First Day of Rehearsal for The Three Musketeers

Rehearsal Report #1

As I reflect on the first day of rehearsal for the Three Musketeers, I found it quite inspiring, exciting and daunting at times.  I am excited to work with the returning and new company members.  I found the read of the play very funny, what a huge relief for me.  As a director I sometimes have a hard time finding what I am reading funny, especially when it comes to situational or behavioral comedy.  I find that working on so much Shakespeare has made me look for language comedy first.  The Three Musketeers is a play that focuses on action, character and theatrical spectacle.  The need for theatrical spectacle was what I found the most daunting today.  As a theater we tend to move away from spectacle, so I always become a little self-doubting when it comes to putting spectacle on the stage – that said I am excited about the possibilities.  It is also great to be reminded that a play only really exists in the space not on the paper and needs the life force of the actor.  Luckily we have actors with amazing life force.

I thought I would share with you some of my notes from the first day of rehearsal and how our day was scheduled.

Introductions of actors and their roles

Light read through of the entire play

A few notes

  • D’Artagnan’s father reminds me of Obie Wan Kenobi from Star Wars
  • Whenever someone says D’Artagnan they should be brimming with pride
  • Rochefort and Milady may have a relationship history.  They are vying for status with the Cardinal and each other.
  • Is Gascony in our culture like Appalachia?
  • We have to work on pronunciations of all of the names – either go English or French pronunciation.  Will check in next week.  May be some comic possibilities.
  • The women in the play work to control their own fate.  Does it succeed?
  • First act run about an hour and that is with reading stage directions – yay!
  • How do I create a balcony, closet, barricade, sword break, swinding D’Art in a space with no set pieces?
  • The queen is an enigma to me.  What is the actual relationship with Buckingham and the Queen?  Smart?  Put upon? Damsel?
  • Swinging in on a rope.  Will it work?  I hope we can make it happen.  Make sure the vom is not narrow this year.
  • Need to add a character we may have forgotten about – The Servant.  One line – how did we miss that?
  • Why is the Protestant War scene in this play?  Aaarghhh!
  • These actors are funny and having a good time.  HUGE!
  • Whole show read 2 hours and 4 minutes with a 10 minute break and stage directions read– yay time to play.

Look at costume renderings, listen to early music choices, and talk about characters and discoveries from read through.  End of day.

I am very excited about the next day of rehearsal.

Chris

Director of The Three Musketeers

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Shakespeare, King Lear & the Endless Possibilities

During a recent actor training session, Voice Trainer Andrew Wade was working with our acting company on a speech of Leontes’ from The Winter’s Tale.  The company sat in a circle starting at the top of the speech, and each person took a single line and they went around the room counter-clockwise.  Then they did it legato.  Then they did it staccato.  Then they took smaller sections.  Then they overlapped words.  Then they said words redundantly.  Then they asked each other questions as they read.

As I listened to the same speech over and over and over, I realized that I wasn’t at all bored with what I was hearing, not in the least.  In fact, the more they worked on the speech, the more interesting it became.  It was as though through repetition, they were uncovering the meaning of the speech, and of the play, new meanings each time through, and the depth of the language seemed bottomless.  I once again realized how appealing a choice it is to dedicate one’s life to the plays of Shakespeare, because, even though there are only 37 plays, the material never runs out, it’s infinite.  It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

In working on King Lear, I’ve been trying each day to shed the accumulated work from the previous rehearsals and to do my best to begin each day with a blank slate and to leave myself open whatever discoveries the actors or I might make.

As with the Leontes’ monologue, a full-length play, like King Lear, becomes more interesting the more we look at it, and the more closely we look at it.  It’s counter-intuitive, but, as opposed to narrowing down our options to a specific set of choices, the more we work on the play, the more possibilities are opened.  For instance, we might have a day where we thought we had really ‘cracked’ a scene, only to come back to the same scene two days later to find that whatever that ‘cracking’ discovery was, is no longer interesting to us, or even made sense.  That leaves us to start from scratch, and see what we can turn up.  Who knows, it might be even more interesting and exciting than what we threw away.

So I’m trying to seek the largest set of possibilities, and I’m asking the actors and myself to be willing to shed the accumulated work of the previous days, and to be open to any new discoveries we make, and to be willing to erase our previous work to let in new ideas.

It’s scary, but hopefully we can continue to make this happen through rehearsal, and beyond, into the performances at the tent, where, hopefully, each evening we perform the play, we’re starting from scratch, and discovering it with the unique audience who is with us in the tent that night.

– Terry

HVSF from a New Perspective

We’ve read the plays, and begun to discuss our scenes.  We’ve started to explore who our characters are, and we’ve looked at costume renderings. More importantly, though, in these few short weeks I feel as if I’ve been inducted into a warm and welcoming family. The unusual thing about Hudson Valley is that you not only rehearse the plays with members of your cast; you are also given the luxury of learning with them. Classes in yoga, speech, clowning, and meditation serve as a base for all the company (new and old) to come together and play with one another. And the spirit of play, as Chris and Terry are showing me, is as necessary to theatre as breath is to life.

I’ve been rehearsing King Lear for two weeks now, and every day I see the text unfold more before my eyes.  It is perhaps the densest Shakespeare play I’ve worked on. It has also always been my favorite.  As Goneril I am constantly oscillating between wanting to embrace her ferocious will, but not to make her a one dimensional cartoon out of Cinderella. Who is this woman who is capable of so much hatred? When does it start? What feeds it? Dark questions to ask, complicated to answer.

And then there is The Three Musketeers: big characters, broad comedy, duels and love affairs. I can already tell I will love playing the Queen.  She has an immense heart and great wit. As an actor the higher the stakes, the more fun and rich it is to play that character on stage. I’ve been blessed this summer–both Goneril and The Queen are strong women fighting (albeit in very different ways) every way they can to stay alive and thrive. There is lots of work still to do, but at least I know that part of each day will be dedicated to belly laughing with my cast before diving into rehearsal.

– Chiara Motely

Life of a Company Manager

I have become a reverse commuter. Each morning I catch a train out of New York City heading for Cold Spring.  And each day as I look out the train window at the Hudson River and the beautiful country side, I think about how much I am going to enjoy seeing this all summer long.

The cast has all arrived and rehearsal is in full swing.  Each cast member has a role in 2 plays and sometimes with understudy roles in a third.  I don’t know how they do it, memorizing lines for 2 plays and keeping it all straight in their head.   We have a nice mix of veteran actors and new comers to HVSF.  As June fast approaches, everyone is looking forward to getting out of the rehearsal studio and to the tent to perform the plays in front of an audience.

I am busy preparing for the cast arrival upstate.  My job as company manager is to provide administrative and logistical support for the cast and crew.  Much of my job is behind the scenes, making things run smoothly so everyone can focus on producing wonderful productions for our HVSF audience and community.  It takes a lot of planning and preparation to move 25 plus people up state for the summer.  As you can imagine, there are a lot of bags, boxes, and bikes to move up, as well as the all-important people. Then of course I have to make sure our housing is ready for everyone’s arrival.  It is much like running my own small hotel, making sure we all have sheets, pillows, towels and kitchen supplies.  I have been busy practicing my turn down service.  The cast & crew like chocolate mints on their pillows, I hope I have enough.

– Alyce Stark

All’s Well…

It’s great to get in the swing of rehearsals again at HVSF.  The acting company is filled with the energy of new projects and we are enjoying finding solutions as problems are found.  In my company we have HVSF alumni: Richard Ercole, Jessica Frey, Wesley Mann, and Jason O’Connell.  New comers: Jeff Gonzales, Dan Matisa, Ara Morton, and Dan Tracy have all jumped into the project, and the mix of new and familiar has begun to brew. It seems to be a wonderful crew.

“All’s Well” is a challenge, and our “troupe of strolling” players is finding out how to turn our company of 8 actors into a cast of many.  Luckily, we also have a great core of musicians, and those who attended the “Bard’s Bash” were able to hear some examples of their work.

I’m looking forward to getting the production on its feet and finding the life that makes it special.

Russ Treyz

Here We Go…

So here we go, the beginning of my tenth season in a row with HVSF. Can it really be ten years? The tent was different then, the season was different then and I was different then. Suddenly, I have worked here more frequently than almost anywhere else and driving across the country for the umpteenth time, I had to ask myself, “Why?”

The answer came to me during a meditation exercise I participated in during our Actor Training portion of day this week. While meditating, I involuntarily began laughing and crying simultaneously when I recalled the happy moments onstage and in rehearsal with my cohorts.

When I recalled rehearsing and working out how to play moments with each other in order to make them clear, insightful and entertaining for our audiences, I was deeply moved. When we, this happy few, come together to make our particular art in our particular way, it makes some of life’s difficulties, bearable if only for an instant. Even if it is for only an instant, that has great value.

Part of the exercise was to speak a monologue which I had performed a few minutes before. Well, it came out in a completely new and interesting way, informed by the gratitude I had experienced during my meditation. It was a transformation which my fellow classmates commented on in a number of positive ways.

In recent years, life has been full of difficulties for many of us. It is my wish that our efforts of laughing, crying, speaking, singing, dancing and recreating life under the tent helps to make our audience’s difficulties bearable, even if only for an instant.

So let’s see what happens next!

– Wes