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

The Table Experiments

REHEARSED Jan-Apr 2011

KybeBecky Forbes
ChaelMichael Holmes-Lauder
AttheMatthew Spinney

written & directed by Scott Shannon

And thus ends the Experiment. Once again, small but engaged crowds came out to see our run in Fredericton.

I can’t thank the audiences enough for being patient with the story each night – you could see the puzzled looks on faces, some annoyed or bored by the puzzling, but then gradually growing into more interest and an understanding/investment of the story. I think the reactions to the play were entirely what I would have hoped for … so, all seems well.

I also can’t thank the actors enough for having thrown themselves into this work as much as they did. And for Taylor being patient with me and my lack of explanation at times, or needing last minute changes/alterations/new cues/etc!

This group made the show what it was and made it happen, and for that I am eternally grateful.

And now, no rest for the wicked I’m afraid: I’m about to become a MONSTER!


And tonight we open our Fredericton run … our early Mon-Wed weekday run … we’ll see how that goes. The weekend in SJ saw a couple of small but very receptive audiences. The actors played very intimately with the crowd – once the people were sitting in the chairs around the circle, it really closed the space in which added to the vibe we are creating. Saturday night found the actors really owning the piece – for me. It seemed no longer of me and they were driving and running it with Taylor steering through moments with his light and sound moves.

I was very pleased with Saturday night … which sounds slightly egotistical or pretentious, but I was thoroughly engaged and entertained by the show on Saturday night in a way separate from being involved intimately in the creation – I was intimately involved in the performance thanks to the actors bringing these words and ideas alive.

We did a loose run in Charlotte St. today just to get a feel for the space and a chance for the actors to feel and know the show more – the last portion, like the last 3rd or so (maybe not quite that much), is still only a few weeks old so it’s good to just keep the whole entity alive and running, I think. I’m grateful to them all for the expending of so much energy in this show – they really push it and throw themselves right in, which is fantastic and adds to the entire kid-like aspect of things.

I look forward to seeing the actors push and own the show more in the coming three days …

And I’ve now gotten over a hump of exposing my writing to others … still not sure I like it, but I’ve done it now …


Opening night is tonight. This past week has been an intensive workout pulling it altogether – we’d worked everything in isolation, and the last scene is still only a week and a half old, so there was much work in moulding a cohesiveness to all the pieces.

On Sunday we had gone down to SJ and set up tech in the BMO Rehearsal Hall at the SJTC Building – this space proved pretty much ideal for me. Sparse and intimate, and just enough tech to keep the thing moving. A few more lights might be nice, but we’ll have more to play with in that regard when we come back up to Fredericton and set up in Charlotte St. on Sunday. And so the set up in SJ went pretty smoothly and taught us some stuff to pay attention to and address over the course of this past week.

Oh yeah, and the day before we just used the Charlotte St. Arts Centre Auditorium for a couple of quick hours to set up the chairs, address a few special issues and do a run. It was also our first real crack at executing the entire play.

And then on this past Tuesday, after having some scene work on Monday and run for ourselves, we had a few test audience folks show up so that we could run the show with a new presence in the room (Andrew & Annick, and my wife and daughter – Alicia & Jena). We grow blinders of sorts working in the room together and you are always thinking of the outside perspective, but I’ll admit that my take on what the audience might be looking for might not have the widest appeal – HA! – so having people who don’t know much, if anything, about the show is a good thing to do.

Wednesday saw the actors doing a line run while I prepared the program and painted some chairs …

And then this past evening we did some spot work and another run that went very well – the audience energy is going to feed what the actors need now.

And I’m interested to see the audience’s reaction to all that we’ve done … but I’m also terrified because the play comes from me and I’m just not used to this level of exposure (I’m usually hiding behind somebody else’s words and work) … it’s a paradoxical feeling …


We’ve spent the last couple of nights working on the new end scene. Starts the same as it has, and I moved some stuff from later up into the earlier portion, and then steered in another direction from what we’d been trying to do and I’m MUCH MORE confident in the new ending … or, ending*s* as the case may be …

At this point the plan is to alternate endings each night and see how they work – perhaps that’ll entice repeat attendees! HA!

So we’ve established a loose footing on that last scene over the last couple of nights and then tonight and tomorrow night we work on earlier portions of the play, so essentially in pairs of actors.

Tonight we ran the first half of the play essentially – minus some key movement/child scenes that join these other scenes. These 2 scenes we worked tonight are the oldest of the play, and the 12t scene we worked tonight is based on work I started last May (2010). This past fall was when the scene really took the form it has as its base now, and it was a stronger version of that which I originally brought to the guys in January – and this is really the only portion remaining intact from everything else I had at that time. I’ve stolen and inserted snippets from other partial scenes I had, but for the most part I’ve written all the new stuff since February … which ends up being about half the play.

I have loved this process immensely.

And so, running those scenes tonight, it was just wild to see them now in light of the ending(s) that’s now in place. And the actors in turn delivered performances reacting to now knowing where the story is heading. Before there was no way of knowing what was necessarily coming so the actors were approaching certain moments with intentions that perhaps are now too large or involved, and so had to be reigned in a bit … or more like they just now know there’s some level of an arc for them to follow and so you react accordingly and develop the character moment by successive moment towards that ending.

The next week is going to be like an exhilarating high that I know is going to release me into a state of overwhelming anxiety for opening night … ughgh … but based on the work the guys showed me tonight, this coming week is really gonna have it all pull in tightly with the actors dominating the play and owning it … watching tonight’s scenes was great theatre I thought … forgetting that I wrote the text, and just watching those guys do their thing … great stuff …


Curse these actors and their damn high standards! HA! I’ve brought in a few variations on an ending, and tried numerous more that I only showed myself but it’s not working for me – and especially not for the actors. And they’re right. Damn it. I’m glad they called me on it … although, I hope I wouldn’t have gone any farther than just bringing the text into the room …

The major obstacle I have been facing is trying to utilize a move/device that I came up with before I quite got to the spot where I’d use it – I thought it was clever, made for a fun twist in the ending portion of the show, and fit with the story and themes nicely.

I’ll be damned if I can get the move to work though. The device might still work in a future version of the play, but I haven’t the time to fuss with it now as it’s eaten up all my time over the past week and I think has become a mental block of sorts.

So last night I sat down and decided to give up on trying to use that predetermined move, and instead went back to a spot in the last scene where I had initially suppressed an impulse when I was trying to use that non-working device. I had nothing else thought out like that along the way when writing, and it was a mistake to try and force it – but I also thought it was just another method of writing – a tool of construction — but it didn’t work for me here. I went back to where the impulse had occurred, and of course that initial moment is gone forever now, but I followed out from there and came out with a variation on the ending I hadn’t quite imagined before and which I think flows more out of the way the show, and the immediately preceding moments build.

I think the actors will be surprised by the severity of the ending, and I’ve still got a couple of moderate variations on this version to play with as well, that I might even perhaps fluctuate between in actual performance just to see how each version leaves the audience. But this is the ending of this story … for now.


2 weeks until we open – gonna be a busy couple of weeks! Last night went EXTREMELY well as the scenes we’ve worked a bit are starting to take on solid shapes with the actors moving off book and us just having spent more time on that portion of the script. I have handed out 15 new pages of text in the last two weeks, brought in revisions last night on 5-6 of those pages, and I still have about 2-3 more pages I’ll be handing out on Sunday – that’ll be the end of the play.

It’s interesting how certain things I introduced in the start of the play have come back around and/or are being used in ways I hadn’t necessarily imagined at the time of writing – that’s great, I think! I am by no means trying to control everything that the text does – I am certainly monitoring and steering, but I guess I am trying to say that I don’t think I “know” everything about the story, and nor should I. I didn’t know how this would resolve when we began, and the story itself has certainly changed/expanded/contracted over the course of the process as well. This was the fun in writing the script for me: I had an idea and then just ran with it to see where it would lead us and what the story would even end up being just based on that idea of the three of them in this world with the table, and that this table exudes some sort of mystery or magic. After that, I have just tried to follow what seems like it should happen next while also working through some other staging ideas I had coupled with that initial nugget of the play. The actors have been IMMENSELY helpful and open-minded throughout the process … I am ever grateful to them.


Last night we did some initial work on a new scene between Chael & Kybe – went well. We combed about halfway through the scene in some detail after reading it through a number of times before putting it on its feet. We got a little into some of the physicality, but I’m saving it for when the scene is stronger – should be fun to watch them tackle and wrestle each other! HA! We’ll finish the detailing of this scene on Thursday, but it’s cool to see yet some slightly different stuff from the actors in the context of this new scene.

Taylor also brought by a large floor cloth beforehand that we might paint in some regard to create a floor space as well … still thinking on this …

When Matt arrived, we moved to a new room (oh the joys of using classrooms, shifting around the building, moving tables and chairs so we have space to work … fun, fun, fun!). We started with scheduling and other business chatter, and then read through the final scene again (well, almost – still got about a page or two that I’m struggling with at the very end … we’ve basically got the ending, and I’m just trying to smooth it out). Reading through the final scene found the actors having some questions, some VERY interesting theories about the story, and my basically seeing I need to tweak some of the scene I’ve already given them … not much, but I need to give Kybe a stronger voice in this final throwdown between the characters … it became more clear to me as I listened to them read the scene and try to make some level of sense out of their motivations, but most especially Kybe – is she kind or more controlling in this portion of the script? We’ll see what happens … so, that’s what I’m off to do now …


Over the past week we’ve spent time refining some earlier work, but really just drilling over small sections of text and then inching forward a bit and working the next small section. I find this useful for exposing the actors to the scene repeatedly which then enables memorization of the scene more easily … I think. Then, when we’re next together we are that much more confident in handling the moment-to-moment of the play that we can start to carve larger pictures while still delving in further on a more detailed level.

I can’t express with enough gusto how happy I am when actors are not on book as it just makes things go VERY smoothly and allows for more play. These folks have had the text they have now for a while and were gradually coming off book this past week, so I expect this week will see that be even better (right, actors? HA!) The hitch with the next bit of the process is that only just gave them the next 10 pages on Wednesday, and then I will give them the ending of the play on Sunday – about another 6 pages. So, these troubadours are being thrown a good chunk of new text over the course of a week, but then we have three weeks to make it jive with the first three quarters of the play which I am banking on being plenty of time.

Michael, Becky & Matt are all doing some incredible stuff with the text I’m providing, and it is just weird to watch it come to life. I look forward to watching others watch this as I’m having a hard time keeping perspective — I’m getting too involved in the piece in some sense to be objective, which I think is okay … to an extent.


So now I’m writing notes about rehearsal instead of working on the script … exciting things are happening in rehearsal though. I’m trying to attempt different angles of approach for these first couple of scenes to see in what direction we can go with it – how far will the text allow us to stretch certain behaviours and attitudes. I’m finding it extremely interesting how I can distance myself from what it is I’ve written in order to dig into it in a manner I’m used to from processes we’ve used in past rehearsals of more established/published plays.

And I’m VERY grateful to the commitment the actors are showing to the text and the playful manner they’re exhibiting to bring this piece to life. I just can’t say enough about how the energy the actors brings into the room in turn energizes me and influences the play – and it is *all* good.

And now it’s 1am and time for bed …


After leaving rehearsal last night, I realized my focus had shifted and I hadn’t noticed until afterwards: I was now directing, not focusing on the writing. It was interesting alteration of my perspective because up until last night I was very much steeped in whether the script was working and how to edit/change/fix it at times, if need be. But, during last night’s rehearsal I was digging into the text we actually have and trying to pull out what might be buried inside that text – which just so happens to be written by me, but didn’t seem so as I was working last night.

The actors are fearless and willing to try just about anything it seems, and in turn they are discovering their own variations on what I may have initially imagined for certain moments – this makes me happy and confident in the text to a degree, that it has the life in to play things differently. For instance, I asked Matt to try Atthe as more of a nice guy off the top and see what happens – still using the same words, etc – and it ended up being far more intriguing than the disgruntled version of the character we’d seen in that place earlier.

While I’m still nervous about exposing this project outside of our group, I become more and more comfortable and confident with what we’re creating every time we gather together.

Oh, and I finally settled on a title: The Table Experiments.


“UNTITLED TABLE PLAY” Notes – Mar 14/2011(AM)
It’s getting hard to find the time to write these thoughts – usually, when we do a project, I’m just tied up with duties for directing or acting, not busy creating the piece we’re working on as well which means I’m devoting my free time to script work and the writing for that as we begin to wrap up the story/play … but I have a few moments, so thought I’d share.

Last Sunday found us beginning with work on an Atthe monologue that arises after the first scene between Chael and Atthe. The shape worked well, but I’m adding one more portion after what is a bit of an aside that should enable the moment to drive more pointedly – this speech is spoken over some playful action by Chael and Kybe, so it needs to be high energy and not falter. We then moved onto the scene after that monologue between Atthe and Chael and this came to life in a slightly different way than I’d anticipated – which was great! Great use of the audience by Michael, and Matt brought stuff out of the lines I hadn’t really imagined which was good.

Mid-week found us finally visiting Becky’s first real scene, which is between Kybe & Atthe and the two of them brought the scene some great life in that first stab. Then we worked on some more group movement stuff which is so much fun to watch. And the next night it was just the guys again, and we worked their scenes discovering some little things here and there.

Then today (yesterday now?) we made a pass through the play from the top to the last scene I’ve given out and we stopped/started and re-worked some stuff along the way, but it was the next step that made all the work over the past week entirely worth it: We ran the play, no stops, from the top to that same last scene we have in play right now, and it was 53min of some interesting drama, but right now more importantly the actors found some new stuff along the way and used it on top of the recent discoveries made to really captivate me for the duration – I had fun watching, and I’d say that’s a good thing, eh?

I’ve no idea if anybody else will be as interested, but at times I felt like I hadn’t even been the person to create what the actors were then taking and performing – it was kinda surreal. I’m scared but also VERY intrigued to see an audience’s reaction — the last thing I want to do is waste anyone else’s time, and I think it’s safe to at least say that what we’ve created thus far would not be a waste (not a high goal, but everything else on top of that is icing! HA!) … we’ll hopefully have some fellow Shadows pop in to have a view or two along the way to help with the process and see how outsiders react and such.


“UNTITLED TABLE PLAY” Notes – Mar 3/2011(PM)
Ran the entire opening scene last night – well, it used to be the opening scene, and still is in my mind, but we now have a few other things going on before this moment of the play to lead the audience into the environment/world of the play. As I said in an earlier post, the entire idea germinated from the fact that we are always using a room with long rectangular tables, and then a world was created that stood outside of regular space/time concerns – for me that’s part of the fun of theatre, is that anything can happen. If an audience is willing to “believe in” and follow along with a drama set in a naturalistic setting (i.e. a kitchen or living room), and all the while this is happening while they sit in a theatre and watch real people on a stage, than it doesn’t seem so far of a stretch to me that an audience would be willing to go along with a slightly more fantastical story and space.

I am trying to lead us (me, the leader?) into creating a play I think I would enjoy and be intrigued by, *and* entertained by. I like things with loose ends and odd logic, and tangents of stories that may or may not resolve – I like art that makes me an active participant at enjoying it because that is where the enjoyment lies for me. And so, I hope we are creating something that not only tickles the imagination but is a fun ride at the same time.

Anyway, back to the opening scene: Matt & Michael know each other outside of this project fairly well, and so are comfortable together which is working perfectly. The characters are sorta strangers to each other, but should also be familiar to one another and that vibe read out very well during the moments that were more cohesive last night – we’re still in early stages as the writing has now settled in and we’ve got something firm to work with, so the guys are still getting used to the scene and my clunky dialogue (I’ve given them about 7 different versions of this scene ranging from extreme alterations to simple expansions and contractions of what was playing out. I’m happy with the version we have now. For now.)


“UNTITLED TABLE PLAY” Notes – Mar 1/2011(AM)
Tonight was some of the most fun I’ve had in a rehearsal room – with promises of it just getting more fun! The actors were all just throwing themselves into the movement scenes we were improvising and working. Again, I feel so lucky to have them as this moving and interactive canvas to move around and also have input from about the moving around, etc.

When we were last all together we’d created this notion of a game that wrapped up these movement scenes resulting in the character who was to return to the table being chosen (simply by the other two pointing at him/her in our initial version of the game). Then tonight we took the game notion a step further and instead decided trying to use actual children’s games – and it worked wonderfully.

For example, the first use of a game has the three characters playing a slightly warped version of musical chairs resulting in Chael being excluded when the music stops, and thus having to hopscotch back to the table (and it just worked perfectly that Michael ended up standing at the base of the hopscotch court when we first tried it; just like it worked out perfectly to have chosen the 2nd game during the next movement sequence based on the way the actors were all standing – I love when things just fall into place!)

So tonight just solidified for me that the incorporation of this parallel children’s story intermixed with the table tale was an excellent development – and it really helped push me forward in developing the story more. I’ve given the cast 19 pages of text so far, and I am *really* looking forward to taking the time to iron out each successive scene after that point so I can share it with the group and we can know how this story will end – and how that affects our beginning.


“UNTITLED TABLE PLAY” Notes – Feb 26/2011(AM)
This whole project began when I thought of the one thing we always have access to in the classrooms we use for rehearsals — a table.

This is a daunting exhilarating experience for me. The only way to *finish* a play (for me) is to set the run dates, book the space, cast the show and hit go – so that’s what I did (I *need* a deadline). I had a half-ish finished script and many scribbled passages, stories, snippets of dialogue between these three characters. I’ve had these three actors in my mind for the characters throughout much of the text development (an actor or two changed in my mind at one point) and so the roles are in some sense tailored to these actors, but I think also extend beyond them.

But now I’ve gotten to play with the actors in the space and it is eye opening and extremely helpful to be able to play out the scenes as they’re developed (go figure!), so I owe a HUGE amount of gratitude towards these actors for submitting themselves to this process – you are all wonderful.

We’ve only met a few times with all of us since Becky has been busy with other projects, which worked out fine as the opening of the show basically omits her … sorta. Anyway, we’ve been working stuff with Matt & Michael and our last session together saw the opening scene play out quite nicely, I thought – it’s also a good 15-20min.

In one of the rehearsals with everyone we worked on some scenarios for these movement/mask sections that are interspersed throughout the story, telling a parallel story. Anyway, I had this need to use these moments in some way but wasn’t sure how. With just the guys we worked some stuff one day, but then when Becky joined us for an afternoon we really made some progress and developed a narrative and movement to tell some of that story, and worked on striking some still poses as well. Then I went home that night and changed a great deal of what we did – I created a new narrative – but I couldn’t have found that development in the story without these fantastic actors, and that evolution in turn altered the main story a bit and gave me a better focus.

The weather and illness have plagued us this past week or so, but Becky is just about to join us full time, I’ve got more script for everyone, and we get going again on Sunday … I’m awfully lucky to be able to do this, and I am grateful … believe me …


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