… ARCHIVED REHEARSAL NOTES
This page contains rehearsal notes and thoughts from a past production’s rehearsal process:
REHEARSED AUG-NOV 2015
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN
A staged adaption of the short stories written
by David Foster Wallace
Developing in rehearsal with the following HIDEOUS MEN:
- John Ball
- Ryan Griffith
- Michael Holmes-Lauder
- Jesse LaPointe
- Ian Murphy
- Scott Shannon
- Matthew Spinney
Director – Scott Shannon
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN Notes – Nov 22/2015(PM)
We have crammed a good deal of work into the last two weeks, with it paying off this past weekend in a wonderfully cozy and appropriate room in the basement of the Sanctuary Theatre in Saint John. It really was an incredible experience for me to sit there in that room and listen to these guys get up there and embody the words of my favourite write, David Foster Wallace (DFW).
Having wanted to make this project happen since I first read the book around 15 years ago, it was good to see the idea come to fruition, morph a bit over the rehearsal process, and work in a performance setting. Score one for the imagination! DFW’s words infiltrated my consciousness in the late ‘90s and no other writer has penetrated my heart and mind like him. Being able to stage these Interviews as a tribute to DFW’s impact on my life, personally, was a real treat.
In all honesty, we were still a little rough around the edges when we opened in SJ on Friday, a little rougher than I’d prefer, but it worked within the setting and framework of the show (for the most part – see my personal performance notes below) and the guys all stepped up where they needed to, with some minor hiccups that really worked in their own way as well. But it was the moments where the guys shined that stand out in my memory and showed how well the setting worked for sharing and adapting this text to “stage”. As the audience giggled uneasily at the first couple of short pieces by Matt and Ian, I think not believing some of what their ears were hearing, they were then held by John’s longer piece that comes next; my short interview was a blur for me; but Ryan and Michael held the audience with the casually intensive cross-/within-audience dialogue, warming them up for Jesse’s big in-audience/-your-face approach; a short and nasty piece of venom then spews from John as a different “man” followed by a seemingly hilarious and self-depracating tale from Michael, that’s really just hiding the one-track mind he’s got, and ending with Ian unwinding on his “girl friend” in the audience. Each night the audience was held by these events, responsive and quiet, and they just worked so well in the confines of that basement room. The 2nd session of the night worked just as well, aside from a mid-act hiccup in my piece, but I love the way we close with a more theatrically staged piece and closing moment with John and Ian as one, busting out of the “meeting” briefly. I like that feeling.
My own performance though, most specifically my longer piece in the 2nd half was probably my lowest moment *ever* on stage – I was not as prepared as I thought I was nor as much as I should have been. Focusing on everyone else I left my rehearsal room work to the last week or so, but I should have started playing outside my home space well before then, so I had more time to really play with the piece, and get used to playing in front of people again. I don’t perform on stage nearly as often as I used to, and I’ve found it quite a shock to my system last year and this, but last year’s advantage was my familiarity with staging Rougher Magic and the text, whereas this year my familiarity with the text as literature wasn’t the same thing, and I certainly didn’t’ have it all jammed in my head like I did RM. Overestimated myself and learned a BIG lesson right in front of an audience – while those moments on stage during my interview were horrific, I’m glad this wasn’t a solo show and that the other guys more than made up for my lapse. Nonetheless, a low moment for me in my performance history … and not forgotten too easily … I might need to rethink my presence on stage in future productions if I’m going to spend most of the year toying with writing and in the rehearsal room, while the other actors are continuing to perform year round … funny how time works …
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN Notes – Nov 10/2015(PM)
Some of what these guys are doing is downright hilarious, yet horrifically disturbing – I’d say the guys are nailing the hideous aspect of things, although it’s hard not to with text that is so rich. Everything we’re doing is growing out of the text, hence the importance of us all to have the lines solid in order to develop the interviews beyond the page. For the most part, we’re on track with the lines running well, despite my desire for us to have been at this point earlier, but regardless it has allowed for some wonderful work on the solid interviews over the past week or more. Great stuff happening in the room.
Little things like: Matt standing up momentarily to address the room in a quick aside while he continues his intimate dialogue with Audience Member X (oh, the lucky lady to be picked for this one during the show!); John finding a moment of quiet focused beauty in the midst of a story about a men’s room; Ian discovering a moment of honest reflection during a superficial rant about women’s bodies. I even got to play with my short interview and received SUPER helpful feedback from a few of the guys.
And all this is happening in a cold, stark, sterile classroom … how beautiful, indeed. The power of raw performance – I love it!
Can’t wait to do another run on Thursday night, but we’ve got a BIG day tomorrow with isolated work on the various interviews with the guys coming in throughout the day … gonna be a long day for me, but I look forward to tightening things up a bit more before our run on Thursday … when the ‘Unknown Questioners’ (i.e. Liz and Julie) join us so they can watch and see what they’ve gotten themselves into in the role of the ‘Unknown Questioner’ delivering the verbal “Q” that drives many of the interviews.
We have cut one interview and reshuffled some casting since we began working as we just ran out of time to get those pieces together properly — this text is *dense* — so we had to divide and conquer, and I think it will make the show stronger overall in a number of ways. It’s a long night of men talking and revealing, so losing one isn’t that big of a hit in some sense – I just think each interview offers something unique and wanted to include them all, but there was a larger interview I omitted right from the start because it would have been an hour on its own. So, we began with a subset of interviews and have since limited that subset further. All the more reason for folks to seek out the stories themselves and experience DFW’s words firsthand, the way they are meant to engage.
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN Notes – Oct 31/2015(AM)
Last Thursday we ran most of the interviews in their sequential order for the 2 halves to our show or “meeting”, and it was a good hump for the guys to get over with most of their pieces as it gave them the chance to play and perform in front of each other. It gave us all a good picture of where the project is overall in development.
This past week I met with some actors to work scenes where lines were memorized, and I arranged other sessions for actors to get together and drill lines without me — one of the worst parts of directing, for me, is listening to actors read after a certain point. I loathe that stage of the process, which in the amateur world comprises a considerable portion of the first leg of rehearsals AND is completely necessary, I’ve found, for the actors to have the time to get familiar with the script at hand — we all have busy lives outside our theatrical endeavours, including full-time jobs, so that’s why I prefer a lengthy process, in order to allow for that time with the text. I generally try to design things so actors are off-book a month in advance, but this only works when the actors play along … some do, some don’t — you have to know the lines at some point, it’s the easiest part, really, so why not do it first? Baffles me every process why some actors deny this … it hurts the whole process and the end result if there isn’t enough time to make up for the delay. I really feel hampered by pages in hand after our 2nd or 3rd rehearsal on a certain scene or text because one’s attention can only focus on so much, and I find we just end up covering the same ground again once the pages are out of hand. So, for this process I’ve been a bit more hands-off on the memorization by asking the guys to do this more on their own, and get together for the few interviews that involve pairs of men — I’ve had my own memorization to accomplish and you don’t need the director in the room to run lines (end rant).
Other than the lines, things are moving as they should and these next 2 weeks will find interviews really coming together because that’s where we finally are — this is my favourite part, with scripts out of hand and just playing in the room. What happened this past week showed me these stories are indeed working in performance — well, for the type of performance I enjoy, which is always my (selfish) guiding light, to create an evening of theatre I would want to attend. I’m looking forward to what these HIDEOUS performing MEN show me over the next couple of weeks … just love this stage in a project’s development! More than performance itself, these next 2-3 weeks are what I really dig about this whole theatre thing …
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN Notes – Oct 18/2015(AM)
We’re about a month into the process, just easing into things for the most part. I’ve had 2-3 rehearsals on each interview with these Hideous Men and we’ve basically established some general shapes to each monologue and the location of the piece in the context of the Support Group meeting room – some interviews occur as testamonials from a podium at the front of the room while others erupt as conversation among “attendees” of the meeting, in some cases interacting with audience members.
The performance space will be set up like a large support group meeting where there’s 30 or so chairs for the audience all facing a podium where many of the Hideous Men will stand to deliver their “interview” – or confession might be a better word. During these interviews the men discuss a wide range of personal and controversial topics, all the while baring their souls to those in attendance. In the book these interviews are designated as occurring across the U.S.A. in the mid ‘90s, in a wide variety of locations, with an Unseen Questioner uttering simply “Q” within each interview to prompt further responses – what these “questions” are is anyone’s guess, as is the identity of the questioner. For our purposes, I’ve created the conceit of all these men being in a room together for a Support Group meeting whereby they each come forward to share with the group, and as already mentioned, with some of the scenes happening in other places in the room than at the podium. There is still an “Unseen” Questioner, played by Elizabeth Goodyear and Julie MacDonald for alternate performances, who will be in the room merely as a vocal presence to provoke each Hideous Man to continue speaking.
It’s going to be VERY interesting to see how this all works and translates to performance – it’s been an idea I’ve had since first reading the short stories in the late ‘90s. The interviews read so much like wonderful monologues.
Looking forward to our next leg of rehearsals where the guys will start to be off-book and we can really play with these pieces … oh, and I’ve got some work to do on my interviews too!
BRIEF INTERVIEWS WITH HIDEOUS MEN Notes – Sept 25/2015(PM)
And so the journey begins through the text of my favourite writer … bringing the words of David Foster Wallace to the stage is going to be a challenging adventure …