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I'm an NYC-based director, and this is an outlet for my various musings about theater and about the city of New York. Sometimes the subjects run together, sometimes they are entirely separate, but between the two they comprise the most fitful, most intense, most trying love affair of my few years. They fill my head, my heart, my mouth every hour of every day; they could fill a book.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Happens in the Rehearsal Room

Rehearsals for Captain Moonbeam & Lynchpin began this week. Things are going great so far. Our first full cast rehearsal is, I believe, tomorrow night, which is something to look forward to. In the meantime, we've had one read-through and a couple smaller rehearsals with a few specific actors.

One of the things I love about directing is that it's such a learning process. Even when I think I've got it figured out, something sneaks up and changes the game. I'm constantly observing and adapting to the different ways my collaborators process information and spark their creativity.

Take, for example, our most recent rehearsal. We spent (or rather, I spent) a lot of time agonizing over a particular conversation between two of the characters and how it influenced the dynamic of their relationship. The conversation involves a girl, and while I knew the subject was laced with tension and inarticulated issues between the two characters, I was wrestling with finding something more specific than that, and scene was suffering. It felt flat, meandering, and unclear.

We talked a lot about why the situation might set one character on his guard, or create anxiety for the other, and the ideas we tossed around helped, but the conversation still seemed a bit aimless and vague.

I tried to liken the situation to two friends I knew way back when who had something of a falling out and no longer speak to each other. Before I knew it, I was telling my cast the whole tale - moral and all. "Gather 'round, kids," I said jokingly at one point. "It's time for life lessons from Leigh..." My story DID have a point, but it seemed a little like a distraction to be sitting there, regaling them with the whole sordid history of these two friends.

But then we ran the scene again. And guys, the difference was night and day. It was suddenly dynamic, engaging, nuanced. I could tell there was a clear and complicated history between the two men and I was actively curious to find out more.

It's a constant and joyful surprise to discover how the mind processes information and emotion. I would have never guessed the difference between a discussion that begins, "It's possible your character is experiencing a lot of anxiety or frustration because..." and one that starts, "Oh my god. This situation is SO much like this girl I once knew who got SO upset at one of her friends..."

Why is that? Is it because it gives the emotions definition, context? A cause and also an effect? Or maybe because it takes the pressure off trying to personally define and internalize the conflict, and instead provides the opportunity to step back, understand and empathize with the situation from another angle?

All I know is I'm constantly surprised and amazed by what happens in the rehearsal room.

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