This page contains rehearsal notes and thoughts from a past production’s rehearsal process:

Monster by Daniel MacIvor

REHEARSED April-May 2011 & August 2011

MONSTER by Daniel MacIvor
Performer – Scott Shannon
Director – Nicholas Cole

MONSTER Notes – Aug 11/2011(AM)
Running the show yesterday found the piece really settling into/over me. I’ve been running these words through my head for over three months now – since we began the rehearsal process for our late May run – and when we came into the room last week I basically just puked the words out at Nick in our first run of the show meeting back together. Now we’ve worked sections and done a couple more runs and this last one really felt like I was connecting with those words more than I have – and Nick basically said as much in our notes session after the run.

Again, taking this feeling and discovery into a room with audiences on Sunday is gonna be a rush and really help us all to connect.

That day is gonna be exhausting though … Alicia was just saying to me tonight how crazy a day it’ll be … and that’s all part of the thrill/fun.


MONSTER Notes – Aug 9/2011(PM)
Ran the show last night and it’s feeling real good! Then we got word that the Woodstock group has pulled out of the tour with us, which kind of deflated our sails a bit, but … we’re going to keep pressing onward!

We’ve obviously cancelled the Woodstock performances, so we’re aiming solely for 3 shows now: 2 on Sunday (afternoon in SJ > evening in Freddy), and one last show on Monday night in the capital city. The loss of the other group hits our pockets a bit, but hopefully we’ll get some good crowds out to help cover our expenses. We thought it made sense to still do these performances in hopes that some people were looking forward to it, and in order to try and make sure we can cover what we’ve spent at this point … ughgh: the logistics of finances and such are not a fun thing for me, but I digress …

Nick and I have spent the past week working portions of the show, some things tightening up better and drastically changing other moments – all in the interests of making this show even better than we had it before and I feel it’s paying off.

It’ll be nice to have an audience again … but, we’ve still got the end of the week to work through so we’re running and toying with more stuff …


MONSTER Notes – July 29/2011(PM)
Nick and I met again tonight for the first time since the last performance of Monster – May 31st. I’ve had this incessant internal monologue – the script from this show – running through my head since that time, so about 2 months. I have made sure to run all the lines aloud over the course of each week, so I’m saying them aloud at least once a week on top of this inner banter.

I don’t know what my mind is gonna do when we’re done with this show in 2 weeks and I have no reason to occupy it with the text from this play … part of me is dreading what my mind will do (but another part knows it will be occupied with memorizing our fall production – Tooth of Crime!)

Problem solved, I guess …

It was a rough run tonight, with me settling in more as the show got going – when I hit Joe things started jiving more and Nick said as much … that’s not to say there weren’t rough patches after that though! HA! But, we’re going to do some spot work next week a couple of times, and then just start running it again over next weekend leading up to us opening in Woodstock on the 11th …

I am looking forward to playing this in 3 diverse rooms in as many days …


MONSTER Notes – May 27/2011(PM)

Scott Shannon in rehearsal for Daniel MacIvor's MONSTER (Photo by Diane Cole)

So, we opened last night for a VERY small, but seemingly enthralled audience — thanks to those two gentlemen who come to EVERY show we do and ALWAYS are impressed and vocal about it; you guys keep me going! HA!

The run went well, aside from a few minor hiccups that were more visible to Nick and I than to the audience … looking forward to tonight! Having people in the space, even a few, really brings the piece to life and shows nuances that we didn’t notice before – and I LIKE that!

The other night, after our dress run in the Hall, I wrote the following to Nick and then thought maybe it’d be fun to post these thoughts here as well … so here goes:
I’ve read this many times, but only now am I seeing it as an “excuse” or allowance for not following the text precisely as written:

— From MacIvor’s intro to the publication of his play House:
The thing about working in the way we do – where responsibility is not based on “job description”, and ownership of an idea is not only irrelevant but impossible – is that the work remains alive. By “alive” I mean that we never allow the ‘word’ to become holy and untouchable. House is about performance rather than interpretation of a text. Meaning? The drive, the narrative line, the power of the piece is found in the relationship between the performer and the text; there is, in a very real sense, no “internal” monologue – the only monologue is the one on stage, on view. This is also to say that there is no superfluousness here – no imagery or wordplay for its own sake. We have been diligent and rigorous in trying to avoid a theatrical consciousness other than the theatrical self-consciousness of Victor.

… what do you think? It seems to me that he is granting that kind of deviance from the text that Beckett or Mamet would abhor — and the kind I’m usually so adamant about squashing and ironing out — but it serves a greater good in some manner. Granted, MacIvor’s texts in certain places don’t perhaps seem to follow the same sort of rhythmic structure as a Beckett or a Mamet but really there are so many wonderful rhythms — the text is so dense and just spews out at you and at first it’s hard to see it in places, and of course one is wise to stick as closely as possible but I think this allows for some level of play on our parts …

Shortly after that portion of the introduction he says:
What this speaks to, for anyone considering performing this piece, is the need for the actor’s unwavering presence on the stage. I will not say “in the character” because that is ultimately irrelevant; to even think in those terms, “in character”, immediately indicates a distance between the actor and the character and this thinking can create such a profound and troubled relationship between the actor and this supposedly distant character that there is little room for any relationship with the audience. Rather, here we use the text as a map and the stage and the room around it as the physical universe of the journey — it is left to the actor only to be present on stage in his own fear, anger, and uncertainty.

… and so here we have what might be a slight rebuttal to your possibly thinking I might be a hoar for laughs (HA!) — there’s a fine line we’re treading here. I would certainly *never* want to play for laughs only, but I also need to listen to and feel the audience that’s there with us. And I know you meant you were afraid I was veering more into the former but you can trust me that ain’t gonna happen …

And now, after that blabbing I must sleep …


“Theatre art must also have a substance and a meaning. This substance is the density of the human experience; every artist longs to capture this in his work in one way or another, and perhaps he senses that meaning arises through the possibility of contacting the invisible source beyond his normal limitations which gives meaning to meaning. Art is a spinning wheel, rotating around a still centre which we can neither grasp nor define.”

from ‘The Open Door: Thoughts on Acting and Theatre’
by Peter Brook


… and now I’m off to the theatre to prepare for tonight’s show …


MONSTER Notes – May 24/2011(PM)
2 full runs under our belts now, and the show is feeling more and more solid – go figure! We are now running and then doing some spot work the day after to work anything that really botched during the run, or occurs to us that it isn’t working, or that I simply have let slide since we originally worked the scene.

Nicholas Cole & Scott Shannon in rehearsal for Daniel MacIvor's MONSTER (Photo by Diane Cole)

For instance, our first full run on Sunday found me really missing what we’d done with the teenage Monty character – I lapsed completely back into the *easy* mode of just being an excited kid. Nick had worked hard at shaping and molding moments in Monty so we would show more how much this kid was actually damaged by the horrific event he witnessed, rather than just playing the kid as an excited “whoah! That’s cool!” kinda kid … the more complete Monty is, of course, the better route. But, during the first run I just got lost in the momentum of everything, hadn’t really run Monty in a bit, and thus Monty became that hollow facade again. So, we worked Monty before yesterday’s run just to touch on those key moments again, and feel it overall through the Monty section, and then during the run I really think I nailed the Monty spirit of things … always room for improvement, but I’ve got it back now and solid.

Similarly, the end of the Joe section dropped a bit, although I’d never quite hit it before yesterday – and boy, did that wear me out! HA! We ran it once, Nick gave notes about what *needs* to really happen, and so I did it only to finish the scene and look at a stunned face on Nick who was nodding agreeably saying, “Yep, that’s it.” – I think I got it! HA! We then ran it again to clean up the very start of that last Joe section, and it went well, and during the run Joe really drove through that section the way he should … which is a good thing!

Tonight, we have a small pre-view audience coming to watch the stripped down run in the classroom because it’s always good to expose something to a small crowd before getting into the venue and opening a run – I have found this step invaluable. Many of the usual suspects are pretty busy working a Shakespeare show right now, but we should hopefully have a few in tonight … and well, my wife and daughter are always *forced* to sit through this part of the process – GOD LOVE ‘EM!

Nick should be bringing in the sound tonight too … now that he realized we open this week, and not next! HA!


MONSTER Notes – May 22/2011(AM)
Adam is distressingly fun to inhabit – if you know Adam, you know why the enjoyment of being him would be distressing. Let’s say he’s not somebody to aspire to … and yet … it’s strangely exhilarating to spew out these horrible thoughts whilst relishing in the dark side of the world. I’m not saying I *agree* with Adam, just that playing the part is becoming a means of expelling some vile shit.

The last couple of nights we worked heavy on Adam’s last two bits, with some Jerry Buster Foster thrown in. JBF is like a cross between fellow Shadow Bob/David Milch/pushing that notion of the knowledgeable intellectual. If you’ve heard David Milch talk – I’m thinking specifically of this interview at that accompanies Season 1 DVD of ‘Deadwood’ (which if you haven’t seen, you really should) – than you can imagine that utter control over each thing he says so as not to be misunderstood, and while he’s comfortable and used to speaking with folks in his own world of creating drama, it’s trying to make that understood to folks who might not be so concerned with certain things. So, there’s an ere of condescension, but it’s not intentional, just that he is simply trying to be clear but can only do so by using the terms and words that are appropriate – think of listening to your mechanic talk to you; this is a different attitude, but the premise is the same. I think that Nick and I shaped JBF quite well and he will settle out nicely in the coming week.

Adam is just a bastard. But I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t a source of fun amoungst this group of distraught characters.

And then tomorrow we work the very last moment of the play as Janine, and then do a run. *REALLY* looking forward to doing the run.


MONSTER Notes – May 20/2011(PM)
And so this past week found us fairly busy, catching up on some lost time and such. Last Fri/Sat we worked the Joe story – this character is the largest in the script, coming in just over third of the way through and then taking up that middle third of the entire play. He’s HUGE.

And so, the three large male characters in the play have become extensions of different places I can go as an actor, at least in some sense you could kinda look at it like that. These characters, along with Janine & Monty, each need to be honest and authentic – there are other characters that are less fleshed out, although even those voices are taking a deeper hold as we continue to work the scenes (see AA meeting notes below). And so Joe is a reserved sorta fella who doesn’t use his hands much – this is a challenge for me, and not because I’m generally flailing my hands about, but because I do consciously use my hands and arms often (but I like to think I have control over their usage and that I don’t abuse gestures and whatnot in an unconscious way – I’m always thinking about where/how my body is positioned). This physicality has completely fed into the manner in which we’ve sculpted Joe and it works quite nicely, I feel. He’s also the only character to really live on his feet … and he even gets to exit to the wing for a moment! HA! Everyone else stays centre stage in the chair – there are a couple of other small “up” moments for a couple of other characters, but for the most part my ass is in the chair.

Then during this past week we moved onto the AA scene to start – this is actually an extension of the Joe scene where Joe is effectively ranting at his AA group. Once he sits down we are introduced to the group leader, Ron, as well as the others sitting in the group that night: David, Tina and Al (the same Al that is hooked up with Janine at the start of the play). It is these voices which, like the Al’s Dad drinking scene, seemed more like caricatures and not very dense but that we have now found to be more full characters than perhaps they seemed at first blush. VERY good writing here!

Scott Shannon in rehearsal for Daniel MacIvor's MONSTER (Photo by Diane Cole)

The end of the AA scene, which is Al at the meeting, takes us -> Adam for a moment to chastise Al and then -> an intimate moment with just Al by himself and then -> a rather large conversation between Al & Janine (remember, *I* am Al + Janine!). This conversation, like the AA meeting, is quite a strain on my head but at least there’s only 2 characters to sort through instead of the 5 in the AA scene. It really is quite a challenge to enable a dramatic scene between 2 characters using only one person, and this was my largest reservation about doing this show … that said, it’s feeling surprisingly fluid … but damn hard on my head.

And so, we’re still working this Al & Janine conversation when we meet up again tonight … hoping to do a run tomorrow!

MONSTER Notes – May 13/2011(PM)
So, wow. Friday the 13th. 2 weeks since my last note. 1 week since our last rehearsal. I’ve been ill and huddled up memorizing over the past week and haven’t seen much of Nick … feeling mildly nervous, but I know the next 2 weeks will have us leaping in bounds, especially now that I’ve got the text in my head. And we have a great base up until now, so …

The week after my last note found Nick and I working the first 3rd of the play a fair bit and establishing a base for Adam as a character – which then changed a bit upon reaching the next Adam section, but for the better (and actually, it was just that this next Adam section showed me more what Nick had been asking for in the first Adam section: Adam is super comfortable and really kinda having a good time … it seems). We also worked the entire Monty section – the kid next door – over a few sessions and I think we really nailed what to do with Monty. I was making the kid far too detached from the crime he describes, but his obsession with the crime is actually more heartbreaking than I’d originally thought (thanks Nick!). Anyway, Nick had me flush out Monty into a much more “complete” character and that’s great.

We worked another scene between Al and Janine – just about each time we hear from these two it is together in conversation with one another … and so, that’s me talking to myself … this is proving difficult, but working. And when Nick is trying to give “character” notes, it becomes rather hilarious as he’s just talking to me but it’s about 2-3 different people I’m trying to play! HA!

After this we meet Al’s Dad – known as none other than “Al’s Dad” – and Al’s Mom too. This is a scene that really changed for me during rehearsal as I thought we’d move real fast over the silly-ish lines written for Al’s Dad and all of Adam’s interjections that build to a bit of a climax. I knew it should be fun, but didn’t think it warranted dwelling on … I was wrong. Now we move methodically through the scene using certain mechanics for Al’s Dad which actually betrayed, once again, a more “complete” character (surprise! surprise!).

And then we hit where I’d run out of memorized text – the 2nd third of the show is entirely the character Joe at an AA meeting … and I’ve got it in my head now, but what a struggle! His story is HUGE!!! And it was tough sledding through much of that … but man, it is some fantastic writing! This is what we’ll be working next.


MONSTER Notes – Apr 28/2011(AM)
Nick and I had our first real rehearsal Tuesday night and it got us off to a VERY good start, I feel. We worked what is essentially the first scene of the play, and we played with some different options and then pushed some other things that resulted in great rhythms for some sections. Nick had me working at making Adam a little more comfortable – Adam is essentially the character is telling the story and acting as the other characters, which doesn’t make any of them any less real than him though.

I was thinking today about what Nick had said about Adam being comfortable, and that got me thinking about the other 3 one-man shows I’ve done of MacIvor’s, and those three characters: Steve, Victor, and Henry – they all had misgivings about being the centre of attention in the room. Steve was a like a specimen being examined in Wild Abandon; Victor, while wanting to tell his story, is reluctant about doing so and eventually leads the audience out into something imaginary at the end of House; and Henry was thrown onto the stage in Here Lies Henry and spends the whole play trying to get through to the other side to get off the stage.

But Adam … I’m not sure if it’s cause he’s a sociopath or something, but he relishes the attention and just likes being up there … I think. He likes it. Which scares me a bit, when I think of the comparison to me, the actor, that I like it too: being up there.

MONSTER Notes – Apr 21/2011(PM)
1st rehearsal = Tues, April 26th! We just closed The Table Experiments last night, but I have already begun memorization work on Monster — had to! Not a whole lot Nick and I can accomplish together if I’m staring at and/or reading a piece of paper. As a director, it might be my biggest annoyance, to work with actors not off book — even in early stages where I realize (and have accepted) the book as necessary … but in later stages it makes me wanna throttle the actor! (I’d insert a “HA!” here, but I don’t find it very funny to be honest, and disrespectful to the rest of the group.)

So anyway, I will not be doing that to Nick … when we meet on Tuesday, I’ll have a good chunk of the start of the play inside my head for us to work with.


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