How a Mustard Seed Grows a Play
  • Video: All is Calm

 

Scene from last season's All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 

 

video courtesy of Two on the Aisle 

by Leslie Wobbe
 
As the Associate Artistic Director of MST I have the pleasure of maintaining the mailing lists, laying out programs and posters, working on grants and wrangling budgets-all of which I genuinely enjoy.  As you can imagine "creatives" frequently don't "do" details and numbers so I love that my obsessive side has an outlet in something I love.  On occasion, though, I get to don my own creative hat as an actor and I thought I'd write down some of my thoughts about being a part of the creative process-or at least THIS creative process of Imaginary Jesus. 
 
AUDITIONS:  Whew!  More complicated than it looks.  MST frequently throws out rules about gender and race in the casting process and this show particularly lends itself to ignoring traditional roles and looks.  But it is still a fine art to find talents that you think will blend and support one another.  Thank God that's Deanna's job!
 
READ THROUGH:  Exciting, anticipatory and a little awkward.  Some of the actors have worked together before.  Some have never met.  Some haven't met but know each other by reputation. Some are married to each other.  Anyway, it's a mixed bag.  But as we read the script together and find the funny bits and the serious bits we begin to see a big picture. Hazy, but there.
 
BEGINNING:  Work.  In the beginning we are all literally stumbling around.  MST is fortunate to rehearse where we perform so we have pieces of the set and even some props.  Many companies do not have this luxury and must work with tape on the floor, a ground plan and their imagination.  Having the set in place means we have more time to navigate cat-walks, moving triangles, entrances and exits.
 
In Deanna's style the first thing we do is "block" the show.  (For novices that means she tells us where our bodies should be moving in and out of scenes on and off stage.) This is just a framework.  It won't be exactly the same in performance but pretty close.  Believe it or not, it is work.  A lot of waiting for your turn, stopping and starting, and writing in the margins of your script.  This is also where we begin the bonding process as a cast.  Gathering at the coffee pot, actor's exercises (who knew counting to three could require so much concentration!) and trying to get to know each other.  It reminds me of preschoolers at the sand table.  We play next to each other and occasionally notice each other's toys, but we don't play TOGETHER yet.  It can be pretty disjointed because all of us may not be at rehearsal at the same time - in an effort to minimize waiting around - and scenes may not be blocked in the order they appear in the show.
 
So that is where we are now.  It's Friday and we have the night off tonight to let some things sink in.  Then we begin again tomorrow afternoon to put things together as much as possible.  Stay tuned for the MIDDLE portion of the process!

 

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