Making it Personal

At the beginning of April, Padraig and a new student, Bridgette, set to work on the one act play “Specter” by Don Nigro.

Not all scenes transition from the table quickly, but Bridgette and Padraig very quickly tapped into the event of the scene. Finding the event of the scene is necessary before any scene can be staged with a set.

Part of their early success is built into the circumstances of the play: A young woman seeks shelter from a rainstorm in the car of a man who has found himself stuck on a muddy bank. The chemistry of the scene is a useful hook for any actor.

The second part of their success comes from the work of the actors themselves. Bridgette brings to class with herself a sharp set of instincts and a preexisting way of working, what Cay sometimes likes to call the “tool bag”, and Padraig’s work in class recently has seemed to gain in depth with every new assignment.

The scene hit a road bump in week two. On stage they had built a basic set using chairs to create the interior of a car wrecked against a muddy bank during a rainstorm. But this time around the work, which the previous week had been alive feeling was for some reason now reading as flat.

“Alright guys I’m going to stop you,” said Cay early into the second read of their scene. “I feel like there’s a lot of sitting up there and talking and not a lot happening…what are you working for?”

“I’m working for not being too upset with him and just attempting to get comfortable,” Bridgette replied.

“Right. The problem is that both of those are performance notes. We’re missing some of the elements of the circumstance. For example, I don’t believe the car crash. I don’t believe the fight with the boyfriend. I don’t believe that you’re wet. In the past when people have worked on this scene I encourage them to spend one rehearsal wet…it’s a difference experience sitting next to someone who is wet. You don’t have to do that in class, but you get the point right? Pick one of the circumstances and work to make that true. Otherwise, if I’m a director watching this scene I’m feeling frustrated because I’m basically paying you to work on your lines. Can you guys start again?”

Bridgette and Padraig in Don Nigro’s one act play “Specter”

The partners each indicate that they do want to take another shot at the scene.

The second time around there was a freedom to the work, spontaneity and a sense of play granted by each of the scene partners allowing themselves to truly take in the person sitting next to them and respond truthfully. Jokes that a moment before had felt lifeless now were eliciting laughter from a classroom of people who had heard them already.

“Did you find anything?” asked Cay, and both of them nodded their heads in reply.

“I definitely think so,” said Bridgette “it’s a weird scene because there’s no physical life.”

“It’s true, there’s no movement,” Cay answered, turning her attention to Padraig “I feel like you were finding some things.”

“I think so. I felt more free…it was more fun.”

“Finding a place to come from within yourself is when you start to put your DNA in this. Bridgette, I see you hitting on it, but I’m not sure you even know how you are. I want you to start becoming aware of it so that you can feel it” at which point she snapped her fingers for emphasis.

“THAT was more truthful. THAT was more truthful!” Cay continued, snapping each time to lend emphasis to the word truthful and indicate the physical sensation of hooking into a personalization. “Does that make sense?”

“Sure,” Bridgette answered “and we talked about that being part of what I want to work on.”

“Exactly” replied Cay. “You need to slow down a little bit. Right now you’re working about a million miles a minute.”

Bridgette took a moment to think, and then nodded her head and offered up as an explanation, “I think part of the problem is that I don’t believe her when she says that she had a fight with her boyfriend.”

“And that’s where personalizing is going to be helpful. When you get that…”Cay snapped her fingers one more time to drive the point home “truth you need to explore that and ask, who makes me feel this way? Who stimulates me in this way? You need to make some decisions about that for yourself.”