankl-Duval
That’s pretty much all there is to it.
|—||Henry James via Lighting Designer Herrick Goldman|
Robert Auletta’s plays have been produced at many theaters, including The Yale Repertory Theater, Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, The American Repertory Theater, The Production Company, PS 122, Café La Mama, and the Westbank Downstairs Theater Bar, where many of his one-acts were first performed.
His play AMAZONS helped open The Market Theater in Cambridge, MA in 2000. Previous to that, his modern versions of Aeschylus’ THE ORESTEIA and Moliere’s TARTUFFE, both directed by the French/Swiss director Francois Rochaix, were produced in the same city by the American Repertory Theater during their 1995/96 season.
Two of his one acts STOPS/VIRGINS were awarded a Village Voice Obie for distinguished playwriting in 1983.
His modern version of Sophocles’ AJAX, directed by Peter Sellars in 1986, was performed in America at both the Kennedy Center and the La Jolla Playhouse, and to great acclaim in many theaters in Europe. It also received The Hollywood Drama-Logue Critics Award, and was filmed by Dutch television It has subsequently been shown at various film festivals in Greece.
His Gulf War version of Aeschylus’ The Persians, directed by Peter Sellars in 1993, received both controversy and acclaim in many productions both in America and abroad; causing a heated reaction at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum. It was produced again in 2005 by the Scena Theater in Washington, D.C., with an entirely different reaction from the audience. It was first published by Sun and Moon Press and recently reprinted by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. They also printed a collection of his plays, and later his version of Georg Buchner’s DANTON’S DEATH, directed by Robert Wilson at the Alley Theater in Houston TX, and later at the Berliner Ensemble.
He has received two National Endowment for the Arts Grants, a New York State Foundation Grant, and has been awarded residencies in various art colonies, including The MacDowell Colony, Ledig House, The Millay Colony, and Hawthornden Castle in Scotland.
He taught at the Yale School of Drama for five years on various occasions, for thirteen summers at The Harvard Expository Writing Program, and continues to teach at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, and recently, at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute.