One specific area that’s been a challenge so far is the above mentioned physical intimacy. Without getting too specific, I’ll just say that my character gets a bit overzealous in her attempts to heal Volpone through the “laying on of virgin hands” and ends up with his head under her skirt. Ahime! My partner, JJ, is wonderful, and it’s been a fun scene to work, but not without its challenges!
When we first blocked the scene we had no one in the room except directors and stage management so we could explore the staging without the added pressure of our colleagues sitting around and sniggering. (Most intimate scenes are staged like this, out of simple respect for the actors. I still remember rehearsing my first stage kiss – as Hope Harcourt in Anything Goes in high school – in a closed rehearsal. We must have gotten something right, because my boyfriend complained that I kissed Billy “just like” I kissed him!)
There was lots of laughing and blushing and “Oh god”-ing in the first few runs that day, but also lots of “You ok with this?” and “What do you need me to do?” Great colleagues and a great rehearsal environment. By the time we left that rehearsal, it was just a series of moves, not unlike a dance routine.
But! Add an audience back in, and all of that can go right out the window! As soon as my friends and colleagues were there, positively shrieking with laughter, I lost my focus. The next two times we ran the scene, on two different days, I ended up laughing so much that I couldn’t stay in character OR sing! Fun, and funny, but frustrating. If I can’t hold it together in front of twenty laughing people, what will I do with 400?
I asked PK if we could run the scene a lot, with people doing lots of things to try and distract me. Throwing Ricola lozenges, laughing, talking, etc.. He said I didn’t need that, that I would be fine, but when I balked at that idea, especially nervous about my laughing, he gave me great advice: if I (ACB) feel myself laughing, consider it my character (Celia) filled with the Spirit! She is performing a “miracle healing,” after all. Brilliant! That’s what a good director can do, fix a problem not with rehearsing, but with talking. With giving his actors more tools.
I went into the next run-through confident that I could keep it together. And I almost did… But it was my turn to get a bit of a joke played on me, since PK and I had orchestrated one on JJ a few days before. There was much laughing, and much breaking of character, but I think it will be for the best in the end. I feel like it needed to “go there” in order for us both to be totally comfortable; we needed to play with it. With something like this, it helps to treat it a bit irreverently in a few rehearsals, so that when those 400 people show up, we can concentrate on giving them the experience of the scene untainted by our own concerns.
Will they be shocked? Maybe. But I guarantee they’re going to laugh.