Monday, July 20, 2009

Joshua's Rehearsal thoughts.

Panic, fear, empathy and unity. How strange yet surprisingly obvious it is to discover that all these elements operate together so well. The past week has been an opportunity for all of us in the cast to explore infinite facets of shape, tempo, and spatial relationships.

It is Day 7 of the rehearsal process and my alarm clock starts to sound off like it normally does but this morning I do not move a muscle. For one thing I feel stiff as a board. My knees are bruised, my thighs are stretched, the bottom of my feet are callused and even my fingers feel swollen and worn out. What has become of me? I go to sleep a hard working, energetic 28 year old and suddenly wake up with the body of an octogenarian? No… Ladies and Gentleman this sensation I am experiencing is the result of rehearsing for 7 days using a theatrical/rehearsal technique called VIEWPOINTS.

Now, I am not taking the initiative to jump right out of dream land smack the snooze button because I am so tired and sore. Oh no…that would be too simple. I am lying in bed hearing the alarm and wanting so badly turn it off…but I question myself. Is my first instinct actually just automatic response? Or is the sound I am hearing really compelling me to get up and do what I would normally do? I can just hear one of our VIEWPOINTS leader’s in her very best Kathleen Turner inspired voice saying “Keep in mind of your spatial relationships. What purpose are you serving in the picture? What is your tempo? Go to extremes. Take in the architecture…take in the environment…Remember kinesthetic response!”

Wait a second are you feeling confused? Not sure where I am coming from or exactly where I am trying to go with this journal entry? Well neither do I. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling none of the actors in the cast really do either. This is the great experiment that has been our rehearsal process so far for WAR OF THE WORLDS. A blank wooden stage where you can freely move as long as you walk on an imaginary grid line…the repetitive phrases of Phillip Glass pouring out of the PA system and a bunch of actors devising and discovering who they are and what their specific purpose is in this production. Letting nothing else lead us but our instincts, and our sensitivity to the stimuli. If he moves do I move? Do I want to move? Wait…should I even be moving?

At times over the past few days I have wondered what it is that we are doing. What does this all look like out there in the audience? Is it maniacal? Is it beautiful? Does it move people to tears or inspire them to vomit their previous meal in the nearest wastebasket? I have no clue. But I will say that when the confusing process is over I feel exhilarated. When I stop being confused and just put the world of the stage aside and allow my moments to be led by a “soft focus” of senses is when the magic usually starts to happen. The game of exploration begins and when the actors are finally led to stop and “restore” it feels like I am basking in the “afterglow” of some sensational all night love making or like I just came out of some spiritual psychedelic drug trip. At times I totally forget who I am. You know the actor with a name, who was born at this particular time and comes from a background of such and such a people and has my own personal world view. These parameters start to peel away, and I feel myself starting to become a unit of something bigger than me. I become part of a living performance, a link in the chain of creative stimuli affecting other stimuli. A small piece of sand getting blown by the wind of imagination and changing the unknown into something tangible. These are the things that make it all worth the effort.

- Joshua Weidenhamer

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rehearsal Video 7

Here is the latest clip from our spacing rehearsal in the Goldman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Teaser Trailer!!!

What are you afraid of? Check out the teaser for the upcoming production of War of the Worlds! Made by Erika Wilhite and Jessica Earley.

Rehearsal Videos 1,4,5,6

Monday, July 13, 2009

Giving you a window into our process.

When creating our concept for War of the Worlds, we decided that we really wanted to explore the stories of those effected by the broadcast—so the Public was created. They expose the tricks Orson Welles used to manipulate the beliefs of his listeners during the original broadcast. They give voice to what happens when we depend too much on media and don't question our impressions of the world.

In this vein, we thought it would be great to expose you, our public, to some of the goings on in our rehearsal process. Perhaps exposing our tricks, maybe giving some context before you see the show, and hopefully sparking your interest by giving you a window into our world.

During the course of our project we are using a tool called Viewpoints. I like to compare it to sketching a drawing before you paint a picture. When you sketch you observe and explore the different elements of your subject. Things like shape, proportion, line weight, or shading. Over the course of many sketches you get familiar with your subject, and pull bits and pieces from each of your drawings when you go to make your final painting.

Viewpoints is similar. In these exercises we introduce our elements of creation. We use things like shape, tempo/rhythm, space, and gesture to sketch our subject, the text. In our first rehearsal (video 1) we introduced our cast to viewpoints by exploring each viewpoint without the context of the show. As rehearsals have continued we have introduced things like music, themes from the show, and text. When devising a show, this gives us a starting place and a common language to move forward with other parts of the process. Sometimes its a stage image, sometimes an emotion, or even what it means to be part of a group. These sketched elements turn into story and into blocking. We then integrate this into our final product, the show we present to you.

Our latest video, from our 6th rehearsal, is showing that next stage of the process. Realize that these videos are just glimpses, bits we found interesting and thought represent part of our journey. As we move forward, we invite you to ask questions, contribute your thoughts, and maybe share some of your own stories.

Thank you for letting us open up what is usually never seen by an audience. We find it exciting to share, and really think it will be more enriching for both of us. I look forward to you joining us when our sketch turns into a painting.

-Joseph Fletcher

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Process - Day #1.

"We annihilated the world before your ears." -Orson Welles

On October 30, 1938 twelve million people were sent into a state of panic when they started hearing live reports of a Martian invasion. Come relive the broadcast and see how millions fell into fear. This new production exposes the tricks behind the original radio cast by reliving it through the perspective of its listeners.

During last night's first rehearsal, the directors (Aradhana Tiwari and Joseph Fletcher) challenged the cast by asking open-ended questions such as: What is news? Why do we choose to believe in something? Why do we fall into fear so easily?

As the cast discussed the possible answers to these questions, we began to examine the many factors that play into the power of belief. There is that battle of knowledge vs. belief. Afterall, knowledge is useless if there are no believers. Additionally, timing is a key ingredient. Many Americans listening to the War of the Worlds broadcast thought the descriptions of martians were actually Germans. We also examined the expansion and transfer of energy. If chaotic and panicked energy spreads quickly around you, even the most reasonable person can be swept up in the ballyhoo.

What Orson Welles did, essentially, was change the way people think about the world around them in one short hour. He presented a new point of view. How did he do this?

Orson Welles played on people's fear of the unknown; he played on the naivete of the public. Mr. Welles, and his team of actors from the Mercury Theatre, spoke with conviction, which lead audiences to believe they were hearing news from trustworthy sources.

Additionally, the writer of the on-air dramatization, Howard Koch, (who based his radio script on author H.G. Wells' classic science-fiction novel "The War of the Worlds") carefully choose the language for his piece.

Mr. Koch utilized a cacophony of language and sound effects to instill fear into the minds of the listeners, enabling them to feel terrified and hopeless. Such words and phrases as: "fire", "explosion", "calamity", "charred bodies", "black smoke pouring in", "mysterious dark figures", "roads hopelessly jammed", and "everything wiped out" created uncertainty and horror. The sound effects of men screaming, helicopters spiraling downward, women and children yelling and crying, mumbling, and the ever-so-haunting sound of silence.

The diction used to describe the martians depicts an antichrist-like figure that rivals the descriptions used in the famous William Butler Yeats poem "The Second Coming." Details such as: "salivating monster", "large as a bear", "black eyes", "strange beings" and "men crushed under giant metal legs" create an image of an invincible adversary.

Beyond studying the words of the piece, the actors also worked with movement. Incorportating Anne Bogart's "Viewpoints" into the show will only help to further solidify the story, and help to meld both worlds together: the public and the Mercury theatre actors. As we moved through the space, we experimented with levels, behavioral gestures, duration, and sound. As we traveled around the small space, improvising and testing our comfort levels, we united at the end to create a beautiful image of the calm after the storm.

It is easy to scoff at the 1938 radio broadcast now (hindsight is always 20-20, isn't it?), and to scrutinize the errors of Mr. Koch's radio script. However, a similar hoax could again fool the public. Naturally, it would be a more difficult task now as we have many different news sources through the television, internet, and radio. Just remember what Mr. Welles said, "Don't drink everything that comes out of the tap."

By: Lindsay Cohen