Category Archives: The Lady from the Sea: blog

Assistant Director Julie Levine blogs about Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, directed by Dan Sherer at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, New York, August 2013.

Making Waves

Assistant Director Julia Levine writes…As we have officially reached the final week before the show opens, the cast and design team have been making some great waves! Monday and Tuesday were “load-in” days, giving Cassie and Sean, our scenic and lighting designers, respectively, the time to bring their design elements to the space.

In the rehearsal room, the cast has been hard at work, refining and polishing each moment, and really focusing on making direct contact with one another, and living truthfully through the world of the play. While the first half of this week has come and gone quickly, the hours of hard work that have already been put in up to this point are beginning to come together in a cohesion of moments, increasingly bringing the play to life.

Massive strides were made today in terms of our soundscape. Jake, our stage manager/sound designer extraordinaire, worked closely with Dan before the actors arrived this evening to ensure that each layer of the soundscape – from crashing waves, to chirping birds, to gusting winds – is seamless. And today, for the first time, the cast ran through our prologue sequence, and Acts 1 and 2, in the space, with the set, lights and sound!

There are still elements to polish and bring together, but hey, we haven’t even finished this week yet.
Til next time, everybody!

Out at Sea

Assistant Director Julia Levine writes…Another weekend has come and gone, and we find ourselves at the helm of another week. On Saturday, we worked more on Act 2 and carved out a shape for Act 3. We were joined by our lighting designer, Sean, who got to see a run of Act 1. In our full-day rehearsal, we sailed through the material that makes up the bulk of the play.

Today brought us further into Act 3, as we continued to refine the shape of each scene based on the actors’ reactions to one another and to the circumstances. While it is imperative that everyone know their lines at this point, Dan also stressed the importance of really being present and listening to the other actors. The target of this work is that each impulse comes from the world of the play and is then expressed by each actor in the scene, through their intentions. Little moments of such honest reactions are coming together more and more.

After a couple of runs of Act 3, we embarked on the shaping of Act 4. Tomorrow will focus on Act 4, and the beginning of Act 5, so that by the end of Wednesday, we will have shaped our way through the entire play, and can then clarify individual moments. As we have been experiencing first hand, the best, most clear work comes when the actors have complete knowledge of their lines, and have full confidence in themselves, so that they allow themselves to receive the impulses from the circumstances as if for the first time. As we continue in our adventures out at sea (metaphorically, because, after all, we are in the middle of Manhattan) this assistant director is gleaning more and more insight into what it means to maneuver the world of a play.

Stay tuned for more notes of our adventures with yet-to-be-charted territory!

(The best kind of) Boiling and Breaking Points

Assistant Director Julia Levine writes…This week’s rain has finally payed off – the heat wave has broken! While the weather outside has cooled down (thank goodness!), our week of work in the rehearsal room is reaching a boiling point: Tuesday and Wednesday were continuations of the shaping process for Act 1 (see Monday’s post); today was spent churning Act 2; and Saturday will get us into Act 3.

Throughout this week of the staging process, the cast focused on living in the reality of the circumstances (which have been imaginatively and sensorially built in the rehearsals leading up to this week), pursuing intentions honestly, and following the impulses that arrive out of these conditions. Not every line is perfectly memorized at this point, however the intention of this week was not a rote recitation of lines, but to live truthfully in the present and steadfastly pursue impulses in working towards a skeletal shape of each scene in the space. This week was to really break open each event of the play via the circumstances and through each characters’ intentions, and to see what happened. By the end of rehearsal on Wednesday, we had found a preliminary shape for Act 1, and tonight brought us through Act 2. As tomorrow is a day off, the cast will have time to really familiarize themselves with their lines so that when we reconvene on Saturday, the only obstacles facing the actors will be those of their characters’.

As the action of the play continues to cook in the rehearsal room, here’s to hoping that the weather outside stays nice and cool!

More updates to come after Saturday’s full-day session!

The Monday Grind – Staging Act 1, Part 1

Assistant Director Julia Levine writes…Ah, Monday. The start of another work week. And for us, this week marked the beginning of the staging process! Before diving right in, I led the cast through a basic vocal warm-up, focusing on physical relaxation and breath awareness. This breath work will serve as a foundation upon which layers and layers of mental, physical, and vocal awareness can be built. The cast were great sports in what was for many of them, their first encounter with Kristen Linklater’s voice technique.

After the warm-up, we set up for the top of Act 1. Our staging process, as Dan periodically reminded the cast, is not to block a fixed sequence of movements, but to explore the shape of the scenes. While we are building a skeleton for the production, the cast can still feel flexible in the circumstances of the world of the play. Everyone put in the utmost effort, and played with some quite funny actions. Not unlike Ballested’s painting, our work on Act 1 is yet to be finished. But tomorrow presents a new day, and more time to sketch the outline that will be the first act of our play.

This rehearsal was a special one, as we celebrated Dan’s and Jordan’s birthdays with cake, flowers, and a rockstar-esque gathering beneath the overhang of a hotel driveway. Nothing like sugary goodness and a hint of rebellion to close out a Monday night!

See you soon!

The beginning

Assistant Director Julia Levine writes…Two weeks ago, eight actors, one stage manager, one director, and an assistant director (that’s me!) gathered on the third floor of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York to begin rehearsing Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, translated by David Eldridge.

Introductions were made and expectations were laid out for the approach of our production. Emphasis for our rehearsal process is placed on building the reality of the world of the play – in this case, Norway in 1888 – and living through these real circumstances honestly. Also, as we are in the context of the Strasberg Institute, the actors are taking techniques of their training in the Method and applying them to their work, to aid in development of the world of the play.

After a vigorous read-through that spanned the first three days of rehearsal and allowed everyone to get on the same page as far as facts and events of the play, the actors began working individually and in small groups to build their characters’ back stories. This step is a vital part of our process, as it allows the actors to experience the circumstances of their characters’ lives prior to the start of the play’s action, and stimulates their behavior that can then be taken into the present action of the play.

Once the pivotal events of the characters’ back stories were created, we began improvising each act. Over the span of one week, the actors built the sensorial and literal circumstances for a majority of each act (including the action between the acts), identified their intentions for specific moments, and for the play overall, and lived through the major events of the play, using their training in the Method to help them along the way. For example, we’ve utilized the “talking and listening” exercise to encourage the connection of the actors to one another in pursuit of their intentions.

And now, heading into the third week of rehearsals, we’ve improvised our way through a significant amount of the play, including much of the back history. Monday marks the start of actually “staging” the play, and the day in which everyone should be off-book (at least for Act 1)! As we work through each act to shape the units which surround major events, the sensorial world that the actors have built will carry through, and continue to influence their behaviors as they pursue their intentions. This assistant director is certainly looking forward to the weeks to come, as we stage the play, refine it, add in the design elements, and ultimately put the show up on its feet; in the words of Hilde: “It’s incredibly exciting!” Look for more updates as we move forward in our process!