Persians Diary August 30th, 2014 (Posted On behalf of Emily Spalding)

Leon Ingulsrud's picture
Hello everyone,

Anne gave me an amazing note a few days ago with a sentiment I’d like to share.  She reminded me that, even in the midst of this tragic story, I can be open to experience joy onstage.  Wow. Right! As a young actor, the play gets the best of me sometimes…shuts me down in a way.  I make assumptions about the story, and about my role within it and am thus numbed to the experience of actually DOING the thing… discovering it as I go. It is OKAY to experience joy within it. In fact, I SHOULD do so, on behalf of the audience. My pleasure can be shared with them, created with and for them.  This is a profound notion for me, and a note not readily applied. Hopefully with time and experience…

Over the course of the last few days (and especially in our first and second preview), I have been meditating on the experience of joy and pleasure.  I relish the time spent stretching and chatting at the start of rehearsal.  I marvel at the tireless commitment to the play, on everyone’s part! I try to soak up the vibrant energy of the Outdoor Theater…on warm evenings, under the stars, engaged in a taught discourse with an audience…a warm, attentive and engaged audience at that.  Telling an ancient tale. I’m pinching myself now.

I led training today (that pleasure stuff I mentioned is more elusive on mornings when I am slotted to lead.) With my mentors surrounding me, and on a performance day at that, the task feels incredibly huge and scary.  I feel immense responsibility to my teachers and fellow actors (for the most part, in this case, one in the same), and am humbled by the opportunity.

We began with Basic 1, 2 & 3.  In Basic 3,  we spoke text from the tail end of the play. With Bondo’s wise suggestion, we addressed Shelby’s notes from the previous day and tried to weave the Choral responses and Xerxes’ text more tightly together.  We moved, then, to Stomping…speaking the Ancient Greek epode on the walk downstage.  I suggested that anyone could fall and rise again at any time during the slow walk. Onto Slow Ten: a neutral pass and one with structure followed directly by an open viewpoints session.  From the inside, the viewpoints work felt really free and playful…a much needed release nearing the end of a very intense week.

After training, we received and worked through notes until our dinner break.  We have reached an amazing moment in our work! Our play is officially road-tested.  We are shaving minutes off our run-time…each go at it seems to clip along with greater intention and alacrity. As such, we have the opportunity now to dive back in to specific trouble-spots, to sharpen moments in our choral score that have gone dull with the friction of repetition.  We slough off old ideas, exposing fresh, connective story tissue. We reconcile the sensations of performance with the perceptions of the audience, eagerly reaching for fulfillment in both.  It’s clear to us now that the play calls for a certain tempo/tempi to drive the story forward, along with rhythmic and tonal diversity (Victor’s coveted “ear-candy”) to keep the audiences’ ears tuned to our story.  A great challenge lies ahead…to stay awake to the aural landscape of this play as we move through the run.  The score requires constant tending and attention.  Even the slightest release within it and the whole thing falls flat.  I sense that we are up to the task.  

We continue to unpack the ending of our play. It must be formal, and yet completely unyoked at times.  The sense of the thing reveals itself in surprising moments.  Ellen suggested a shift in staging at the very end of the play which, for me, answers a myriad of questions.  We study the power of the individual to express their own experience in the context of a group…to speak, to move, to act on behalf of the whole. We bear the weight of grief for each other…with each other. We revel in joy and pleasure together.  We open ourselves up to the constant shifts and jolting changes of human experience on and offstage.  In this case, in front of an audience…on warm evenings, under the stars.

Before the show, we spend a few precious moments outside…everyone halfway into make-up and costume, trying to hammer out a tricky piece of staging, and then back inside for work on specialties before call. Then into costumes and we’re off.  

These evenings hold a special kind of magic within them.  My heart and mind teeter back and forth between fear and joy.  Sometimes, it feels like both are equally present and powerful within me…simultaneous and overwhelming. I try, desperately, to gather it all up and let it all go at the very same time. I try for my team, for the audience and for myself.

Happy Saturday! 
With love,
Emily