Thursday, December 2, 2010
Blocking rehearsal last night. Generally speaking, one of the more tedious nights of the rehearsal process. Last night didn't feel that way, however. Ron Sossi, the veteran director and Los Angeles theater legend, is helming the piece. Ron probably wouldn't appreciate being called a 'Los Angeles theater legend,' but he really is. He's also, thank heavens, an incredibly astute director.
Before the opening readthru of the script, the table rehearsal, Ron said something I liked very much. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "When I was younger I used to plan a show out meticulously; blocking it on paper, finding the beats, doing all the paper work that they teach in school these days...now I just kind of throw everything up against a wall and see what sticks."
He wasn't just whistling Dixie. That's what we did last night. I love that. Try this, try that, discard that, keep that, give this moment a chance, try it a different way, etc. Love it.
Years ago I did a play called The Dropper at a new play festival in the south. Good play, actually. Written by Ron McClarty. In addition to myself, there was an actor in the cast that was 81 years old. I loved sitting and talking to him for hours and hours. He had been a stage actor all his life. He'd worked with everyone, including Sir John Gielgud once. He said that on the first day of blocking the play he was doing, Gielgud said to the cast, "I wouldn't bother writing any of this down. Everything will change in a week or so. And don't bother writing that down, either, because it will change yet again before we open. In fact, if I were you, I'd ignore me altogether for awhile." I kind of got that feeling from Ron last night. He steadfastly refuses to 'set' anything. He's been doing this a long, long time and he clearly understands something I tell my students all the time, "There is no right or wrong in the theatre, there is only what works and what doesn't work."
I also appreciate his complete lack of 'offstage drama.' You can't be in this business as long as he has and still take everything so seriously. I'm reminded of a story of Hitchcock working with Kim Novak on a film. Ms. Novak had apparently been taking a few classes at the actor's studio with Lee Stasberg and was becoming quite uppity about her 'art.' Now, Kim Novak, even at her best, was nothing to write home about. So there was a moment in the filming when Hitchcock asked her to walk from the door to the table. She refused to do it. Said there was no motivation to do so. Said she could only do it if Hitchcock explained her intentions to her. So Hitchcock allegedly pulled her aside and said, very softly, "Kim, dear. It's only a movie."
That is precisely the vibe Ron Sossi gives off as a director. And personally, I couldn't be happier about it.
Tomorrow rehearsals start for the filming of my play, From the East to the West. Shooting commences next Thursday. Nice.
See you tomorrow.