I am sure you noticed that I have been most silent about my work on The Merchant of Venice which is not like my usual garrulous or critical self. I have really been in the background on this one (I am assistant director and voice coach) and I have been feeling like I owe the production, director, designers and cast a certain silent loyalty. I am actually still feeling that, so I’m going to write mainly about my experiences sitting in the wings, so to speak.
We are three and a half weeks into rehearsals as I write. This is really a hard time, where the learning of the text clashes with most creative ideas and it is a slow, stop-start affair that can be totally energy sapping and hair-pulling. It is also here that the difference in experience and training is most noticeable. Playing Shakespeare is so complicated. It really helps to come to it with a certain confidence. And all that stuff they drill you with at drama school? It works. The difference between well trained actors and those who are not is amazing. I was always taught to be at a rehearsal 10 minutes early. That’s it. I always am. And I can see those with the same training. It’s an unspoken rule. It gives you a chance to get your head right, your props ready, your shoes off. Working with experienced and talented actors is like watching for fairy lights to start coming on. One or two pop on and stay on, some go out, more and more pop on, and soon you have a shining somebody in a scene. It gets more amazing when two actors in a scene begin popping on. And then there are the light sappers. I guess there are always those (and I always wonder how or why they were cast in the first place) who walk into a rehearsal and it’s like a cold, boring and unreasonable wind that blows towards them, dragging the energy towards their untruthful and ‘chaff chaff’ performances.
It is a privilege to work on a production of this size. It is totally frustrating to contribute so little. It is a learning that I am finding so valuable.
Who knows what the production will be like. I love the play, but have my own very radical ideas about what it means and how it should be done. And it is quite amazing that here we are at the end of 2007, putting on another Shakespeare.
The best thing about being involved in a Maynardville production is working full time at this, my not so favourite time of year.