So we’re heading into the home stretch of As You Like It rehearsals. It’s an interesting time. Off-book. Until tonight, however, they could still call for “LINE!” Performances begin to settle into a groove.
Settle. Not a good verb in my opinion.
A groove? Could easily turn into a rut…
Thus, in an attempt to get the actors out of their heads, to throw a wrench into the gears of their mechanical rote regurgitation of lines, what I do is this…
I select–really have them select–scenes at random. Then I have them blindly pick cards, onto which I have written the name of a prop.
I then give them three minutes to coordinate with their scene-mates on how they are going to incorporate that prop. The key here is not to just carry the prop onstage, but to use it, to make it an integral part of the scene. It forces the actors to rethink their scene, to improvise–in some cases to ad-lib–and free themselves from what they had been doing in the scene in the previous rehearsals.
Sometimes you get a trainwreck. Sometimes you get inspired genius…
A cardboard box for Jaques, Touchstone and Audrey. A cell phone for Phoebe, Silvius, Rosalind and Orlando. Car keys for Frederick, Rosalind, and Celia. A box of candy for Senior, Amiens, and the two lords. A trashcan AND a skull for Orlando and Anna. A drill and a hammer for Oliver, Celia, and Rosalind. And many more.
While some scenes may have seemed like a whim, a waste of time, they served a purpose. They added a sense of fun back into the process. With just over two weeks left before opening, this can become a stressful time. And this rehearsal was a break from the norm, a release from the stress.
AND there were moments, a line reading here, a facial response there, an attitude or vibe of exploration and joy, that can be used in the final scenes. Invaluable.