All 3 entries tagged Rob Marks

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May 13, 2008

The Art of Directing

Follow-up to Arcadia at The Art of Directing from Arcadia Rehearsal Blog

A brief note on The Art of Directing. We showed Scene One and, for the most part, I was happy with it. It is still very much part of a play in the middle of rehearsal but the cast dealt well with an audience laughing and managed to keep it interesting despite the lack of costumes and props.

The audience was probably the most interesting part of the event for me. Listening to where people laugh when they don’t know the show and seeing how the pace of the scene shifts rapidly (from a joke about rice pudding to a mathematical deconstruction of how fluid physics works, say) and how an audience responds to that was an important part of the process for me. I’ll be deconstructing scenes with the cast with this specifically in mind and trying to moderate the pace accordingly.

The feedback we received from the panel was encouraging. As I expected, they picked up on the blocking but congratulated us on our obvious knowledge of the text and the subtleties beginning to emerge in the character relationships (which I of course took full credit for!). And, since we had fifty people in the room watching, we’ve also begun to spread the word….

Rob Marks

May 12, 2008

Term 3 Week 2 – Is it a waltz yet?

Follow-up to Learning to waltz before we can run from Arcadia Rehearsal Blog

The cast have taken to the show incredibly well. They’ve learnt the majority of their lines already and so we’ve been spending some time working on adding texture to the scenes. As we rehearse I’ll ask the actors to stop and think out loud about what they’re saying in character. The exercise forces the actors to think about the motivation behind what they’re saying as well as working through the more complex ideas. It’s also helped me work out where some of the jokes I’ve missed are and how we might incorporate them. 

The blocking is still a little sketchy; I’m worried about people being trapped behind the table but this is something we can address next week once everyone is completely off book. I took Scene 1 to the Art of Directing last week precisely for this reason; everyone is on stage and because of the status of the characters and the layout of the space they ended up in a rough semi-circle which is less than ideal. I’m working on this with the actors this week and between us I’m sure we’ll work out something that looks natural without being too static or blocky.

We finished the week with a full run of the show and I was blown away. I deliberately didn’t say anything after the end of the first half and gave a break straight after the end of the run. By not immediately giving feedback the cast spent their lunch and tea break discussing how they felt the performance had gone and I’m convinced that they achieved far more that way than if I’d given them an hour’s worth of notes. We definitely had something we could show at the end of Week 2; it wouldn’t have been brilliant but people would have still enjoyed it. This has given us a very strong position to work from. It’s a little like a making a colouring book. We have the outlines of the images and now need to add colour and shading.

It’s not quite a waltz yet but it’s well on its way.

Rob Marks

April 27, 2008

Week 2: Et in Arcadia ego

Starting a production is always difficult. As the director you know the show inside out, you and your team have spent ages preparing all those really exciting ideas and you’re finally seeing and hearing people do the roles that you’ve only read on the page. The cast, however, probably don’t know each other that well, almost certainly don’t know the play and they’re looking for the Director to prove that he can actually lead this production successfully.

There’s no reason for these two ideas to be contradictory and so the opening two weeks were crucial for Arcadia (as they are in every production) in not only establishing everything mentioned above but also putting us in a strong enough position to leap into it after a five-week break. If I had one concern during the first week of rehearsals it was that we weren’t very active as a group and spent a lot of time talking about what was going on, understanding the jokes and references and trying to get inside the characters insofar as they are symbols and representations of larger ideas that span the play. However, the success of our first week back is, I think, larger thanks to that approach. We’ve been able to rehearse a scene or two per rehearsal (so we’ve done six scenes this week) and because the cast understand the context of the scene as both adhering to the play’s own internal logic and what we’re trying to achieve as a production we’re able to start by bringing texture to what we’re doing.

Speaking broadly, this week has been trying to achieve two things: firstly, to complete the blocking of the play insofar as I’ve written ideas down that I really want to see enacted (I object to telling people just to walk a little bit upstage or downstage; they’ll find their own ideas in the rhythm of the scene which will look more natural than anything I would have consciously prepared) and secondly to start bringing ideas in about character and about how an individual line links to the play as a whole. To give an example, Chater reads his inscription of ‘The Couch of Eros’ centre-stage behind the table. Bernard will read the same inscription in the next scene, in the same way and in the same place. Chater and Bernard are now inextricably linked not only by both being foolish and proud but by their spatial and temporal fixings in the space and even in their delivery; I’m giving the audience clues…

Another example springs to mind. Where Thomasina and Septimus sit initially defines the spatial power relationships within the play: stronger intellects SR and weaker SL. At the end, when Thomasina has finally outstripped Septimus, they swap places to convey the shift physically as well as through the narrative. This is a device that echoes throughout the play; where people have sat or stood has been a direct comment on them: how well they are faring in terms of power, status, intelligence, prudence and wit.

Arcadia is brilliant for this kind of approach. Time and space merge to allow me this kind of creative mise-en-scène. At the same time, now that we’ve blocked the play with this in mind the next week will be about challenging that and seeing where the stresses are in order to bring a greater depth to the play. And there’s still plenty of character work to do. I’ll describe more about that next time though. Until then…

Rob Marks

See photos of this week's rehearsals »

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