The day following my blog entry from the 4th, we finally did our first showing with a test audience. The experience was very surprising, and we basically got the complete opposite reaction from them than what we had expected. We had been working with a really crazy, HUGE narrative (that I will someday regale you with, but not here, not today) that held the back story as to why this dinner had come about, why the audience were guests at it, etc, and we had been convinced that it was going to be like pulling teeth (that's actually a hint at said narrative) to get a reaction from them. The audience ended up being very vocal and participatory, and we found that because of this we couldn't actually get nearly any of the narrative across in the moments we had planned during the part that we showed. The focus was too split, and suddenly what we were trying to do seemed largely inappropriate. After our feedback from this group, we started talking about this, and gradually came to the conclusion that we needed to be economical with what we were sharing with the audience, make sure it was really important, and that only those moments would be the ones that were kept. But then nothing we had done seemed useful. I made a comment saying, "Well, I've always been the kind of person who, if it's not working at the eleventh hour, would go in and say, 'Let's throw everything out!'" Lisa suddenly spoke up: "I was thinking the same thing!"
And so it came to pass that we literally threw out all of the story and character development that we had been doing for about three weeks previous (in what is essentially a six week process, that is a crapload of time). I was kind of so blown away by the prospect I went home and fell asleep at 8PM. It's all well and good to talk about cutting everything, but when you decide to do it two weeks before you open, an understandable amount of apprehension plagues you, no doubt. I don't know if this sort of thing happens in traditional theatre. I'm sure it must in some form, but I've never encountered it. I think part of what makes devised theatre the beast it is is that apparent fluidity--that it can and does change every day you are in the rehearsal room. But sometimes that is hard to accept, especially when those changes are so drastic and monumental in size. Recently, I have been constantly comparing the devising process to bipolar disorder: the highs are amazing, but the lows make you want to kill yourself. Everyone I've said this to on the course seems to consider it an accurate statement, so I express it here in full confidence of its validity.
Anyway, we decided on Thursday to cut everything, I went home and slept for about fourteen hours, got up the next day, met Amy Lee for one last coffee before she headed back to the states, and then had an amazing rehearsal with my company wherein we re-wrote the entire performance. It was pretty awesome, though at the end of it, again, I was completely drained. We ended up going back to an idea we had initially, trying to align that with the audience's action during our showing, and also choosing what we already had in place in the performance that was worth keeping and would serve this new direction. In the end, it is a simpler idea, and hopefully more meaningful.
So yes, things were headed in the right direction after that rehearsal and they continue to be. I look forward to the run, and while I'm nervous, I think it will be alright. It must be. Where is Geoffrey Rush to tell me so?!
Seriously, though: we can pull this off. I know it.
In other news:
- The great hunt for housing has begun. Went to look at a room in a private residence today up in Willesden Green. The proprietor was a very sweet, older woman, and the price was good, but I've lived above another older woman before and had a pretty unpleasant experience with that. There's also the thing about living in a private residence: you always feel like you're a guest in some one's home, and that you don't have you're own space. I don't know if I could relax (or come home drunk) in a situation like that. I'm seeing another place Sunday afternoon, so I may have a better idea then if this is the direction I'm headed in. Yeep. I hate moving. So much.
- The project I was meant to work on that was slated to travel to Germany is not happening. This is not so much a surprise, but it is disappointing, and raises the question: what am I going to do with myself during the summer? I asked myself this question in my head, and responded aloud with, "Get a job, you lazy immigrant!" I can be so unnecessarily abusive sometimes. A job is an option. But whatever I do, the dissertation is going to have to be the first priority, and as the work I was going to do on proposed project was meant to be part of my research (damn it) I have to figure out how to make up for that. I think I can manage it somehow with something, but it's got to be really good.
Until then, enjoy this.
*Since there is very little scripted dialogue in the performance, it feels wrong using the word "script" to its full value in terms of normal understanding. Perhaps what we have been piecing together is closer to a "running document," reflecting what goes on in the show more objectively?<--Can you tell I go to grad school? What a piece of theoretical bs. And yet: there is sense to it.