Persians Diary August 22nd 2014

Gian-Murray Gianino's picture

How does it all begin… Bondo’s beginning line from Antigone rings
through my mind. I love that line, repeated over and over again in
that script, and how Bondo delivered it.

Where are we?
What are we doing?
What are we saying?
How are we saying it?
Who are we talking to?
What does it mean?

And… of course… how does it all end?

I get home from rehearsal and I am so tired that I don’t even have the
energy or appetite to look at my script. We are in different terrain
now and there is a different set of logic to navigate by and thus a
new map that is being formed as we draw it out. I decide I’m having a
glass of wine.

As far as I understand, our people that are sitting in the audience
area during our tech seem to know and think we are on the right track
and things are looking good. Anne, Brian, Darron and Nephelie are all
out there gauging the show and its journey and we have to trust such
an incredible team to call a halt if we make a false step. From the
inside of it though - from the actor’s perspective - the situation
feels more complex and dire than that. It feels very roughshod and a
bit like jumping into a shark tank every time we pass through and into
a new beat. This play is a maze and not a familiar one at that.
Something that we seemed to know just a day or two before seems
completely shocking or mishandled or antithetical in the moment of its
arrival. To be fair, this is exactly the point in a process where
actors start to doubt everything that they gave birth to. Today, we
reached our last day of tech for the week which seems shocking. This
doubtful stage happens, I would say, in almost every show and every
process I have ever gone through. But this show is a different animal;
the Persians really is in a league of it’s own. The world shifts
radically and quickly. The stumbles that we make cut deeply.

I have really begun to be a bit in awe of Aeschylus. Some days I think
that the difficulty of the play lies in the fact that it is so ancient
and then other days it strikes me that it is still ahead of it’s time.
Sounds like a cliche as I re-read that sentence. I am brought back to
my original vision for the costumes, time and behavior for the play
when we were here last doing it as a public reading. At that time, I
kept thinking about the movie The Fifth Element and the mixture of
ancient and future that was blended so well in the design.
Pop-oriented, to be sure, but still fascinating. Although you might
not necessarily recognize the similarity if you come to see our show
at the Getty I think we are attempting to explore that concept which I
feel is at the heart of Aeschylus’ play and our own interest in it.

Which brings us to the beginning of the end. Or the end of the
beginning maybe. I have been blessed with the opportunity to play
Xerxes - the young king who returns home at the end of the play and is
acutely responsible for the absolute decimation of the Persian army.
Lengthwise it is not such a huge deal, taking up only a small number
of pages in the script. But that belies the challenge. The changes and
stages that Aeschylus has him navigate are both extreme and impossibly
subtle. The energy required is enormous and asked for on top of
everything that has preceded it. An actors nightmare and an actors
dream all at the same time. And how Xerxes and the Chorus handle the
text and their relationship to each other (and the audience of course)
really crystallizes the message that the production is attempting to
relay. Which inherently means that the burden to get it right feels
like a heavy one. Trust me when I say we are all desperately trying.

How does it all begin?

How does it all end?

We are all getting close to finding out.