From the earliest meetings to the opening night, this recounts the story of the vision, inspiration and hard work of the team who created this joint production between PlayActing Theatre and Schull Drama Group. Written by Karen Minihan, director and co-author of the ‘mise en scène’.
Two of the cast members are away this weekend. The acting Troupe are called for rehearsal after 4pm. We will go through Act 2 only. My original plan was to run through the entire play but it became apparent that we still needed to do manageable blocks; consolidate the learning.
What has become necessary now is to run the Scenes, one after another, so actors become familiar with the sequence. For many actors, the logical flow of the story and their part in it is not obvious, especially actors who don’t like or manage to read through the script. For others who have read the play a number of times, this bit is easier.
How people learn and absorb information is to the fore in this part of the work; how they remember body movements, places, positioning. It’s fascinating.
As a Director, I need to be aware of actors’ demands and needs, especially in an amateur dramatic context. If I am asking them to take risks, be open and take chances, then I have to make the process as comfortable and safe as possible.
How demanding is this? It seemed to me that actors might be more aware themselves –- taking notes on their scripts, for example. Sometimes, I was remembering for most of the eighteen people, when only two or three had taken notes.
Firstly on Saturday, I had to go through the lighting plan scene by scene with Paul, who is setting the lights, and Edmund who is programming the computer. Both have completely saved the day where lighting is concerned.
It is a long process, plotting each cue, searching for the right tone, the right effect of lighting. It is exciting too to see what the potential for the performance is with the lights working on the set. At times, the way light picks up a swathe of paint on the set is magnificent.
I probably would not have attended this setting up if I weren’t needed. The week before I had spent time plotting the lights and noting on a spreadsheet, but the rushed nature of sorting the lighting has meant that the lighting men haven’t been able to use this record.
My intimate knowledge of the play was essential to the process as we worked on, it page by page. But I’m glad I was there, to see the possibilities unfold is wonderful.
We worked until the others arrived for rehearsal.
This is a list written on a large sheet. I have noted all of the scenes I need to return to. Most of those are with Constanze. We’ve read them but bringing them on to the stage is a priority.
This list is available for anyone to write on, a reminder to me of others concerns. It is placed nearby for everyone to see.
The first on the list are the backstage crew. We finished going through the setting requirements. Little by little, all the props are in place and these too, are noted and places found for them in the props area. Because of their familiarity with the play, work with Jack and Winnie is easy. They are prepared and organised, with notes made –– often their questions anticipate ahead.
We put the markers on the stage for the furniture, it is then colour-coded. Photographs are taken of the positions and, later on, Jack and Winnie have a folder with each change noted and photographs of the stage arrangements.
We ran through the entire of Act 2. These are long rehearsals and everybody needs to be here all the time. There is plenty chance for people to chat and have tea together, except for the Salieris, the lighting and sound men and me. The atmosphere is building up really nicely.
Apart from the scenes I have to do for the first time over the coming week, my notes are now scribbled down. The flow of the entire Act is the important requirement.
No longer am I doing individual scenes, or going back over work, rather we are ploughing on and I give notes afterwards. In the past, this would have been done at the end of rehearsal, but our sessions are too long and to ask people to stay for another half hour of notes is too much. So, I give feedback constantly. If an actor brings up an issue there and then, I address it.
My notes are in an old copybook or scrap paper. Sometimes I can’t even read them!
An insight into the development of a role
Unfortunately, for the elder Salieri, there is some of the work that we haven’t been able to focus on. Until the bits that we have never done are completed with the replacement actors, I can’t focus on this actor. And until there is a real sense of flow in the text for the younger Salieri, I find it impossible to judge when the two Salieirs will connect.
We have worked on this together, the Salieris and I, and I have made notes of the intense emotional statements where the two should combine, in my opinion. But there is opportunity for more links and that is loose and undecided at the moment. Makes it difficult for Clair, in particular.
It may have been at this point that I realised that, rather than splitting this role in two, I made two enormous roles for the two actors, who both had to rise to embrace the enormity of the challenge.
These records are being made on 15th October, 2019, following the first weekend of performances. The blog has suffered for the sake of the final rehearsals. I’m relying on my creaking memory, the preparatory notes and the records of meetings between the various parties.
Back again to the beginning
We go back to Act 1. The plan is to run though it all from start to finish. My notes for tonight have a strict sequence of events.
First is the practical backstage rehearsal, going through each of the scene changes, positioning the set furniture and marking it.
Jack and Winnie are unbelievably organised and professional in this task. Always on time, always thinking about what needs to be done and the next steps; taking notes about what is needed, having read the script and been at all of the recent rehearsals.
At the risk of repeating myself, I say that I believe the entire working group of a performance is all important. In order for the whole machine to work every cog working to its potential is the key.
What was fascinating in development here was that, as the play developed in its presentation, these backstage crew became part of the performance. Realising that the play required to move apace, given its length and the need for the short scenes to flow one into another, Jack and Winnie moved in and out of the stage, through the actors, within the scene; finding a way of being that didn’t distract and yet, held their role in the acting space.
We have only time to run through the settings for Act 1 before the next group arrive for rehearsal.
We get through it, words are slow in coming and sometimes we just take up the book, for the sake of everyone getting through tonight. It’s been a few weeks since we looked at Act 1 so I didn’t expect it to be marvellous. But, it’s amazing how much you lose if you don’t repeat the work regularly enough.
My notes show a reminder to check in with various actors, speak to them about certain lines, where they should be, how to make the action flow.
Understanding the Text
Also, I note reminders constantly in my notebook, to clarify text –– to ensure the understanding for the actors of what is going on in the scene.
In the past, I would go through each scene line by line, or chunk by chunk; each section of each scene decoded as you go. Often the beginning of many rehearsals were seated, reading the play.
In this current way of working, the understanding comes from the character work, the particular knowledge of the actor and the emotional charge achieved in rehearsal.
Again, I say … if only I had another month!!
We also have to finish looking at the scenes with Constanze, slowly bringing her (him) into our way of working –– introducing him (her) to the games and exercises that fill out our interactions and engagement with each other.
Other developments this week
Our lighting became an issue last week, and so, the lighting men are now in all the time, trying to work around the actors and artists; during the day, at the beginning of rehearsals. They set up new lights, tweak the positioning of some of them, adding gels. And then, sit through the run-through in order to become more familiar with the play and our interpretation.
Most of the work will be done next weekend so this work is about Paul and Corey’s technical knowledge and a general layout of the lighting stock. Schull Drama Group have an amazing array of lights. It is a dream to have access to good, uptodate equipment.
A lighting designer once said to me “The magic is in the lights.” And he had an artistry with lighting that made me believe him … mostly … At the end of the day, they are there to serve the play and the actors so …
During the week we went into the hall to try out a projector we had borrowed. We had been discussing using two maybe, but with time running out, the practical considerations concerning split images and double projectors were feeding into and colouring the discussions.
In the back of my head was the constant question: Is there any point in pursuing this idea? Have we left it too late? Every time Julia and I spoke, the artistic vision behind it seems to demand more creative energy and thought than we had left to give.
Colm was advising on how to proceed. We brought down the blinds in the hall and turned the projector on. And we played with the light on the projector.
We moved it into various places: towards the window, on the wall, in the corner. Julia had a grey cardigan on, slightly darker than the costumes and that caught the light.
And even with only the blue light from the projector bulb working, I could see what it could bring to the production, just a small bump of visuals, a film-like colour that lifted the stage and the actors on it.
We talked about the optimum colours, the effectiveness of inverting black / white in order to see an image clearly –– white music notes on a black musical stave background, for example.
I had made a list of all of the possible places that projection might add to the play. Julia and I would gather images and send them to Colm, who would put them into a video for us. Following our conversation, we had to pare this idea back completely.
Work was progressing on the set steadily. Each day brought an extra element of colour or construction. The walls and catwalk were completed. Now we had all the props as the focus: the cake stands, the Emperor’s chair elevated, parts of the set being blackened in preparation for the next steps in decoration.
We have some success with the PR and our blurb features in the West Cork Times and West Cork People and the Southern Star.
From now on, we need to promote the play on Facebook from the PlayActing Theatre and Schull Drama Facebook pages. We plan what images we will use, not intending to reveal too much of the design.
Well, not the whole group. Two missing … but nearly all of them.
No DJ today so I was operating the sound machine. Not great really. The speakers are great but trying to operate my phone, get the cues and concentrate on the action is impossible.
The beginning was staggered from 3pm, so we could go through Scenes 16 and 17 with Mozart and Salieri.
At 4.45pm the costumiers arrived bearing the entire selection of costumes. The plan was to have everybody check their costume and be ready to proceed by 4.30pm. I also wanted to see the costumes on the set, see what they looked like against the strong background.
It was great fun seeing the actors trying on the outfits and strutting their stuff onto the stage, parading on the catwalk. The costumes will be different to a period piece. No heavy fabrics to add a different feel, or fussy necklines. They are sleek and smooth looking, cool. And very contemporary. Every guest I spot on a TV chat show recently has this look, if not the colour palette!
It takes a full hour to do this –– longer than I wanted but to be expected!
Mozart’s death is subdued and needs to be quiet and respectful. We start with this vignette, organising everyone to come on the stage, and then manoevre themselves so that they cover Mozart as he lies dead and then he can leave the stage.
Then into another image, as the crowd respond to Salieri and his success.
Then on to the final image, copying Annie Leibowitz’s photo and finally flocking down the catwalk.
It’s slow and involves most of the cast, so it’s slightly confused and confusing.
Yet, we get it done in a reasonable time.
Note to Self
Is it too much? Too busy with all the images?
From the beginning of Act 2 …
It was a long rehearsal, until after 8pm, having started at 4.30pm, and we don’t get Act 2 finished. There are books all over the stage, or if people are off book, the pace is slow and tedious.
The early scenes work well enough but really we stutter through most of it. No flow. Lots of repetition and lack of understanding of what is going on or where an actor should be. No concentration on the cues. No tension between the actors, none of the physical understanding we have been working on for nine months.
I think of the poor audience and what it will be like for them. This play will last for over two and a half hours, I think. All I can see are these great costumes, the mighty set and an unachieved collective performance.
It was a long night, tossing and turning: tea, Sudoku, the newspaper (nature pages –– no bad news). Ideas for adapting went through my head: Could the cast carry their books with them opening night? Could we call the first night a ‘preview’, charge the audience a special rate and thereby reduce expectations?
There have been many long nights. We still had eleven days to go but the play is massive –– like ‘The Crucible” that I directed previously or “All my Sons”, both by Arthur Miller; long plays with big universal themes.
Rehearsal: Day 32
30th September, 2019
The plan for this rehearsal was made, with renewed enthusiasm in the morning.
At the rehearsal, I asked for a warm-up, as many actors value it as much as I do, especially as their characters.
But the warm-up was terrible, more of the same lack of anything.
So, we turned to the stage and the beginning of Act 2, to run through it from the very start. And as we began, the conversations started up in the hall and it was too much for me. No discipline, no focus. And a mountain of work to climb, many parts unrehearsed or under-rehearsed. There were fraught words spoken!
So, I went for a brisk walk up the street and left the cast at it.
When I returned we had a quiet hall and a fantastic rehearsal.
Not perfect. But, I can see a play in it: some flow, magic moments of acting, of image-striking that move and delight and engage … even the possibility of a play without scripts!
Again, at the centre of tonight’s requirements was the need to get the Act done, a relentless drive to see the form and structure of the piece.
I don’t like throwing a ‘wobbly’, but the clarity that comes because of it is great.
For one, the cast took on the responsibility of getting this play right. I wonder is it a psychological phenomenon amongst groups –- the handing over / receiving and accepting the control, the responsibility, whatever you would like to call it.
What I know is, from that night, I felt my work was essentially completed and a large ball of stress evaporated.
Of course, I was there to continue guiding the cast through the physicality of the performance and the shaping of the emotion, the combination of the acting with music, lighting and set would continue up to the opening night,
But, much of the demands would come from the actors from now on: How could they manage our interpretation of the script?; become familiar with the free-flowing ambitions demanded by this play; find a way for themselves of warming up that they could rely on.
Email sent to Amadeus Troupe on 30th September, 2019
confirming rehearsals this week:
Monday 30th (tonight): 6 pm for everyone.
Wednesday 2nd: 7pm for everyone.
Saturday: 4pm everyone
Sunday: 4 pm everyone
Lines are now the priority ... followed swiftly by comforton the set. I’m focusing today on how to make that easy. I can see people have put much effort into learning, but the type of script makes it hard to learn without everyone else there, I think.
Please take every available free moment to walk through the set, for fun, using your lines…
Please start on lines immediately when you come, if possible.
I need some magic, so I’ll do a warm-up tonight and run some scenes through it. If you could look at the first Scene where you have lines especially, I’ll give everyone a turn to warm up in this way.
Please remember the techniques we’ve been using … the elastic band, magnets.
We’ll go right through Act 2 tonight, from start to finish, for as long as it takes.
Back to Venticelli group scenes, ploughing through the final quarter of the play. Resilience is the key as we carry on, magic moments and flowing energy sacrificed to the need to get this done.
Having said that, the extra time we spend together now does create a newer impetus and understanding. We still don’t have every actor present for the section. But we do have very consistent actors who take good notes and remember them. And we get through the work without needing to stay late.
Scenes 13, 14 with Constanze, Mozart, Salieri
We’re making the first efforts to get through these scenes, trying to get the feel for them. It’s still early in the development of this work. So, I keep the actors off the stage in an effort to get the connection between them in the words.
Though I am still allowing the actors to know each other further and to know their characters intimately.
The Venticelli groups are also part of the fantastic Scene 14, a great relief from the emotional intensity either side of it. It starts with the group, joined by Katharina, Mozart and Salieri. The group have moments of utter hilarity –– up to the arrival of van Swieten.
On my personal ‘To Do’ list are three images in this section. The music from the Magic Flute is playing, Salieri describes the action and, rather than just freeze, the crowd group can enjoy the moment and be creative. See the note regarding the music support just below.
Sometimes, I have to be reminded to seek inspiration, rather than expecting my poor overworked brain to struggle to find it.
Here are two different versions of the musical cue for this Scene 14:
Wie Stark Ist Nicht Dein Zauberten.’
The latter one is so old-fashioned compared to the first, or the others on the net … Can’t resist it!.
If only …
In every amateur dramatic play ever done, there is a cry of If only we had one more week…! I’m thinking in terms of a month! In reflecting recently on how this part of the process is going, what I thought was that there has been no time for the learning to settle.
Each quarter of the play has taken a week to map out. After each quarter or even after each half, a few days of playing and teasing out would have been great –– copperfastening the intent and the body memory.
To support …
We have the DJ offering music as support, involved in the warm-up and playing a few music cues within the text.
It has made me realise how important it is to use the music now within the text work all the time now … to bring life to the words and an extra support for us in order to have the beauty of the music as a backdrop and to move us, emotionally, physically, and to propel us forwards.
Having the stage painted is very helpful, and having some of the set items –– chairs and benches –– painted and adding to the visual impact is lovely too.
And, majorly, where support is concerned, we have:
(a) the Stage Manager, Jack, who is at rehearsal every night for the last four weeks, becoming familiar with the play, helping with the set-up, humping and lumping the gear and the set. He is absolutely fantastic.
Now we are delighted to have an assistant for Jack. I was introduced to a visitor one day as I went from one meeting to another. Her name is Winnie. She is delightful and has come along, without knowing anybody and completely mucked in to line runs, warm-ups, washing up.
(b) Meanwhile, Julian too runs around collecting gear or clearing unnecessary stuff to the shed, sending messages of support or clarity, preparing a speech for opening night, providing chocolate digestives!
That support is immeasurable and invaluable.
Rehearsal: Day 30
25th September, 2019
Scenes 12, 14, 15 and 16
Tonight we had the Courtier group work, filling in the gaps that we had started on Monday with the Venticelli.
The warm-up tonight included some radiation and mirroring; keeping the connection, especially focusing on Constanze, building up the reservoir of skills for him to rely on in the relationship between the character and Mozart and separately with Salieri.
He is bouncing into the role without fear!
Again, the heavier scenes, Constanze / Salieri and Constanze / Mozart are kept off the stage. Until the time is right, I told them, we can’t be there.
To Do …
There are lots of small decisions to be made still, for example, a note I made tonight: ‘the secret Mason handshake’. In the prep notes, I have also written, ‘the response of the elder Salieri to the text’.
The ‘To Do’ list is getting important now, to ensure that all the small things we have to pass by in a rehearsal are addressed when there is a moment, or when we set time aside for it. The list is in my rehearsal book at the moment and jotted down in various places. It is time now for it to be transferred to a larger sheet, as reassurance for everyone to see; and allowing add-ons for anyone who needs to address something.
Scenes 17 and 18, the death of Mozart, we couldn’t do tonight. So, first thing on Sunday and back to the beginning then.
Checked also this week …
Costumes–– The sewers are still busy completing the clothing. Nothing rushed or stressed. Shoes have arrived and we had a trying on session … great!
Music –– A long session in the dark (the electricity was out in Schull!) with spreadsheets of music.
John, Julia and I began at the beginning, plotting and planning, listening to possibilities, listening to sections of gorgeous music. Again highlighting the point already made, that the entire group should be listening to the music for their enjoyment and inspiration.
Set–– Great strides this week with the set construction. The catwalk was built in three days and was in situe for the actors to use on the Wednesday rehearsal.
Mostly reconstructed from the materials in the SDG shed, it has transformed the hall and our work. It will take a little getting used to: the height off the floor, the difference in the distances between it and the stage.
Set painting–– There are long sessions by the two artists leading the decoration of the set, Deirdre and Corinna, and their team of two, Alyn and Isabelle, to paint and advance the colour on the set. It is a wonder and beautiful –– the combination of the wall decoration and the tile-effect on the catwalk in this little hall in the far end of the peninsula.
The aisle and walkways –– We are having to think carefully about the weather and the comfort of the audience. There is extra work hanging poles and sourcing curtains.
PR –– Posters are hung up from here to Skibbereen and Bantry. The PR blurb has been carefully worked on and sent out to the local and national newspapers, local newsletters, radio stations. Invitations have been issued to the local TDs and Councillors from the West Cork area. As recipients of an Arts Grant from Cork County Council, Art Department, we are asked to include and acknowledge the politicians in the area. I think at least two might attend!
Email to Amadeus Troupe: 28th September, 2019
Hi everyone in the Troupe, Designers and backstage,
we are meeting tomorrow, Sunday, to get through all of Act 2. We’ll start on the later Scenes 18 & 19 which everyone is in and return to the beginning then. I know that I also have smaller scenes and vignettes to tighten up on … eg. the Theatre Scene – in the Weiden … I’m making a list and will get through them methodically. From now on, we’re looking at the flow of the action (while never being rushed or in any way worried) and the icing on the cake!! If you have certain parts you’d like to go through, please let me know. It may be covered automatically in going back over things this coming week, but we’ll need to see what’s clunkiest and work on that first. If there’s a spare moment, feel free to check out the set, get used to it. Anybody who’d like to use spare time to run lines with a friendly helper, just ask please. You might also like to know that I have asked Jack and Winnie to see after most of the Scene changes so you don’t need to be concerned about that. I’m calling the Salieris and Mozart only for 3pm and everyone else from 4pm. The wardrobe wizards will try clothes for fitting purposes and we’ll have a look at some against the set decoration.
I’m attaching the photo of the Annie Leibovitz image we’ll create at the end. If you can remember how you were in it we’ll try to recreate that. Please look carefully at the pose / emotion of the individual actors. Looking forward to seeing you all.
Posters, PR and set have moved up a gear this week. Lighting is in shortly. Getting close!! Karen xx
Like marathon runners need to find the resources to endure the twenty six miles of the road, we must continue to tease out the end of the play; right now, the text of Act 2.
We work on the opening scenes of the Act involving the Courtier group.
I am conscious of bringing the actor playing Constanze along with us as a group, and yet not overwhelming him as he is new to our process.
Our warm-up includes an element of enjoying the characters, playing big –– in terms of movement through the room / set and enjoying that expression of the body; and exploring gender.
The notes for tonight are spread throughout the page … first marking the scenes to be done, then putting them in order, carefully, so that we have everyone working as much as possible and swapping around, if time allows, to go through earlier scenes or read a scene ahead.
We navigate the plan –– Scenes 4, 5, 6 ,7 –– efficiently.
Later, we bring Constanze into the rehearsal, reading through various scenes and then working on Act 1 scenes on the floor of the hall with Salieri; playing with the energy and emotion of Scene 10.
Salieri took the bull by the horns here, leading Constanze all around the room, then turning to challenge and bully her, manipulate her to his own requirements.
Finally, van Swieten asked to run through Scene 14 (not on the schedule for tonight). It is a highly intense vignette in the play, where van Swieten is outraged by Mozart’s behaviour.
Many people have been irritated by Amadeus, that’s nothing new, but only van Swieten blows. What a moment! And when the Troupe will be there in between the two of them, the scene will be electric.
In describing this part of the play process as a marathon, I am aware of managing my own energy and tiredness levels and being able to reach the end.
This part is more tedious than other elements of rehearsing and is very draining. Planning takes hours –– I prepare the script from each person’s or group’s point of view. There is the setting, how the furniture will be, where they will be in relation to the furniture.
At times, I do not want to plan too much. I find it’s a constant and delicate balance of being prepared enough (to include having a strict plan for each step of a rehearsal evening) and being open enough to allow the energy and emotion of the scene to be dictated by the improvisation around the text, the style we have developed and the input of the actors (in terms of both interpretation and physical response to the text).
While I call it tedious, it is also very exciting. I suppose, I dislike it being pressurised by virtue of the opening night looming large.
Meanwhile, work is ongoing on the other requirements:
Poster–– We are very fortunate to have the support and the talent of a fantastic graphic designer. There have been ‘tear sheets’ sent to him by Julia, showing our ‘visual language’ and we have had a few drafts to check out.
Costumes –– I pop in to the costume creators from time to time, because I love the calm, creative atmosphere; sewing machines on three sides of the table; the visiting City & Guilds seamstress creating brooches; coffee in the pot!
We talk of actors and costumes, admire colours, and chat about the small issues or decisions that arise, or the magic moments that arise in rehearsal.
Set–– The colour of the back wall is very striking. It was a surprise … most definitely. But the actors at the rehearsal the first evening, not even in costume, popped out against the colour –– that was great. I could see the potential.
Music –– The DJ has started looking at the list of music cues. I’m preparing a spread sheet and list and we will go through each cue when they are ready for both acts.
We have been talking about music that might transcend the centuries, classical but with a modern beat underneath; or layering the music, one genre on another.
Projections–– We are chatting about what we need for the projections, a library of images, videos maybe, the possibility of layering these images over each other, where the projections will be on a screen? on the wall? Now that the wall is so dark, I think the lighter-coloured costumes will pick up the light from the projection –– can’t wait to see that effect!
Rehearsal: Day 28
22nd September, 2019
Sunday rehearsal. It begins at 4pm today with Salieri the younger, Mozart and Constanze. I held off on the other actors until later, the Venticelli and their groups at 5pm and the Courtiers at 5.30pm.
We eased into the rehearsal, reading the scenes that they share, so that when we warmed up with the others, we could use some of that text and the emotion around it. We even had our own, small warm-up so that I could introduce Constanze to the mirroring exercise.
Little by little, I am introducing these exercises to this actor. It’s really nice to re-visit them for me, to remember the intensity they bring.
Arrival of the Venticelli groups
These two groups arrive on time and, with the kettle boiled, tea in hand, they set to work immediately running over the lines to scenes 2, 3 and 4 of Act 2, where we will begin today.
I contine to work with the others for a little while and when I return to the Venticelli gang in the side room, they are onto Scene 1, doing a line-run.
All of these actors have stepped up to these roles and this play. When we were involved in a huge play before, on dress rehearsal night, where it seemed like the play would collapse like a soufflé, one of the actors voiced the need to ‘be proud’, take their role by the scruff of the neck and do it! An enormous learning lesson for me … to be aware of the need for each actor, though part of a larger group, to take it on, be proud, ‘own it’ –– however you wish to describe it –– in exactly the same way as you would need to be if you were a solo performer in a Monologue.
There is a little bit of costume activity on the side-lines, checking some alterations and that the footwear sizes are good.
When the Courtiers arrive in the hall for rehearsal, our DJ is ready for the warm-up so we proceed to prance and move, greet, mirror,radiate, feel the characters.
Scene 2, 3, 4
Bringing everyone together, the actors see the work of the other groups on these scenes for the first time. It’s the same as the last few weeks, dogged, determined work. But good fun too.
As this part of the work is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on the efficacy of this part of the process. I mean, in the sense of applying the theory of collaboration and collective creativity, and allowing the actors to influence the presentation.
It’s hard to determine how much the stresses surrounding the change-over of roles have changed the atmosphere. I know for a fact that it has influenced it.
At this time of writing, I think that, for the process of rehearsal it would have been good to have a chance to pause in the middle of this part; to return to the work done with a playful approach.
But time is always an issue, and we have had a luxurious amount of time.
Did I miscalculate on that?? To be decided. Feedback from the actors would also be interesting and helpful on this point.
Scene 5, 6, 7
Scene 5 is new today; Mozart and Orsini-Rosenberg first, then Mozart and Salieri. They work fine.
Scenes 6 and 7 are more problematic, more people in them and group image with a certain amount of repetition of positions.
They are awkward and clumsy and need more thinking and working through.
I have also realised in working through the music cues with the DJ and reflecting on these pieces that I must take the musical cues into account. They will inspire me forwards to clarity.
But not today! Just the bones today and fine detail later.
The Venticelli groups section at the end of Scene 7 worked well.
We had a quick goodbye circle. Sunday rehearsals are nice. People don’t need to rush quite so much, though I am conscious of keeping people too long.
Bringing a close to the long rehearsals for Act 1, I met with the Salieris and Mozart early, to work on their Scenes –– particularly those where they are acting within the Courtiers group … the overview of the Scene, the positioning, the relationship focusing on the practical side of the rehearsal process.
The Cook and the Valet also came a little early and we had a run-through of their positioning for Act 1.
This practical work is very demanding energetically … engaging the head with the spatial awareness function of the brain, and combining it withe either reading the text or trying to recall it. I’ve been doing a lot of Sudoku recently on holidays and after and I think the same part of the brain is being engaged.
All the improvisational ‘in the moment’ that creates the excitement work is left aside.
And what of thecollaboration and collective creativity theory?
In the context of applying my theory of collective creative, it is now difficult to evaluate the process. This practical work is very time and energy consuming –– the planning is a mammoth task alone (and the Schedule a little awry as a result!) .
But the loss of one of the central characters has shifted the ethereal qualities of our work, not for the worse, the new cast is creating further energy and focus. Just, the three weeks leading up to and seeking a new actor has been worrisome and stressful and affected the work. How it has changed it, I don’t know.
I see the theory come through in the warm-up, when the actors own that space that is their rehearsal space and set. I invite them to respond to the set, checking it out and playfully behaving with it, exploring the old ideas of status –– eg, are they lowly wishing the Court and getting a go, in secret, at the Emperor’schair … or, does the Emperor find himself in the kitchen, with the cook nearby? Is he breezing in or sneaking?
The Troupe arrive
We had the most amazing warm-up. DJ Greegio had arrived for the rehearsal and lead us all.
I had decided to use a general warm-up exploring the entire space in the hall. The ‘catwalk’ part of the stage was marked out and all the actors used this in their warm-up also.
They paraded and breezed around, utilising the furniture, and the windows.
Note to Self
While the general warm-up was great, ignoring the character warm-up doesn’t work, I believe. (I got feedback to this effect also from one of the actors.)
It’s hard to let go of the luxurious time we had, earlier in the process!
This was the biggest group rehearsal since we returned from the summer holidays … the most efficient use of time and people is paramount.
From now on, I suggested that the actors consider the concepts of flow, continuity and discipline constantly in the rehearsals. We require the play to move smoothly and elegantly from one point to another, one vignette to the next. With eighteen in the cast to move constantly in this fast-moving play, all of these concepts will be required for the best performance.
It is early in time yet to expect the ideas to be brought to fruition, but expecting them to be achieved ultimately is a good premise, in my view.
Then began at Scene 1. I explained that we needed to get through the Act as best we could, to the end. The Troupe needed to see how all their little segments related together; get a sense of the whole Act; see how the other groups were working; observe the progress.
We have few occasions now to sit and watch how others are working. With four weeks left, it’s important to take the moments to come together.
People have tea now, as they wait their turn and share notes on their scenes.
Where are we?
Still clunky, getting through, and finding our places generally. There was no time to perfect, some Scenes we were positioning for the first time. The polish will come later.
When reflecting later on our days work –– five intense hours –– the word that came to mind was ‘settled’. I felt settled at the progress of The Troupe at that run-through.
Later, I also felt a bit like Salieri … greedy … I wanted more once we had finished. I wanted the ‘moments of magic’, little energetic vignettes that delight.
It had happened in the warm-up where the Troupe were all ‘in the moment’, strutting through the space, their set, the rehearsal hall.
For another day on the stage!
Through the past week, we sought another actor. From the beginning of the search, we had decided that Bridge would move to the role of Mozart. She had been considered for this role at the very outset of casting. And at this point, not only was she ‘off book’ for the Constanze lines, she knew many of Mozart’s and any other character’s who was in any scene with her!
We didn’t have a Constanze rehearsing with us yet, hopefully the following day. That still brought stress …
Rehearsal: Day 26
16th September, 2019
The day after the marathon session, it was the usual Monday night rehearsal with the larger Venticelli groups, the Salieris and Mozart. AND our new Constanze arrived!
With those of the Venticelli groups who arrived early, I went straight into Scene 2 Act 2. The Venticelli groups enter with the leaders and hang around until Act 4; practical, dogged work, ensuring everyone understands the intention of the scene, the cues and positioning.
When the actor playing Constanze joined the rehearsal, we did some introductions and began a warm-up. Tonight, I went back to using the warm-up for some character work. We had about twenty minutes (we could do with double). I used magnets and the text to show how we were working, especially concentrating on Salieri the elder.
Each of the characters introduced themselves to the newcomer –– how they fit into the play and where their allegiances lay.
Then they showed Scene 2, 3 and 4 and afterwards I went off to the side room, where we read the Constanze / Mozart Scenes in Act 1 and the Salieri / Constanze / Mozart continuation.
Back to the hall for the Venticelli groups again, see what they had been rehearsing. And afterwards, on to Scene 7. More gossip, a different position, stretched out. It works!
On to Scene 8, and the most dramatic impact of their evening, for me. I wasn’t sure it would work to include the full groups in this short scene for the Venticelli 1 & 2. But the way in which they delivered their lines and the faces in their positions in the doorway were fantastic … and brought a quality to this moment that I had not anticipated, almost operatic, like a recitative.
Salieri the Elder is on stage the entire time. Because we have spent a lot of time with the larger groupings, it has been a while since we have focused properly on this actor’s performance at times when he doesn’t have text to say.
How will he respond, as he remembers / dreams of these scenes playing out beside him?
The time hasn’t been right until now to focus on this –– we have attended to the other actors, to understanding and learning the text. But now, it’s appropriate to dedicate time to this particular exploration, while the energy of all the other actors is around him.
Note to Self
Have regard for the relationship between Teresa and Salieri … the way she looks at him, wants to be included.
Endorse and progress her work, subtle but impactful.
Mozart and Salieri
When the Venticelli and their groups had left, Salieri, Mozart and I continued to work, on these scenes, which show Mozart’s egotism and supreme confidence and then hisdescent into vulnerability, poverty and madness, one influencing another, all under the control of Salieri.
Powerful words and images, this play resonates with our current world, the key to its longevity.
Salieri (the younger), Constanze, Mozart and the Prompter
A quieter day. We have had a setback. Our Mozart, who has explored and played along with us for the past six months has had to back out of the production.
The actor cast in the role of van Strack has had to back out also. Van Strack is a smaller role and the actor has missed a good few rehearsals, unavoidably.
But, with Mozart, the play as it will be performed, has developed because of his contribution, along with the other members of the Troupe who have been involved consistently.
So, it was a day to regroup and to think.
I had already changed the rehearsal to be smaller, due to the unavailability of some actors, it was just Salieri the younger, Constanze and two of the backstage crew.
Julian, the Secretary of Schull Drama Group, has been a constant support from the beginning: checking in, being part of the group, offering help, giving feedback.
Jack is the stage Manager. He has been involved in many SDG offerings in this role and he is amazing –– thorough, diligent, unobtrusive, efficient and utterly polite.
Today, they were even more valuable, Julian as a stand-in and Jack as a prompter.
The play will be fine.
We played around with the actor playing Constanze, Bridge, reading Mozart’s lines, and Julian reading Constanze’s. Perhaps it was because of this that I had the thought that a bearded Constanze would be good … male or female!
We had tea and resolved that there would be no panic!
Rehearsal: Day 23
9th September, 2019
Venticello 2, and the Venticelli Groups 1 & 2 (including the Valet and the Cook)
Some of the cast were newly back tonight and some were newly missing, so we are still making do … and mostly we were repeating the bits we had done already. There was only one new scene for the groups to manage, all the others we had looked at before.
At the beginning, we gathered together to check-in following the recent developments with the two cast members dropping out and then, to make the plan for the evening.
The actors went through Scene 1 carefully to bring those newly back uptodate on lines and the positionings.
Warm-up with the DJ
At 8pm, John, our DJ, arrived to observe the rehearsal process. I had held off the warm-up so that he could be there to see how it presented, developed, evolved, with the music central to that work: reminding everyone of our processes to date.
I was bringing those who needed it back to the steps we used to create their characters –– and those who are utterly with it had a chance to explore even further.
We used the text from Scene 1 when the atmosphere had built up amongst the actors.
Then a song from the Opera Singer and dance / body movement from the Dancer, to further reveal our ideas to the DJ, the Stage Manager and the Front of House Person, as they observed.
Then on to Scene 1: walking through, creating the atmosphere, recapping so that everyone understands what we are conveying.
We created the Goya image for the first time since we played with it in the early rehearsals (The Amadeus Project: Day 3), now peopled with the Venticelli and their Groups –– as the image will be used in the performances.
Finally, a last go through on the floor of the hall … always trying to reach an intensity in the rehearsal and clarity in the intentions of the actors that will carry through to the stage.
With the shifting energy that happens because of some participants non-availability on any given night, this aim is a challenge, and can’t be tied down until all the actors will be present …
Here’s where trust comes in … and deep breathing!
Scenes 3, 6 and 8
We had a brief look at Scenes 3 and 8 –– some of the Venticelli groups are observers here. I had to make decisions whether they are necessary to these scenes or not, and I like that constant connection between the lowly characters and the higher status Venticelli.
After all, they are all interconnected, each depending on the other.
It’s possibly my favorite vignette –– all the characters in the two Venticelli groups are present and the fun they have when delivering the gossip to Salieri is brilliant. (They received a round of applause from the onlookers at the end tonight!)
Why does Shaffer’s writing work so well? Why is it so funny?
The topics are tragic, there is a sense of doom from the beginning, a dystopian society; but the potential to cope is offered through the humour and great characters.
Shaffer writes characters that are clear and quirky and then he allows space and movement in his timing of words and lines.
Is that it?
Is it the juxtaposition of sheer beauty (words / music ) with these darker themes?
Rehearsal: Day 24
11th September, 2019
Salieris, van Swieten,,von Strack, Orsini Rosenberg
A full complement of the Court, great to have the role of van Swieten filled by Len; with massive speakers giving us sound for our warm-up.
One new person joining the scene and embodying a character makes an enormous difference; the moods shifts ever so slightly; there is a difference in older allegiances and new allegiances become apparent, or more possible, because there is an extra person –– German vs Italian influences, for example; nuances in lines become clearer.
There was much parading breezily through the hall.
Our warm-up was longer to include the new actor, allowing the other characters a moment to use their lines, then to explain their position in the Court; then to indicate what type of person van Swieten himself was, from their interpretation of the scenes as they have worked on them.
This would be unusual for me, to have other actors commenting on another early on in the actor’s exploration of a character.
But, as time is of the essence, I have to take disliked short-cuts.
This improvisational work, where you can see the energy between the cast as they face each other with little movement, is always great to go back to. Unfortunately, there is no lingering like this any more.
While we have seen all of these characters in the play before now, this is our first proper meeting with them. The nuanced relationships are evident immediately.
Goya Image in Scene 3
After the placing in the set, we created the Goya image, putting these ‘court’ characters them into the scene as they will be with the other actors.
Getting them all on and off the stage efficiently will be a challenge but what an image it will be … as they all whisper ‘Salieri, Salieri’.
‘Mozart is here.’ We’ve done this scene a few times, so the work really was on making van Swieten familiar with it … he was jumping in at the deep end!
Just the beginning of this scene, set in the Theatre … the characters across the stage as their status demands.
Scenes 11 & 12
When the Court characters had gone, the Salieris remained behind to do a little more rehearsing. As the time gets late, my intention is always to be easy and gentle.
Often this doesn’t work, despite myself, I feel the intensity build and we are carried away with deep feelings.
Rehearsing with intense feeling is not very good for a night’s sleep … Clair and I were trading stories on sleeplessness the following morning!
The learning being … to wind down together after the rehearsal, even for just a moment. So that we can leave the energy and work in that rehearsal room.
We experimented a little with the interaction between the two Salieris. There are points when the one who is speaking might be joined by the other, in the intense moments; sharing the lines, improvising as the emotion develops and the understanding of the implications of the story are revealed to the audience.
Playing on this worked really well tonight, using the text and the physicality, and built to Scene 12 where Salieri revokes his contract with God to create music for His glorification, and instead vows to be his Nemico Eterno.
Powerful … poor old Salieri, on his path to self-destruction.
Email to the Salieri Troupe: 10th September, 2019
thanks to everyone who made the last few rehearsals so lovely. The organisation is tricky with the change in personnel…I have no doubt about the play itself and how it’s coming along with all the work that is being done from an acting perspective and behind the scenes.
A quick reminder:
Weds rehearsal this week; 8 for 8.15pm: Emperor Joseph, Van Swieten, Von Strack, Orsini Rosenberg, Salieris.
Sunday rehearsal: 3pm Salieiris and Mozart
5pm EVERYONE for run-through Act 1.
Everyone needs to be there.
The side-room is also available for anyone wishing to go through lines at any stage.
Once all our changes are settled, I’ll send you an email confirming the new cast list.
I will also send a separate email with the Schedule for Act 2. Things shift and change a little, so expect some movement
10th September, 2019
Schedule for Act 2… Optimistic?? Kxx
16th Sep (Mon) V 1 & 2, Troupe, Salieiris Scene 2, 4, 10
18th Sep (Wed) Salieiri, Mozart, Van Swieten, Von Strack, Orsini Rosenberg, Scene 4, 5 6, 7
6th Oct (Mon) Everyone Run through with costumes (Dress? TBC)
8th Oct (Wed) or 9th Oct (Thurs) Everyone Dress rehearsal
15th September, 2019
Looking forward to Sunday.
3pm Younger Salieri & Mozart. Elder Salieri at 4pm please.
4.45pm Cook & Valet. Could you come then please?
5pm REST OF THE TROUPE.
We will have to go through the entire of Act 1. Everybody needs to know where each of the sections fit together, so this will be a great opportunity to experience the whole Act. Please be on time and bring whatever you require to sustain yourself.
The issue of the flow of the play is on my mind at this point. I imagine that we will be working to the most perfect flow for the performances, but for us all to have an awareness at this point would be good.
Off script please (except Mozart).
To Designers and all Backstage: Julian and Jack tend to come to all rehearsals now anyway. For the others, please know that you are very welcome and join in the warm-up if you wish.
First time we will all be together for a while … it’ll be great! ( And challenging.) Very exciting!
The Venticelli groups and leaders were in tonight, with the Salieris. Still not a full complement when rehearsing which makes the process harder, but that’s the way it goes in community projects! –– particularly one which has been in development over a long period of time.
The warm-up was short again tonight, just a reminder of our fundamental concepts (described in the first day back in the Autumn: The Amadeus Project: Day 17), then into Scene 6.
We have done this a couple of times, so this first piece of work was to gain a sense of memory and familiarity, to propel us all into Scene 1.
Scene 1 didn’t work at all when I tried it before (see The Amadeus Project: Day 9). I just wasn’t ready for it, you’ll recall, and abandoned the attempt … I was even wondering if it was one of those things that you have to do at the very last minute, when you have finally gained the understanding of what it is you wish to achieve.
What is my aim for this opening scene? What am I creating?
For this beginning, I want to achieve flow, energy, intrigue, a sense of a society, darkness (of light and of mood). Our elastic band concept comes into this and the wonder of the Troupe coming together.
The idea of a photo …
It’s something I’ve used a few times –– a showing off of the entire cast at the very beginning of a play.
We used the idea in ‘The Crucible’ with Schull Drama Group in 1997. There was a picture created –– like a photo –– of the cast, and then there was a repeat of that exact picture at the end, where you see the influence of the play on the cast.
The idea is inspired by Brian Friel’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’, where, towards the end of the play, the family take a group photo, you see the impact of the play on them and the Narrator tells you of the story that will unfold after the ending of the story the audience sees.
There is an incredible power to the image created by the group and, combined with the individual stories recounted by the Narrator, it conveys an impression on you, the observer, of a moment caught in time.
In the case of ‘Lughnasa’ the impact is highly poignant and sad, nostalgic.
I think the same idea holds for me in Beckett’s ‘Play’, having directed it for PlayActing Theatre in 2002.
Here, the text of the first half of the play is repeated exactly for the second half, so the lived experience is clarified, maybe … certainly not repeated. But the impact on the actors of reliving the story is intriguing.
But, as always in a live performance, if the combination of elements of the performance is right, the moment can be precious.
It is unique, never to be repeated.
Because the audience shares in that movement of emotion and energy, they too have been part of the live experience.
When I went to Peter Brook’s Thêatre des Bouffes du Nord (http://www.bouffesdunord.com/en) in Paris to see ‘The Suit’, Peter Brook had arranged for the the audience to be slightly lit at the end of the performance and the actors, when accepting the applause, looked directly at the audience.
It seemed to me that the actors were acknowledging the audience in the shared experience. Then the biggish cast moved around the stage, to a different point and, again, looking directly at the audience, seeing them, received their response.
Back to Scene 1 …
So, the working on Scene 1 continued, practically first: sharing the lines, searching for a rhythm and a flow in it, placing it on the set.
The actors within this scene remind me of a Greek chorus: reflecting the mood, a commentary on the play and what the audience will come upon as the story is revealed.
Then a focus on placing and moving the actors; staying apart then coming together; reacting to each other and to their Venticello leader.
And then inviting the Salieris to become part of the scene. The atmosphere changes when words are directed against somebody; or when actors receive words. It has been daunting sometimes to be at the receiving end of the words, I have been told.
As I reflect on what I want, I am aware that the great image moment hasn’t quite been achieved (it is in the plan!) but this work is one of the building blocks. It will be different from ‘The Crucible’ where the image was laid down at the very beginning of the play, created at the very opening; here it willbuild within Scene 1 to create that Troupe moment, unfolding little step by little step.
Scene 8 and the Salieris
We had just a quick look at this scene where the Venticelli give some gossip to Salieri at a party. I thought the Venticelli might work alone, but it turns out that we can’t let the groups out of this –– they must be in on the gossip!
Re the Salieris …
When the other actors had left, we had a little run through Scenes 1 & 2 … just a line-run really because we were at the end of our time. Separated from each other by the length of the hall, the two Salieris communicated to each other with a small emphasis on getting the emotion.
Once I see this intensity coming through, I know that we are on the right track.
It was nice to have this brief, quieter session together. Rehearsals now are mostly busy with many demands because of the numbers of people involved.
Rehearsal Day 21
4th September, 2019
Scene 12 of Act 1 and Scene 1 of Act 2 with Clair alone –– working through the text.
In one way it’s harder at this point to be working one-on-one as the atmosphere becomes quite intense. When other actors are around, it is easier to access emotion and be supported in that.
Although, again, it is good to have a quieter moment to check in for feedback or any concerns and Clair’s studio space is always a delight to work in, with expansive views across the countryside and the gorgeous autumnal evening light we have at this time of the year.
I was saying to Clair that I was really happy with the way her Salieri was developing –– our work to date, separate to the Troupe, is making this current part of the process much easier and makes our exploration of the text readily understandable.
Again, much of the work is practical: the lines, how to use the set, what will the props be like? … and once I can call on the actors to demonstrate a degree of emotional intensity (as I did at the end of Rehearsal 17 above), then I can relax into this part of the job.
Email to the Amadeus Troupe: 4th September, 2019
Monday night was fantastic. I really believe in the practice of workshopping, creating a group dynamic and creative possibilities. The practical work we must do now –– become familiar with he setting, the words and the scenes –– is added on top. It’s not difficult for me, in that the magic lies underneath and we are just stretching a layer on top of that.
Of course, there is plenty of that practical work to do, and much thinking and learning, but I have no doubt that our creative work will come through, I see it already –– every evening!
Logistics are proving tricky, as people’s schedules are demanding. Please come on time. I’ll be bringing tea each time also. Maybe you should bring some food if we have a long rehearsal??
Next big rehearsal is Sunday: Salieris, von Strack, van Swieten, Orsini Rosenberg, Mozart, Constanza. EARLIER TIME please 4PM for Salieris, Mozart and Constanze.
Monday: Venticello 2 (Mark is away.) Venticelli groups. (I’ll also do the Bonno and Katharina Scene 2 and Scene 8 for Katharine and the Opera Singer.) Starting time 7 for 7.15 please.
It is very nice at times to get the opportunity to meet smaller groups of people; the atmosphere is more relaxed and you can focus on those people and their questions directly, rather than having to be mindful that there is a larger group waiting around.
The Venticelli are very much part of their groups but need a definite relationship with each one another and with the other actors with whom they have dialogue.
Within the play, ‘Amadeus’, they are probably the most playful characters and both of these actors are making the most of the gossipy, high-status roles.
We didn’t have a big warm-up, though before each scene, I asked the actors to go through their lines away from the acting area: to allow them to focus on the words first and then a sense of their physicality with the words –– before they have to place them in the set.
We worked on Scenes 3, 8 & 9, finding places for the Venticelli to relate to Salieri from the street, in his apartment and in a library.
The groups associated with both characters will accompany the Venticelli most of the time, and sometimes become intimately involved in the scene. That process of combining the Troupe with the action takes a good bit of thinking through.
Day 19: Emperor Joseph, Younger Salieri, Count Orsini Rosenberg, Van Swieten, Constanze
1st September, 2019
We did a quick warm-up with the actors using the Actors’ Choices playlist: The Amadeus Project: Playlist. I like the idea that this too is another layer that we subconsciously add as we work on together.
Again, the warm-up focus was on reminding the actors of the work done in the early part of the year and asking them to remember status / power/ gender / elastic band / magnet concepts in relation to each other. We should see these concepts in the actors’ interactions (and allegiances), in their understanding of their interconnections, in relation to the set.
This will develop and expand from now on. It’s exciting to explore the potential to be physical and understated in the acting, and to explore the words of the text.
We looked at Scenes 4 and 7, establishing the positions of the characters on the stage, how they come to those decisions, the flow between them.
A question has arisen in the last few days about the props and how they feed into the design.
How contemporary will we go with those items? How indicative are they of the personalities involved?
We don’t have an answer yet … on the ‘to do’ list.
Constanze arrived later and we worked through her part in Scene 8, her first meeting with Emperor Joseph.
A little later on we worked on Scenes 10 and 11, between Constanze and Salieri. These scenes feel solid, familiar, as we have looked at them before –– the lines are almost there and the thread of understanding clear.
The actors are working hard here and on their own and are determined in their rehearsal ethic.
There are no photographs of the rehearsals, all energy is now taken up with getting as much of the practical application of the text onto the stage.
Only occasionally do we have a moment to bring the group together at the beginning and the end of the rehearsals. That tends to happen when the group is large. Lots of little sections at the moment.
The fundraiser we had for shoes for the Amadeus production last Thursday night in Newman’s Corner House –– a Scoraíocht & Company ‘pass the hat’ with a theme of ‘Mozart’s Shoes’ –– yielded €300, so the cast will be beautifully shod!
There was a moment of magic that night (one of many, might I add) when a concert pianist stepped up to play the Mozart Sonata in F major. I learned it as a teenage student … didn’t quite sound like this pianist’s version though!
It was beautiful and unexpected. And it reminded us of the genius of Mozart.
Here is our mystery guest pianist, Conor Linehan … I like what he’s doing here as a composer.
While the play ‘Amadeus’ isn’t focused on the music (rather the core relationship between the two men, Mozart and Salieri, and the community / society around them is our particular interest in the presentation) his music permeates the entire play and being reminded of it, live and in person, was just brilliant.
Back to the hall, driving on
Julia had asked for everyone to come tonight in plain t-shirt and the Troupe were invited to come early to try on the costumes for size. There’s something very exciting about seeing an array of costumes and colour spread out, Mozart music in the background.
There’s a change in my approach in the last few days. A new focus is there and the deadline for the performances in a matter of weeks looms large. There’s much to be done and it’s that awkward time in any production –– where you want to be in the middle of the momentum but you have yet to begin. (If performing on stage, it’s the time when you feel physically sick, wonder why you ever decided that this would be a good idea, and you just want to get out … or started.)
When we began to rehearse, we started with a quick rundown of the plan for the evening, plus noting a change in focus –– the actors may need to take control of their own work, taking moments to check lines, positions on stage. After a short look at the text of various scenes, we had a quick ‘hello’ to each other and we began the warm-up.
I was aware of a general tiredness in the room so I asked the actors to lie on the floor, concentrating on their breathing, relaxing, listening to the music and bringing themselves here, to this place.
Then, quietly and in their own time, they awakened to movement, stretching and massaging, as they needed until they were ready to move into the room.
Firstly as themselves, and then to slowly work into their characters.
My aim is for the actors to explore this warm-up themselves, take responsibility for it. Little by little, I will relinquish the instructions.
Returning to first principles
I reminded the group of the various concepts we had worked on in the spring and early summer and, when they moved into the walks, I asked the actors to remember these, eg. radiation, being in readiness.
Then in the midst of the walks I asked them to move into one group creating images using two of our themes –– ‘frivolous’ and ‘manipulation’; then creating images using the familiar concepts ‘power’ and ‘status’; then using the walking as a momentum to give energy to the text the actors had looked at earlier (in this part, the actors pop into the text when the music stops, creating a difference in the feel of the language, in their bodies, in the variety of tones and emotions); then flocking and slow-motion moves as a group.
Venticelli 1 & 2
My particular focus tonight were the Venticelli groups. We had previously worked on Scene 4 where the Venticelli 1 & 2 meet Salieri on the street and pass him information. We went back to this and worked on recreating the energy I knew we had before.
There were a few actors missing, but despite this, we recaptured somewhat the drive and spirit of the scene. The characters are shining through and when the actors are comfortable their physicality is fantastic.
We also looked at Scene 6, again the groups accompany Venticello 1 & Venticello 2 … we were reminding ourselves of the placing of the scene and the interactions between everybody.
This work was also reminding me of the idea we have previously used –– the elastic band (in relation to the physical distance and a slightly ‘bouncing’ relationship between the actors).
What also comes to mind is that, it seems to me that our work on radiation will be very helpful for actors monitoring their own presence / performance within the play when coinciding with others (walking in when there is a scene ongoing, for example).
Orsini Rosenberg, Salieri
Two stand-ins read for van Swieten and von Strack with Orsini Rosenberg and Salieri in Scene 4, just to familiarise ourselves with the text.
The setting is the Palace of Shönbrunn and we have now placed this scene on the set. The furniture will be minimal –– who will use it?
Status and power between these characters will determine this. It’s not possible to explore this angle tonight but it will be fascinating when all the actors are there.
The lines are coming along!
Note To Self
In playing around with this scene way back, the elastic band idea worked well. Remember to continue to use this here too!
When working separately with Constanze and Salieri, we have looked at Scene 10 and Scene 11. We went back to these now, for a reminder of the text and the emotion of the scene.
Sometimes it is hard to transfer an atmosphere from one place to another. Moving from a rehearsal to the performance space can often involve going from a smaller intimate room to a larger auditorium. And consequently, the energy feels dissipated, reduced and the ‘playing’ of the roles and the text can seem very different –– almost disorientating.
I’m not sure how these actors felt about the transfer –– I must check in with them –– because, despite the move to the hall and the new experience of having an audience for this scene that the Troupe was, the connection between them is there, the emotion intense and it is compelling watching.
It was also fascinating that one of the actors broke the link towards the end of their piece. Creating a flow of energy within a text is hard and the breaking of it, very understandably from the actor’s point of view, was really frustrating for me … no heavy judgement intended here, just a recognition of my response.
It’s a learning for us as performers to hold onto moments and creative connections. At the end of the day, we are in rehearsals after all (and not the Abbey, as someone reminds me!). But the holding on is a practice and makes the ultimate creation of a complete acting performance on the night of the play more attainable, in my view.
Email from Julia Zagar to the Amadeus Troupe: 26th August, 2019
I hope you have had a fabulous August and are bursting to get on with the Fetes and Fireworks! It is now only 7 weeks until opening night! OCTOBER 11,12 & 13 AND 18,19 & 20
Rehearsal on Monday @7.30 ~ please wear a plain(no designs, graphics etc) t-shirt in whatever colour you have/like. Ice cream colours would be great but really not vital!!!
I appreciate that it might be a big ask but if it is at all possible could you come to rehearsals on Monday early (the Wardrobe Department will be in the Hall from 7.00 and the rehearsal will start as normal at 7.30). We don’t want to interfere with the rehearsal but we have to make a start at your costumes. We have gathered a whole lot of fabulous ice cream coloured jackets/suits but we need to see how they fit and what alterations will be needed. After our successful fundraiser last Thursday we will be buying shoes for you all and we are thinking plain white t-shirts.
In the meantime could you fill out this form for me so we have the details as well and send it back to me as soon as you can.
WOMEN’S SIZING (10,12, 14 etc);
SHIRT/JACKET SIZE FOR MEN;
WAIST/LEG SIZE FOR MEN;
See you all on Monday…..Je suis follement impatient!
Email to the Amadeus Troupe: 28th August, 2019
Dear Amadeus Troupe,
we’re back and hitting the ground running. The rehearsal on Monday night was great, both to see everyone again and to see the play coming to life. There were some amazing quiet moments, that I hadn’t really anticipated, magical really. The characters you are creating are fantastic and when we get some momentum, with lines learned off, I feel we can be really playful.
Here is the draft Schedule below for the next few weeks. I’m hoping it isn’t too demanding yet. Closer to the dates, I’ll organise more specific times, if I don’t need everyone to start at the same time.
I’m also attaching the list of Scenes for you to compare with the Schedule. Please mark your scripts with the Scene numbers, as they are my reference points.
Regarding the process, I mentioned on Monday that you might take the opportunity to do a separate rehearsal in the side room, if I am working with particular actors. It’s great if you would take that initiative, if you feel your scene requires extra work. Please also take notes on your stage movements so you can remember them.
Communication is very important at this stage. Apologies to those who haven’t been receiving the emails. Please let me know if you can’t come (though I know you will prioritise the rehearsal!!). Planning for a rehearsal and having to readjust on the hop is tricky for me. Please also be sure to let me, Alyn, Julia know if you need anything that we can help with.
(Rock me Amadeus! –– worst song of all times in English translation??