Monday, March 9, 2009

Nick Sandys: On Tech Rehearsal

The past weekend was full, full, full, as we added all the other elements of the production to the rehearsal text and went through a lengthy technical process. Not surprisingly, the sound score to the show is another character—which we are rehearsing in just two days, basically. Nick Keenan has a great feeling for the rhythms of the show, and thanks to places like Youtube, soundbites are now available for so many different historical and cultural moments—eg. from 2005 Amman bombings, to Elmer Fudd’s chuckle, to “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane”—all of which appear at some point in the show. The performers were terrific at quickly adapting and welcoming their new scene partner, sometimes seamlessly. They seemed a little less used to adapting to finding their light, since that plot element is equally detailed to create the different looks and movement for all 21 pieces in the show. It is going to be a lot of fun, over the next few days, watching them get comfortable again.

And all Samantha’s costumes are very relaxed and unobtrusive, but characterful. I was torn over Kelly’s silver ankle sneakers but they would prove to be a little too Vegas for this particular version of the show, I think.

The hardest decisions have been about the set, where Tim Morrison is coming up with some amazing stencil images for the walls, but each one leads to an important debate about the connotations of the images, and why they are present or not. Once you use a media image but change its context, especially by putting into a show about racial issues, the echoes of meaning start to become deafening. Even the placement on the walls becomes thematic, about who is in and who is left out of the frame. This whole rehearsal process, and working with these three thinking artists, has been a wonderful debate about the issues we are staging—much of it essentially stemming from the central paradoxical problem of mixing hip-hop and classical theatre aesthetics. Hip-hop culture is all about specificity and individuality, speaking only for the different self and personal experience—but all conventional theatre is built around the idea of representation, that everything on the stage is a symbol or represents something in the real world, therefore always speaking for others, erasing difference. It is a conundrum that I hope will yield some very interesting talkbacks.

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