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Read Through, through, through the play

Your Humble Blogger has at last begun rehearsals for the new play. It’s a very different experience from anything I’ve done, and very very different from what I’ve been doing these last few years.

A Nearly-Legendary Director, who has worked with everybody and done everything, has as one of his latest ventures started a small non-profit theater in New York. One of the actresses in the group wanted to play the lead in an adaptation of the Great American Novel (well, you know, I suspect she identified it as such, and is scarcely the only one). However, the existing adaptations for the stage are not terribly good. When she brought them to Near-Legendary Director in frustration, he said so write your own damn adaptation, Pomerantz, which she more or less did, eventually bringing him an incomplete draft, which he whipped into a play, and which is the script we are using.

They played the thing in New York, to good reviews (some of which are available on the internet), but it didn’t take off. They like the thing, though, the actress and the Near-Legendary Director, and have been trying to get it revived, doing a few readings and, now, a Regional Premiere in an attempt to drum up interest. The Near-Legendary Director himself is directing, and the core of the original cast (the Woman, the Man, and the Wronged Husband) have come to reprise their performances. The rest of the cast (the Daughter of Shame, the Peasant Fellow, the Four Townswomen, the Government Figure and the Other Clergyman) are local, cast by audition here. The original cast members have been rehearsal for a week up in New York, where they live (their comically overplayed delight at our town’s enormous grocery stores with ludicrously cheap food was a successful icebreaker), and we joined them last night for the read-through. Now we have all of fifteen rehearsals until a paying audience comes in. A short, intense rehearsal period, with a short, intense run, and the whole thing over in a month.

So. Last night was the read-through, and was unlike any read-through I’ve ever done. The leads gave extraordinary performances. Extraordinary for a read-through, I mean, although it is obvious already that the Wronged Husband will give an extraordinary performance when he is on his feet, and will steal the show entirely, as is proper. But the rest of the cast also gave readings much better than the average read-through, too. This is presumably because we are all well-prepared, as we need to be—we were asked to be off-book by last night, and clearly most of us mostly were, which makes a read-through more performance-y. Or it’s because we are all extremely good at this acting thing. But probably the well-prepared thing.

And then, after we read through the play, our Near-Legendary Director gave us a little lecture about theater, acting, speaking, history, performance, story-telling, and a hundred other things. It was wonderful—no advice I hadn’t come across before, but stories about people he had studied under or taught or been robbed by. And someday, you know, I will be able to say it was like Near-Legendary Director once told me: Speaking is Discovery.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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