Persians Diary August 20th, 2014 (Posted On behalf of Emily Spalding)

Aug 22, 2014

We are in tech! When did this happen? How did we get here?

Time has been incredibly slippery these last few weeks.  It feels, at moments, like we are on a runaway train…it feels possible that we will blink and the stone seats of the Outdoor Classical Theater will suddenly flood with people. Time is of the essence…in our rehearsals, in our production, in the play.  

Sometime around the end of Tuesday’s rehearsal, Bondo called a Choral team huddle. He gathered us around to touch-base about the effects of the outdoor space on our quality of our choral speaking.  All of the time and attention given to these Choral texts is at risk in this space.  Outside, without the luxurious assistance of a ceiling and walls, we compensate with volume and speed. With straining ears, we try to stay together. As a result, our breathing becomes muddled, tempos accelerate and the agreed-upon stresses of words are compromised.  Our work is truly cut out for us.

Bondo’s points really resonated with me. With all that in mind (along with feeling the pressure technical elements coming into play), I chose to use our alloted training time to get back to the roots of what we do in this play…we speak.  Anne was generous enough to give us the full thirty minutes (no viewpoints this morning). We got into our legs a bit with Up & Down and Basic #1 and sang through Victor’s vocal warm-up.  From there, beginning with the Ancient Greek stanzas spoken in our prologue, we started at the tip-top of the play and just began speaking.  We ran through the text and song through to the entrance of the Messenger before our time was up.  

This time felt deeply useful.  I think it is important, sometimes, to strip everything away.  What is at the heart of our play? What is the pulse of it? What has sustained it through time?  After all, the ingredients are sparse…a simple story, one man’s artistry and the inherent human need to speak.  It is easy to lose sight of that fact…easy to get stuck in the mud of ideas and aesthetics.  We must remember our job as actors in a piece like this. We must be storytellers.

Talking to Stephen in the car last night, we reflected on the fact that, in order for a modern audience to connect to this play, we must change it in some ways…we cannot present it as an intact historical artifact.  Our modern eyes wouldn’t be able to see it. Our ears couldn’t hear it.  It is our job to honor Aeschylus and his brilliant text, but it is also our job to connect these ancient dots for our audience. Striking this balance is so hard.

After training/speaking, we continued our rehearsal of Stasimon #1 and #3.  We are adjusting gestures…polishing and clarifying things that work and discarding old ideas.  What we are seeking in the movement now is density, intention and unison…a tall order for all of us.

We continue to sniff out the shifts that occur in our play with the entrance of Xerxes.  We hit a few necessary road bumps in conversations regarding the STUFF.  The sparse landscape of our play’s design imbues each object with an INCREDIBLE amount of weight and importance. Moving a bowl an inch feels like moving a mountain.  So difficult. We try and try to understand the shifting and diabolical dynamics between the returning King and the Chorus. So few pages of text contain so many nuances and changes in power and intention among them. We are in hot pursuit here. I know we will find our way.

The rest of the day is spent working the entrance of the Queen through to the entrance of the Messenger. First, we review the staging and text indoors…we haven’t looked at this part of the play in what feels like MONTHS.  We dust off our weeks-old ideas and see if they still hold up.  For the most part, they do. A happy thing. Then, back into costumes and outside for a short burst of tech rehearsal.  

It is thrilling to see and hear Brian and Darron build a world around us. As overwhelming and scary as this part of the process is, I am grateful to find myself in moments of complete awe…I am struck by the masterful work of our designers and the strength and flexibility of the actors onstage.

I am struck, too, by the atmosphere of the space at night.  The outdoor theater and the rest of the grounds at the Getty take on an other-worldly quality at night. It is stunning.

Sending lots of love to those near and far,