Another Week Gone —
It has been another hectic and productive week for the Othello Company. We have sketched out staging for the whole play and are now ready for the next phase of the rehearsal process. We call it “working through”.
We have our blocking and we are learning our lines and getting our ideas in order. Now it is time to go through the play, moment by moment, to flesh out the sketches of movement, gesture and speech that we have created and add color and tone and shading. This is a process that never really ends. For painters and sculptors there comes a moment when the piece is finished and it is given to the gallery or to the museum to be shown to the public. For a theatre piece it is different. For our company every rehearsal and every performance is an opportunity to discover something new about the story, our characters, and our particular production.
There is a story about Alfred Lund and Lynn Fontaine the great American theatre couple, on closing night of a play they were doing together, spending an hour in dressing room discussing a moment that they would likely never perform again. I like this story and hope it is true. It speaks to the true passion of a serious actor, the passion for story, for clarity, and for truth. There is no substitute for a well told story. No amount of fancy technology, can make a poor story better, but it can enhance a good story. We saw that with Troilus and Cressida in the Park in 2016. The sound design was high tech and amazing and created a context for our version of the Trojan Wars that was heart stopping.
Othello is a different production altogether. We are telling the story with people and words, ideas and emotions. We are doing good strong well reasoned Shakespeare. It’s the kind of production that made me fall in love with our friend William. I’m happy and proud to be a part of it.
So on Monday we begin going through the story, adjusting the blocking, honing our ideas about the text, deepening the emotional investment we are making in the story, and smoothing out the arc that stretches from first moment to last. We will be at this job from now until the lights come down on the last performance.
Somewhere down the line, some of us will be working together again on another story, and we’ll remember the decisions we made about how we told the story of Othello. Some of us will talk about our process with our students. Others will set down their memories on paper in whatever books or blogs we are writing. This is how Theatre is taught, and how it thrives and survives.
Today my colleague Peter Jay Fernandez and I were recalling the last time we worked together. It was a production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in the Park in the ’90’s. He reminded me that the role of Cardinal Woolsey was played by the great character actor Josef Sommer. Joe Sommer had the air of an aristocrat and he could bring it to bear with great effect when the story called for it. I quickly realized that, Josef Sommer is a perfect model for the character of Brabantio for the moment just before he learns of the marriage of Desdemona and Othello. This is an idea I will be testing during the work through.
There are exciting times coming.