Persians Diary end of week 5 August 23, 2014 from ellen

Ellen Lauren's picture

It is the last day of the fifth week for rehearsals of Persians. Its now that we start to recognize that we could be the fifth Month, and only have just begun to plumb the depths of this magnificent text.

 I’m writing this on Sunday. It’s the luxury that leading on Saturday gives you.  A day to marinate in what happened.

 As I write, the palms are shimmering in the breeze, the thonk of a tennis game sounds lazily from the courts outside my window. Though not a tennis player, I’ve come to be taken with the game, mesmerized by the auto serve machine playing  a single, early morning devotee. When they hire the coach with the non-stop loud instructions, I feel I’m getting a free lesson…where the feet should be, or eye focus, the angle of the racket and torque of torso. This morning I watched a young woman return ball after ball, and admired her effortlessness and grace.  The ball seemed to drop just where she wanted with strength. That’s what I want to be able to figure out how to do this week in the show.

 So Saturday we gave birth. Unplanned, we decided to finally have our first run-thru. It clocked in at a time we were all taken by surprise with-and Leon won the ‘running time pool’-a SITI tradition for years upon the birth of a new piece. ($5 ante) I won’t spoil the mystery.  Your question is ‘Was it long? Was it short?’ It was surprising, is what it was.

 Here we wake on Saturday, no question exhausted, and line up energy to make this one last day of the week productive. But yesterday I rose earlier than I expected, even with the tight turnaround from working late the previous night in tech. I felt that ancient thrill in my bones that most every actor gets when you are about to see what you have wrought together and how all the hours and weeks fit together. And with this piece in particular, the question was also, Do they fit together?*

 I stayed excited as hell, as we gathered and trained, working on both the opening and late text-endlessly mining the sentences for cohesion and differentiation. It will take time.  As a chorus we make up nine points of view, there are nine literal and figurative voices in each stanza. It will take time to ripen and bear the fruit of actual communication that engages the ear and imagination of the audience. So we work in earnest and have, I think, long since abandoned the expectation of ‘fixing’. What we are learning to do is carve, step back, carve again… attempting to get at the sculpture inside the stone, in a sense. The stone being the raw material of these words in this order and our bodies. But the sculptured sound will come with time.

 Its easy here at the Getty to wonder how the first chorus who spoke this text worked on it-did the meter of the Ancient Greek point their way just so clearly that they didn’t bicker over where to breathe or the tempo or attack? And it all wants to land on the ear and eye like those well thwacked tennis balls, with ease and strength and nuance.

 After Viewpoints, that concentrated simply on movement and stillness, we worked specials.  SOMEONE mistook the call time and thought 2pm instead of 12pm. The someone arrived breathless and embarrassed well past training and we laughed. It could have been anyone of us, I suspect. It was nice though, how the group gathered around someone and was warm and welcoming  –we were all excited and I felt a sense of holding on together. No, you aren’t going to learn who someone was. Because we are a Chorus! So let’s say, it was All of us!

 Then with a few adjustments and some last minute checking on how to cram our Getty Villa Open Air Greek Theatre production, into the small lovely indoor theater, we began.

 So to answer the question above, yes they do fit together*. There is much to refine, clarify, re-think and sharpen, of course. But after the _______ had past (running time) there in the room was a play.  It lurched around between us, newly animated, a little monstrous in places, but a sentient being. We knew over a year ago we were taking on a risky choice in selecting Persians.  God it’s still risky. We knew that no other organization would have the courage, kindness and mutual appetite for risk like the Getty (Ralph, Anna, Laurel, Shelby, Ken, Mary-) when they allowed us the choice. It still might swallow us whole.  But there are fresh, raw qualities coming out of everyone in different moments. There was a level of freak while doing it that gave it an innocence, I felt. And it moved me.

 So there’s much to do yet, of course. We are back outside tomorrow at night, and can finally approach this with a sense that we at least know the shape of the animal we are trying to harness out there. And Victor comes back to us so we can ask the authority things we’ve been tustling with over the weeks. No one is fooled either at how difficult it is to translate the solutions found inside to the marble stage, exposed to sky, plane, wind, infinite space. Anne, Darron and Brian are handing out life jackets as fast as they can. Ah, and that ending we still need to unravel.

 But we have a play and as Bondo said upon entering the apartment for a drink last night –“I like our play!” We toasted the week, relieved and exhausted our blind date turned out to be someone we want to see again.

 After dinner, there was a Fosters Freeze across the street, so we squealed with glee and hooked a u-turn and had cones and a root beer float. Shhhhh.