Impressions of a (Press) Opening
Persians-Getty Villa Sept 3, 2014
God knows we wondered over the weeks of rehearsal if this could really be done. Reading and studying 3 different plays over a year and half ago, we looked at each other and thought-IF we choose this one, how the Hell are we going to do this? But that very same sentiment is why, in part, we faced it, chose it-Persians.
The other day speaking to Ken, later to Shelby, I likened the play to driving a Cadillac. Doesn’t turn fast, don’t think of trying to park it, but once its up and running on the highway, its glides past everyone, smooth and heavy. You could feel the audience last night, for all the mistakes we might have made, still caught up in the play.
A gentleman last night at the small gathering of people afterwards simply said, “you cannot apologize for this play when doing it as actors or explain why this play is important. And so we too in the audience just have to face it head on, let the grief sweep over you, be with it. Then it becomes part of who you are and you understand something inside yourself. “
Imogen sat in the back and gleefully rushed over to me to announce that she’d figured out how the ‘train trick’ works! Someone asked me if the head is heavy. Yes, I thought, its heavy and the moment I pick it up is terrifying, but for the deft engineering of my colleagues and how we are working together on that. No, no its not heavy I answered. And last night, it didn’t pick up any rocks to drag along and send everyone’s nerves on edge. So many hands working on this simple idea. Claire secretly back there, me handing it off to her, the train, and then not a moment to spare, haul ass up the steps to get down the other steps. It got caught the night before and I was nervous. I go down them without looking down and eyeing bags, water bottles in the aisle in my periphery.
The crowd was well heeled last night. Some friends of SITI, (Jessica! Michael!) certainly of Getty Villa, staff. Press. A long speech at the start, then suddenly it was time to sweep out into the night, part the saffron curtains and meet them.
Inside the museum at places, we shifted and fidgeted the way actors do trying to calm nerves, get the concentration in hand, voice clear, legs strong. Do I have to pee? No, yes, fuck, yes, no. God, its too late. Wait, I can run…no, Claire??
The wind had died down, and the moon is waxing to over half full. Just as Dareius roared a curse at his son, the wind billowed the curtains, magic.
Training earlier, leading each other thru different sections, scenes, with statues. An open session for Viewpoints, one of our last with Darron-great old school music and we fell into each other’s playfulness. Important. Each of us was nervous in some way. How can you not be when something is titled ‘Press Night’.
So for the cast and staff and crew, it was Taco night too. The beautiful meals the Getty has been providing always so looked forward to. One more for opening night, the other opening night. Much camaraderie in the Dressing/Green room. The refridg won’t stay shut, and there are (were?) beers in the other one from Marianne, later savored after the show. Little green bottles shaped like Buddha.
The audience leaned in, listened; you could almost hear their brains trying to take it in. Stephen and I said later to each other, at first they seem to ask, ‘what are they doing?’ then leaning in, what are they doing?, then as it progresses, ‘oh, this is what they are doing’. Then finally it’s just all of us confronted by the force of the play.
At the end in the final circle together, speaking the final Greek, it was suddenly so emotional. I could feel Bondo become overwhelmed ahead of me.
We walked into the museum, into this sanctuary for artists, it holds us all. Walking to places thru the back garden with the fountain (for the living plants, all the others are down for the drought) under the moon, the mosaics, passing the elephants
And the show was 2 minutes shorter. That big Caddie is getting better and better gas mileage. We have to keep on that.
Meeting Shelby on the steps coming up after the show, her radiant face, and sharp eyes and ears that have kept us going, when she didn’t even know it. She always had such Faith in the play’s necessity and goodness. It guided us on so many days.
Later, we gathered by the pool, Jess and Michael came over. We got kicked out by 11pm. And reconvened up in 207. Anthony Brynes found us and joined.
Another opening to face. I suspect we are all focused on what we need to keep learning, what we think we know. Holding out hope to learn more over the weeks. Its driven by the inside, but it still needs the sharp eyes and ears outside us to keep orchestrating it. We’ll miss Darron and Brian. It feels like we would never really come to this night. It’s an achievement, just in itself, but there is so much ahead of us. And the focus of all those hours and hours of training in midtown Manhattan is the chance sometimes, to do these extraordinary plays outside.