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.
WOW. That about sums up how I've felt watching this campaign take off over the last 5 days. That and so much gratitude, appreciation, thankfulness, bewilderment, amazement, love, excitement and more. There's been a lot of jumping-up-and-down-with-fists-pumping in my apartment.
I am not going to lie: the last five days have been EXHAUSTING. I am learning very quickly that running a Kickstarter Campaign is basically my other part-time job. But by asking myself every day "What can I give?" instead of "Please give us money," I make working on the campaign another artistic outlet.
An ensemble is forming across the nation and even internationally in support of this idea: the idea that storytelling can change lives and make us better people.
Last Sunday we had a lovely group of people over to celebrate the Kick-off of our Kickstarter. Jordan and I being huge board-game people, we brought down our games, broke out the spinach dip and had a great time! Plus, throughout the day, those sneaky characters of P&P started taking over Twitter, which was all kinds of mayhem fun! If you missed it, you can see the whole thing here: #PandPcharactersTAKEOVER. And who knows? They may make a reappearance...
Here's what's been happening on my end:
~Logan Anderson (our composer) and I continue to meet to talk about the music he's creating for our show.
~The cast of the Staged Reading of "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation" is preparing and promoting.
~Why should we have to wait for the Staged Reading (April 3rd and 4th) to create art related to this show? We're artists, right? So that's what we do! This Friday, fellow co-artistic director Jordan Mackey and I are Viewpointing to Logan's music at Ashland's First Friday event. Next week I'll be taking anyone out to tea who wants to meet me at the Limestone Coffee house and learn how to create a Regency-style letter. Later I'll be teaching people how to paint the "enso" symbol. And we're hoping our cast will perform some scenes from the show outside, for everyone to enjoy.
~Every day of this campaign, I am sending you, the world, our audience, a gift. The gift is sometimes a photograph, sometimes a quote, sometimes a video or sometimes a scene from the play. Whatever it is, the intention is always the same as our campaign: Spread the love.
Here are the gifts that have been sent out thus far:
We have auditioned and cast an absolutely wonderful ensemble to be a part of our staged reading of "Pride & Prejudice, an adaptation." I was thrilled, honored and humbled by the turn out to our auditions, and was even more pleased to find that the group of people we've assembled aren't just individually talented: they work together beautifully as a whole. An ensemble.
As a director, when I'm casting a show, much of what I look for is how well the group works together. This is why I tend to run my auditions a bit differently than most. Instead of spending two hours calling in individuals to read or perform a monologue, I like to involve everyone at the audition in a group exercise of some sort. At this audition, I asked the auditionees to take a scene from the script and create a "sound-scape." A sound-scape is the atmosphere, background or feel of a scene, created using just sound. The actors could use the words on the page, but they could also use vocal gestures (any sound created by the voice that isn't a word), their hands, objects, anything that was available to them in the room. The only objective was to "create the atmosphere of the Netherfield Ball."
This ensemble created an absolutely stunning sound-scape. They filled the room with the swish-swish of dresses, the anticipation for the evening, the laughter filling the room and that feeling of getting lost in a dream world. It was an amazing thing to have a group of people who had never seen this text before, who had never done this type of work before, come in and create a world out of a piece of text I wrote at a Starbucks over a year ago. And all this in just half an hour.
We start rehearsals March 21st, but I can hardly wait! Already the cast has been brainstorming and creating wonderful pieces about their characters and the show.
If you are in the Southern Oregon area April 3rd and 4th, I can promise you, you are not going to want to miss this.
RSVP to our Facebook Event for the Staged Reading 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.