Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Rehearsal and Performance - It's not just about putting up a show" by George Lewis

Why take the Rehearsal and Performance class? Why not just audition for a play?

I have taught the Rehearsal and Performance class six or seven times since Freehold began, and it has always been an exciting experience for me and for the student actors.

And it is not just about putting up a show.

It is a class. The director - in this case, me - is also the teacher. This means that the actor/students are learning about how to make the interesting choices that will drive the characters and, ultimately, the play.

It means that when the actors are lost, they have a place to turn to.

It means that the result is less important than the process. Although it must be said that as we have discovered in so much of our work at Freehold, if the process is good, the product - the finished piece - is very likely to be highly engaging for the audience. But as process, the actors are not forced into choices: they are encouraged to discover and to try out different possibilities, to succeed and to fail, and to discover from their successes and failures more about how to choose, how to create, how to marry the actor's intelligence with his/her imagination in the creation and staging of the work.

It is also about how to put up work, including research and costumes and set and props and lights and sound and what tech rehearsals are all about. The actors participate in all phases of the work, and will come out with a clear idea of what is involved in self production.

Many of the participants have not performed before in a play. Others have not. For some it is a re-acquaintance with the theatre. Whatever the level of craft, we work as an ensemble.

For those whose training has been with scene study classes and two person scenes, it is a chance to discover what the dynamics of larger scenes are. There is more emphasis in constructing characters that are physically and vocally distinct, sometimes in ways that are very different than our own speech/movement patterns. My own particular interest in comedy and physical theatre means that we will be doing a comedy with great possibilities for comic 'business', so there is a lot to discover in what makes good comedy. And how the acting values that we have experienced at Freehold: moment to moment truthfullness, clarity and specificity of action, meaningful relationship, the ability to inhabit circumstance, physical and vocal and emotional availability: hold true no matter what the nature of the play is.

It is a great transition step between the classroom and that place of being cast in a play, having a script put in your hands, and knowing what to do next, what to expect, what is expected of you.

It has always been a fun and crazy ride for all. I am excited about getting started.

George Lewis is a founding member of Freehold and an Associate Partner. has been working in the field of movement-based theatre for almost 40 years as an actor/performer, director, creator of original work, teacher, and producer. The Rehearsal and Performance class runs July 20 - August 27. More information can be found here.

Top photo: students performing in Rehearsal and Performance class, 2009.

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