How do you boil 16 months down into one day? All the twists, turns, discoveries, and information? How can the climax of a story resonate with all the details we’ve discovered in it? Were we prepared for what was to come next? These were some of the questions I had walking into final workshop for The Cherry Orchard, which we had on December 19th.
After a break for the holidays, our actual (official?) rehearsal process was to begin on January 3rd. As many of you may know, a rehearsal process is about preparing for a result. The performances. But our 16-month workshop process was about something different — tearing up the garden of Chekhov’s masterpiece and seeing what kind of food we could pilfer from all the exposed roots. Experimentation, the search for a dramaturgical perspective, and the development of an ensemble – that’s the unique kind of work our 16 months had been composed of.
Even walking into our workshop that day, however, I could tell we were already on the verge of something else. Something definitive and exciting. The final day of workshop also brought us the first day in our actual rehearsal space at ACT Theatre. Throughout the day, our rehearsal props poured in, much to the nearly childish delight of our actors. Getting to work with props is akin to playing with a real basketball after months of studying plays and developing form and muscle. It brings to light a whole other level of storytelling and detail that is just waiting to be discovered. Since this is Chekhov, there were a whole lot of discoveries to be made, all laid out on four long tables in the rehearsal room (and later stacked on a couple of tables, as you can see below).
The rest of the day was one unlike any other. We went through much of our normal training, moving into vocal work, and movement/dance with our phenomenal Movement Director Helen Heaslip. Then we ran the first act in our Seagull Project format: nothing set in stone other than a few objectives and events that I helped draw up just before the run. Oh, and the props. Everyone had to play with the props.
We couldn’t stuff everything into the day. Heck, we couldn’t even run the whole play. But the energy was palpable, and the stories we told that day resonated with a sincerity and sense of love that brought me flashes of all the days that had come before.
So, how do you boil 16 months down into one day? I think the answer is, you don’t. You take a look at the world around you, accept that both you and it has changed, and continue to set your eyes to something like a full transformation on the horizon. We’re going to breath this world in, and take a collective step into a January spent in The Cherry Orchard.