05 September 2012

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I recently worked on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf; these are some pictures I took during an open rehearsal. I was lucky to work with two fine actors, and they taught me some things:

1) Using the language of permission works pretty well. That is, instead of saying, "You're too nasal" (or something, you say, "You can use your lower register -- it'll make Martha more powerful." Not the best example, but you get the idea.

2) Focusing first on simple, physical elements solves many problems. A different pair of shoes works wonders. The placement of a chair has a transformative effect. Weird, but true.

3) Reinforcement is necessary, and maybe even welcome. I kept trying to make George less fidgety. I came at it a number of different ways, and keeping at it added to the performance. There's just too much going on for an actor; you have to have consideration and realize that among all the things happening, even a simple and concrete piece of direction can get lost.

4) Repetition is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, just running through a piece a lot can improve it, no direction necessary. This is a dirty little secret that you should keep confidential. On the other hand, bad habits can take root, so just running a scene won't raise the level all by itself. Hey, I got my job back again.

Some -- like Mamet -- argue that actors don't need directors at all. Without getting into a long discussion about the director's concept of a play and the interpretive act that really does have to happen, I'd say that  on the most basic level, actors need a mirror, a sounding board, an audience, and  someone to tell them if they have psychic spinach in their teeth.

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