Father Jack Production Diary: The beginning

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So, Your Humble Blogger will be in another play this Spring. What fun!

I have the opportunity of playing Jack in Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, at a production of the Actor Training program of the performing arts conservatory that is part of the institution that employs me. This will be my second production with them; I got to be part of their production of Nicholas Nickleby three years ago. That one was a massive epic thingie with a cast of ten guests in addition to twenty students. This is a smaller play, a cast of eight, and the others are all students, so it’s kind of flattering to be asked to join. I mean, the part I’m playing is a small role of an old mad fellow, the sort of part that in student productions is played by the guy they don’t want to give a lead role to, playing it with terrible toothpaste-white hair dye. I don’t need to color my hair at all, now, do I? It makes some sense that the program would look at the role and think why waste one of our perfectly good students on that. I’m kidding, really, as it’s a juicy little role, played by Michael Gambon in the movie, so there’s that.

Digression: I haven’t really thought about the list of actors who have played my parts in movies of plays I’ve done. Michael Gambon may be my favorite without even thinking about the others. Jim Broadbent played Buckingham in R3, and I adore him. Kevin Kline and James Fox both have played Jaques in films of AYLI; Nigel Hawthorne was Malvolio in a 12N film. Who else…Ian Holm, Richard Briers, Bill Murray, John Malkovich, Denholm Elliott, John Heard, George Martin, Wilfrid Lawson, Todd Susman. That’s a pretty good list. Wow. End Digression.

The performances will be in mid-April; we begin rehearsing at the beginning of March. It will be a fairly compressed rehearsal schedule, from my point of view, a couple of weeks shorter than we usually get in the community theater. But then, most of the cast don’t have day jobs, or rather, rehearsing for this play is an important part of their “day job” of being a student. And of course this production is for them, in a real way. They’re paying for the experience. The focus should be on them, not me. So I feel even more strongly than I usually do that I need to show up prepared. Not off-book necessarily, but with the smell of the play strongly in my nostrils.

And, ideally, the sound of it in my ears. I can’t yet hear Jack. The playwright says, in the stage directions, that he has Scarcely any trace of an Irish accent. He doesn’t say what accent he does have, damn him. Jack was born and raised in Ireland at the tail end of the 19th Century, then travels with the English Army, then lives in Uganda for twenty years, speaking mostly Swahili. At the time of the play (1936) he has returned to Ireland for the first time in twenty-five years, and is speaking English with English-speaking Irish folk who never left their village. Hm. How does that timing work? It has been 25 years, so he left in 1911. Perhaps he went to Uganda in 1911, then joined up from there in 1914? That makes sense. He’s fifty-three at the time of the play, so he was, let me thing, 28 when he left Ireland. Not terribly young, at that. I would think ordinarily that someone who left home at 28 would retain a strong accent, but we are told he doesn’t, so.

So, here we go. I will call this a Production Diary, since that’s what I called it the last few times and the model I like, but this one probably won’t be that. It will be a pre-production diary, for the next six weeks or so, and then we’ll see how much I want to write about the actual rehearsal process when it comes. In the meantime, what I will do is write about my preparation. Mostly, this consists of closely reading the text, again and again, and formulating questions. Questions about the character, about the relationships between the characters, about the story, about the place of this character in telling this story. All of that, and probably some odds and ends besides.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

2 thoughts on “Father Jack Production Diary: The beginning

  1. Chaos

    This may not do anything useful for you, and i don’t know the play, but: i’d think if he left as an adult and came back after 25 years, his accent might come back over the course of the play as his brain retrained itself to hearing people talk that way.

    Reply

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