As I slowly began my ascent out of tech week for a Femina Shakes production of Henry IV, Part One (shameless plug) an article entitled “What I Learned from Not Rehearsing Shakespeare Plays” began to circulate through my newsfeed on various social media platforms. Of course I had to read it… what kind of SM doesn’t read an article on their playwright? Ladvina Jadhwani, after seeing a barely rehearsed Much Ado decided to experiment with Henry IV, Part One.
I could feel myself getting defensive- how dare they do my show?!
The further I got into this article, the more I was filled with unreasonable emotions. For starters, I had 8 weeks of rehearsal; how could they possibly do it in two? They cut their script down to an hour and a half–at this point I had fully inhabited the green eyed monster. I told myself, “Lindy, this isn’t your show. The man whose show it actually is, is dead. Very dead.” Remarkably, I listened to this strange voice of logic. And with that, I began again with the goal of understanding. I chose to disregard the fact that they were mildly rehearsed and focused on what was actually learned… the point of the article. (Surprise: this choice served me well.)
The key points of the article are:
- Say “yes” early and often
- Say “I don’t know” whenever appropriate
- Attended to entrances and exits
- Let the language do the work for you
I’ll have to admit that I was in favor of the these principles. I’m a big-budget, commercial entertainment theatre kind of theatre-maker, and sometimes that can be a very hard thing to say to people who want their art to make a change. I’m not discounting it, nor am I saying that theatre can’t create change, I’m just saying that it’s not what I want to do. My show, with 23 light cues, is absolutely remarkable. It brings out the actors’ talents far more than any set or soundscape could possibly do, and it’s because we – as an ensemble – chose to honor these key principles, even without knowing we were.
Theatre doesn’t need to be about the entertainment value. It doesn’t need to be Equity to sell. Theatre is an art built off of the principles of collaboration. It’s about trying everything and seeing what works. It’s about honoring the differences between people and their processes. It is not about taking control of a room. Theatre is about benefitting the whole. We don’t make enough money for theatre to have a set formula. We are ever changing. We shift from show to show, cast to cast, location to location. We are in an industry that is rapidly changing and dwindling. There is no way for any one person to possibly take the reigns on this phenomena.
What did I learn from reading an article on not rehearsing a shakespeare play while working on a rehearsed shakespeare play? Nothing about how Shakespeare should or shouldn’t be done. I learned about collaborative theatre making. I learned that a stage manager isn’t a weird entity that gives actors their call times. I don’t just sit there and take down blocking and create paperwork. I’m a facilitator, and that’s actually important.