Day 3 and 1/2 actually
I am starting this late and will surely not finish until this evening after day 4…but so it goes.
Last night just as I was finishing supper and about to start my section of the daily blog…. the doorbell rang.. or someone knocked….. long conversations and a few drinks later I went to bed my report undone.
but to back up.
Some early memories of our amazing days here.
I had been in LA since late Friday evening having flown here from Windsor Ontario, via Detroit for 2 Saturday meetings (which caused me too miss the GALA).
Sunday as the rest of the SITILAGetty company landed at LAX and picked up rental cars, I ventured onto LA public transportation and 105 minutes later a bus dropped me off in Woodland Hills 2 blocks from the Oakwood Apts. Monday morning as Ellen , Kelly and I walk from the Getty parking lot to the theatre Anna Woo come towards us beaming broadly and says “Welcome Home!” And yes it was and is as beautiful and serene as we remember it.
Tuesday the museum is closed and GM and I warm up on the outdoor stage. Later as Bondo wrote we had a lovely dinner with the charming and PASSIONATE Peter Sellers.
Wednesday, the exhaustion is starting to creep in. We are all so happy to be here, to be back.. and ALL we are doing is “READING” but it is mentally and physically exhausting to read, study , analyze THREE Greek Plays in three days! We all know we are lucky to be here but the schedule is BRUTAL, we are to read the plays back to back on three consecutive nights. Originally we were to have one rehearsal/study day per play and then move on, coming back to the play again only on the day we are to read it but that didn’t last past day one. Because we did not get all the way thru the first play THE PERSIANS on Monday. So Tuesday we returned to THE PERSIANS for a full read thru with no stopping for notes or comments and then after a short break moved on to THE BACCHAE.
Today (no- yesterday really, as I am writing this Thursday morning) we returned to The Bacchae to finish the first work thru and then moved on to ION. (Time to leave for the ride to the Getty I will continue this on a break).
At the Getty now. How Wednesday began (yesterday).
The ride thru Topanga Canyon was a bit cooler. Ellen , Kelly and i drive in our red rental, it looks sporty but not much power for going UP hills. We are not that much further from the Getty IF the traffic is OK but the South Valley is VERY different. Nothing to walk to here, the neighborhood we are in (Woodland Hills) is not urban friendly. We really were spoiled at the Marina Oakwood where you could walk to restaurants, shopping and even a farmer’s market- here it is a car for everything….So as we drive UP into the Canyon leaving the Valley it is hot, dry and yellow where not watered, we have to turn on the AC, on HIGH for Kelly in the back seat. Once we crest the Canyon and cross over to the Pacific plain the air cools, the brush and hills turn green and we lower the windows. Every day we pass by the Theatricum Botanicum and I nod my head and wave to one of my heros, its founder, the great blacklisted actor and activist Will Greer. It is still run by his family. His daughter Ellen and her children now. They are running MNDream now and the school buses are parked there most days as we drive by. Exiting Topanga Canyon you pass a final curve and there it is–not quite the WINE DARK SEA but still the very lovely and cool Pacific Ocean. We turn left onto PCHighway and head south. We reach Gladstone’s on the Beach , a touristy restaurant where we stopped once years ago while on a WOW RADIO PLAY tour, and take another left onto Sunset now heading east for just a quarter mile and then turn on Los Liones and head up to the Staff entrance to… the VILLA and what seems like another world.
Wednesday we stretch and Anne is there on her postOP hips doing TaiChi, it is great to see her moving so easily again; we chat, ask what we had for dinner, slug back a coffee and then train. I lead today and after some Sunkyo 1 and 2, slide sliding and basics we did Stomping and Shakuhachi. After Suzuki we get into a conversation about the nature of our journey here this time. What are we doing…doing three plays, are we “reading” or exploring, auditioning the plays, what do WE expect of this time and how to welcome an audience into that? Do we want the audience to HEAR the play, is that paramount or to share our process as actors with them? The conversation goes on long and so we did more of a vocal…viewpoints. However on another actual Viewpoints related note. The first two days of training we did not use Music for Vpts and most of us enjoyed that- not having music to lean on. The quiet, the concentration on listening.
After the conversation, nothing decided really but it was and is an important one. We set up the tables and chairs, like the Antigone set, and then arrange books, scripts pencils, coffee, water, tea and begin. I have sat every day at the US table next to that day’s script curator, I like to be able to check one of their original GREEK versions of the plays to see the original structure of the meter and stanzas. Some of the English versions adhere more closely to the Strophe/Antistrophe than others.
Wednesday was pretty thrilling for me dramaturgically, Aside from Ken who is advising us on ION, we also had Shelby (The Persians), Mary (The Bacchae), our dear friend Norm Frisch and Ralph Flores who has taken over Norm’s position, Anna Woo also sat in for a while, as she does often when not busy solving our problems before they happen.
Wednesday we finished up The Bacchae but most of the day was spend working thru ION. Now that we have read all three we can see how truly DIFFERENT they are. The Persians is the oldest EXTANT Greek play, it is very static, FULL of long descriptive passages of names and places, very much more a choral poem as written with little dialogue by Aeschylus, it is both a hymn to Greek victory as well as a warning to Imperial ambitions. Kelly in particular carries much of the heavy verse, full of names and battle descriptions of place, and is amazing. The Bacchae is ..well… The Bacchae, one of the masterpieces of Greek and WORLD literature with a lot of history for us as a company and for Ellen, Kelly and Bondo as performers. Mary advises on this one and each of the curators are very distinct in personality but all share a PASSION for their work and amazing knowledge of the Greek language. Ken who works with ION is Ken, funny, SMART, insightful and with plenty to say. There is a great depth to all their work, I love Shelby’s quiet charm and her love for the difficult script we both admire. I leaned over to Ken after another great note and he admitted to getting emotional talking about Delphi and whispered “I think archeologists are the only people who love their work more than actors. ” He answered
“you haven’t seen us on our bad days.” I told him “try working with a bunch of drama queens.”
So after we finished working thru Bacchae we took a short break and then plowed into ION. It is mentally and physically HARD to go full throttle from one play to something so radically different.
ION is an…. interesting play and this version we are reading here is both interesting, funny and clever and a bit more…facile than the others. The version by David Lan is very accessible but perhaps sacrifices depth for humor; that was a large part of the conversation about the play. I like it, it’s fun and fun to hear with good roles but there is something of A COMEDY OR ERRORS to it, a form of domestic comedy.. in this version. Perhaps next week we will look at other versions?
On the breaks we step outside into the sun, as the studio theatre is as cold as we remember it.. but it’s about all we can complain about at the Villa. The staff is as warm and friendly as ever, they both help us and stay our of our way.
We work thru the day, slowly and surely plowing forward and are surprised when 6pm arrives and we all realize how tired we are.
BUT by Wednesday evening we have read thru all three scripts. We are not done with ION but we have studied Three Greek plays now- in three days and I think about this in the same way that I think SHELBY talked about THE PERSIANS, only this group could do this. My one regret…. that we are not ALL here and working together on these great plays in this magnificent location.
It is now Thursday night. I am very tired but I so look forward to work tomorrow and to our first…..”reading.”
I send you all greetings from Los Angeles and warm hellos from our friends at the Getty.