Monday afternoon class observation in March

“I’ve talked to you about what the table read is for, right?”

I am observing the Monday afternoon class. Karl and Chris sit at the table having just finished a read of two different scenes. The question is directed at Chris.

Chris: “I don’t think so. I know what I think the table read is for, but maybe I don’t know what your thoughts about it are.”

Cay: “I know I’ve talked about it in here, but maybe you haven’t heard me say it.” The class chuckles and shifts in their seats. “No, I’m not saying he wasn’t listening. Not at all.  You have to hear things many, many times before something lands.”

This takes me back briefly to a moment I had in my own class the week before. The realization that having heard a lesson or a note twenty times doesn’t mean I’ve taken the lesson to heart. That comes in its own time.

“Early rehearsal is about connection. What you are doing is forming a circuit. To form this circuit you need to have connection to five things: the body, the ground, the material, your partner and the moment. This allows something to grow organically rather than forcing the work, which leads to working alone, away from your partner but into your head. Do you notice that when you sit you are raising your shoulders and shortening the back of your neck? That is cutting of your connection to your breath, which is your body.”

At Cay’s insistence, Chris drops his shoulders and sits up a bit.  He repeats a line from the play. His voice is noticeably more connected to his breath.

“Good. I don’t need military posture, but I do need you to be able to use the instrument. Did you feel the difference?”

“I did.”

“So did we.”

Before this Ben and Jeff rehearsed a scene from Nebraska. In the piece they play two career military officers working together in a missile silo. Ben is asking Jeff is he would be able to shoot him if it was necessary for the completion of their mission. It is difficult to tell if it is a personal question between friends or a test planned by their superiors. Jeff’s character is suspicious, confused, and angry.

Jeff during Nebraska

Jeff in “Nebraska”

They are obviously several weeks into the rehearsal, both off book and working with some impressively strong choices and personalizations. Cay asks how they felt when they finish.

Ben: “We actually talked about this in our rehearsal before class. I feel like we need a third set of eyes.”

Cay: “I do too. To shape it you would need a director. But I’m going to have you work on this again because often times you aren’t going to get that help.  You may have a director who doesn’t have time, or that isn’t their style. For you Ben, at this stage of rehearsal I want you to work with the progression of something. Cover your inner life a little at the top. When you don’t have a cover, and every beat has the same value, there’s no place to go;  it’s almost as if you’re trying to do the whole play in one scene. But if you do use a cover, then we can see when it slips and where the story is going.”

Cay: “For you, Jeff, I need you to be working on the friendship, and the place. Could they (the brass) be listening to you?”

Jeff: “They absolutely could.”

Cay: “Exactly. And how does that affect the way you’re talking? This is an intimate setting. I’m imagining there isn’t much room.”

Jeff: “I looked at pictures online, they are incredibly small.”

Cay: “Good, use that. Pull those desks closer together. Even that will do something to you. And try to find the balance between what part of this is the military and what part is your friendship.”

Later Cay gives Alec a note about his monologue, using too much voice for the room. She asks him to start again, this time using a specific person and keeping the size of the space in mind for volume. And now it’s Chris’s turn to make the room laugh:

“I hear shortening your neck is a good trick.”