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!