As of yesterday, we have officially begun rehearsals for the staged reading of "Pride & Prejudice." Unlike most staged readings, we do not have a narrator reading the stage directions. We have 6 rehearsals instead of 1. And parts of our reading will not be 'read' at all--the actors will be on their feet, fully memorized, ready to go.
Then again, we hope that in some ways, we're not like most theater companies.
Because of the nature of this piece, and the type of work we are creating (ensemble-based, movement-driven), I felt it was necessary that our staged "reading" go beyond the script, just a little bit, to showcase the atmosphere of the piece. It also gives the actors a chance to dig in and sink their teeth into the material.
Last night I was honored to sit and listen and watch while a group of people (most of whom I had never met before the audition!) made this text I'd been working with for two years, come to life. How does that happen? How does the formation of an idea in my head bring a group together that perhaps would never have been together otherwise? I wrote those words at a table in Starbucks, the guy sitting next to me giving me strange looks as I silently mouthed the phrase I'd just written, giggling to myself and tapping the table in rhythm (for the Netherfield Ball scene, the actors create a poem of sorts that generates the atmosphere of the dance). And now my characters were real people, laughing and chatting and fighting and loving.
It's a surreal experience. And I won't deny there's always that ego voice that appears and waits for someone to say, "MY GOODNESS, Caitlin, this is the greatest play ever written!! You've captured the essence of Austen, modern-day teenagers and all of humanity in 114 pages! WELL DONE!" But of course...
...that wouldn't satisfy the craving. We are always wanting more love, more reassurance, more validation that what we're doing is meaningful. So I try as best I can to let that voice be there but I try not to attach myself to it. I take small satisfactions from our 15-year old playing Lydia, who has a moment during rehearsal when something clicks and she gets it, and there's this beautiful "ah ha" look on her face as she frantically scribbles notes in her script. Or the way the energy in the room perks up and closes in when our Elizabeth and Darcy are going at each other--our first "ensemble" moment. I remind myself that THOSE are the moments that matter, because those are the moments that turn into real, tangible connection on stage, felt by the actors and audience alike.
I forget sometimes that this is a process, and that it is not going to be perfect. I am not going to be perfect. And that's okay.
The ancient Romans believed in an entity called "The Genius." Creativity did not come from a person, it came from an unknowable, divine source. Michelangelo was not "a genius," he had a "Genius" that lived in the walls of his studio and would invisibly assist him with his work. (there's a point to all this, I promise, stay with me.) Because everyone accepted this idea, no one person could take full credit for their work. If your work was awesome, you didn't carry the full responsibility for that, because everyone knew you had help from your Genius. And if your work bombed, well, then everyone knew that your Genius just sort of sucked that day, so it wasn't all on your shoulders. This created a protective barrier for artists from the results of their work.
Then the Renaissance came, and rationalism, and divine spirits were pushed aside in favor of man being at the center of all things. And we lost that protective barrier.
I try to remember this idea when I get caught up in my "perfectionist" cycle. It eases the burden and reminds me I am not the sole creator and puppeteer of my work--there are so many forces at work in this universe that I just do not have control of. All I can do is show up and give my best. If my Genius wants to join me today, great. If not, at least I can say that I was there and I gave it my all.
Today is our second day of rehearsal. Let the record show that I will be there, Genius or no.
Spreading the love,
P.S. You can find out more about the concept of the Genius by watching Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk here.
Caitlin Lushington is the Co-Artistic Director of the Enso Theatre Ensemble, a teacher, director, and actress. Sometimes she works too hard, sometimes she forgets things, and she strives to put the car keys back in the same place every time. She drinks tea every morning from her TARDIS mug and "Mr. Tea" diffuser. She loves the morning and wishes she had a photographic memory, so she could remember the names of every person she meets.
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