I find myself watching rehearsal scenes in Women in Jeopardy! with different eyes than I did for 45 Presidents. I am watching Sean add the visual to the script, where visual is hardly written. Being a bibliophile, I am quite at home in a solitary world of written words, so reading a play is reading any story. But a play is actually something different. So I am seeing a metamorphosis from the written to the visual.
I am watching Sean add to the words of the story aka play with the personal movement of the actors that will hold the attention of the audience. This entails the coordination of movement to hold those views as the story dialog unfolds. One scene I watched has the actor’s moving together, and is for me a remembrance of actions from childhood cartoons, where related characters stepped together toward the action. Now given that this play is quite funny this subtle action holds my attention. In other scenes being rehearsed similar motions add to the overall story, and involve me much more than just words being read.
It was interesting talking to Jessica about learning her lines. It seems that the physical actions that Sean and the actors are adding to the written text, are part of what is learned with the lines, and changes in the physical action require relearning the lines. The two are linked, in ways that are seamless to the audience on a single viewing, but provide a rich story on multiple levels that enhance our live experience of the performance. Sean also pointed out that in a live theater performance that time and timing limit what can be done by the actions of the performers. Film and television manipulate our view in more direct ways, with say a close up of a knife or shadow, and for live performances a different palette is required that is more subtle.
Epic tales, such as Homer’s Iliad, must have had actions added to the telling of the war and its heroes. Homer’s tale was told for centuries before the Greeks committed the classic to written words. For so much to be learned and told through out the whole of the ancient Greek world, the telling must have involved learning much as Jessica mention, actions and words to tell the story and keep the listeners attentive. So seeing a bit of rehearsal today is a contemporary step of what my bibliophile experience provides as long human history of story telling.
-Richard Pitkin, Cohort
Women in Jeopardy! runs February 15 – March 12.