Rahaleh let me come to a rehearsal last night. Originally I was told to stay away because, as has been before mentioned on this site and at several Rorschach auditions, I scare the actors.
Well I can't help it. I was born with this face and this voice. Is it my fault if people are intimidated by good looks and the voice of a man who sounds like what would have happened if Eartha Kitt and Barry White's voice had made sweet love one lonely night and had a love child? Is that my fault America? "Aw baby! Come over here and let me make love to your sweet cat like voice and we will give the world yet another voice of incomparable depth and sexiness."
Any way I made my way into the space to find Rahaleh and the stage manager Viv hard at work arranging rehearsal chairs and tables for the boys and girls. Bright Room is made up of many scenes that show Agnes, the tenant of a very comfortable and inviting apartment in Berlin, and her friends as the forces of history work their will on them during Hitler and Nazis rise to power. The first scene of the play, which they were rehearsing last night was a New Year's Party. As Agnes and her friends welcome 1932, they share drink and ghost stories; this is a moment of happiness before the real world starts to creep into their lives.
Being an actor I don't usually get to sit and watch other people rehearsing a scene. When you are called you are there for a purpose, my purpose last night was simply that of a witness to the process. It's funny the things you don't think about when you are actually a part of the process. This is a process that requires you to say the same lines over and over again, trying to mine the various meanings and sub-text of a scene. Using all of the skills you have accumulated over however many years to give the director what she wants. All of the actors tools: voice, movement and improvisation all in service of not yourself but of a story. Sometimes I think audiences and theater folk lose sight of what it is we are doing up on stage. With theater's of more extravagant means throwing thousands if not millions of dollars at a play its hard to remember that no matter what your budget all you are doing is enacting a tradition as old as speech itself, the sharing of a story.
What really brought that home for me is watching the cast as they acted out Kushner's first scene. This group of artists begins to play a game by telling a story. Agnes starts the tale of a man who is walking late one cold night on the streets. Agnes's friends continue the tale of a man and his war against nature. A story that has begun with a simple premise begins to turn into parable about man and his attempts to find comfort in a world where there are many things, nature among them, that are out to get you.
As the actors read the scene again and again, you could see the wheels whirling and spinning, the first couple of times through as they sorted out what the scene meant. Then Rahaleh would offer some notes and tweaks to what they were doing. Eventually the whirling and spinning died away and all you saw was a group of old friends who were having a party. As I watch I begin to believe that this is a real party and the people at the party would never be this happy again.
I am really looking forward to this show.