| Rehearsal Diary

Week Four

Our final week in the rehearsal room is spent consolidating the discoveries of the previous weeks and preparing the production for its impending transition to our new home at Wyndham’s Theatre. We spend the first few days working through the play one last time, linking sections together to help the actors with their sense of flow and stopping to remind ourselves of discoveries we made in the previous week so that we’re able to continue implementing them with focus.

actor pulling canvas
Red rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

We make new discoveries. For example, we all agree a debate in Scene Three has begun to feel a little like a ‘set piece’. We experiment with ways to make it feel more integrated within the action of the scene, breaking up the conversation by interspersing it with routine work of the studio, such as stapling a canvas as it is prepared. This transforms the sequence into a debate that takes place within the life of the studio, springing naturally from the actions of the characters. This exercise also helps the actors realise they can never relax with this text – they must really stay ‘on it’ and engaged so that the emotions and passions that the characters feel about what they are debating remain on the surface. This will be crucial in helping the audience to connect with the more intellectually demanding sections of dialogue.

actor in paint-spattered shirt leaning over sink
Red rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

In the second half of the week we do several runthroughs of the entire play with members of the Creative Team and staff from the theatre in attendance. They act as a useful test audience for us, giving the actors their first sense of how an audience will respond to the rhythms of the play and suggesting changes we might make. We notice, for example, a particular argument seems to lose tension in front of our first audience and so we discuss how best to maintain the stakes of this section by defining what it means to both of our characters.

two actors carry a large painter's canvas
Red rehearsals. Photo: Marc Brenner

Viewing the production as a whole through the eyes of these mini-audiences lets us analyse the effect of our scene changes further. Michael is keen that they are integrated into the narrative so that the audience feels the developing relationship and the passing of time within these transitions. We discover that increasing the amount of eye-contact between the actors within the transitions, and taking more time to look at the paintings after they have hung them, has a significant effect in making these sequences a continuation of the story rather than an interruption.

Each runthrough offers new questions and ideas. Michael identifies John Logan’s repeated use of the word ‘place’ after hearing it recur throughout a run – for Rothko, the idea of a ‘place’ where his work can live and be contemplated has a profoundly spiritual resonance. This provokes the actors to consider their characters’ use of the word, which has powerful and clear results during the next run. We end the week feeling ready and eager to move into the theatre – confident in the progress and decisions we have made in the rehearsal room and aware of the exciting challenges ahead, which a new space and new audiences will bring.