Upon beginning our residency of readings at the Getty Villa with GM, J.Ed, Ellen, Kelly, Bondo, Anne, Jessica Hanna 2013.
We are back. Into the blazing sunlight, the heat of the valley where we are staying this go round. Into the scent of eucalyptus and jasmine and car fumes and sea. Today we wove, drove, up the canyon and down it- and just as you reach the other side, there is the ocean stretching endless-and back into the grove of the Getty Villa. My mind is filled with memories, but my body is what really remembers it. And just entering, just that much, I remember the warmth of the marble on our feet at night, the feel of the night getting cooler, the smell of lavender, the taste of the figs we’d snitch- the memories of another time in this extraordinary place when we made Trojan Women. But here, now, again to read these fathomless plays-The Persians, Bacchae, Ion.
And so we begin with welcomes and training and tables set up. There’s a meet and greet and old friends come and hug, much excitement. Mary! and Ken! and Anna! and Shelby! Later in the day, Norm shows up and participates. Its buzzing.
Its a stunning day of hot sun and cool shade and the Villa stretching out lazy and gaudy underneath the sky.
So we begin with The Persians by Aeschylus. A translation by Aaron Poochigian. It seems fresh new, smart. Its starts to reveal itself later as we read, its strengths, and its weaknesses. Something about it isn’t holding up for me.
Shelby is our guide thru this one, as we’ll have a different Virgil for each script. We dive into this ancient archaic text with freshly printed handouts and all that modern tech can provide, that Shelby has provided. She consults the Greek text constantly by her side, some of my favorite moments -watching her knitted brow over the words, bridging the languages and indeed, the centuries, together and bringing them to us.
But the piece makes itself, at least the most basic of its needs, known in the first few minutes, in regards to meter and meaning being one thing. As actors we perk up and know we have a worthy opponent.
And its canny. Where is it sympathetic to the opponent, when is it being nationalistic, or ironic? Its very crafty, this text, and very beautiful.
We come, later in the day, to that punchy place where the toll of trying to say a list of Persian and then Greek names has added up and we collapse in exhausted laughter. Kelly and later GM held up under so much, with precision and focus. Later we make jokes in the dressing room about ‘new’ names…”And then the Prince Psoriasis tore Eczema to bits” kind of jokes. We wept.
We got thru the script. We need to read it again, despite the schedule telling us to move on to the Bacchae. So we will first thing tomorrow. Its already so heady to face these plays and carry them and hold up under them. What tensile strength they have! What muscle! What necessity in the world! We have 2 more to encounter and I wonder how we’ll be able to breathe after all that, its that exciting.
Here, again, at that Getty Villa, by the sea, we are reading some of the oldest words Western Civilization has. Old stories of old wars and loss and suffering.
The only response is to gather and eat together and drink wine and argue and shout and laugh- and so we did after rehearsal, as I suspect we will more often than not. Back on this side of the Canyon, its hot and we ate too much and got sweaty.Too late, too much to do, but still… Tomorrow night we are invited to Peter Sellars home for dinner, that Norm is helping to arrange. You have to let go of something here to enter into it. The staff we are working with are already there in this special place, where it Matters so much-the places, the way a name is said, the lineage of power, the chronology of events. We are just reaching out and letting them take us by the hand.
Good god we need these plays. They are hard, this one was clunky in many places, (such good grace and fun to laugh together when that happens-‘Man down!” we’d shout when a name was stumbled over, poor actors, how we crash and emerge from the flames over and over)
But they are like laying down on the warm marble and hearing something ticking underneath -The faint heartbeat of the world.