Jumping In

It’s been an exciting few days: casting is now almost complete (and I have very solid leads for the remaining roles); a mis-reading of a piece of writing about the play has given me some very interesting ideas on the costuming and overall look of the show; and today the first rehearsal took place.

To take these in order, all my possible actors from the previous post have now confirmed, and I have been meeting with some really interesting people from around the local area, slowly but surely completing the rest of the cast; I now just have three roles left to fill (and I feel very optimistic that one of them will be taken by a great guy I met early today for a chat/read). One of the most pleasing things is that I have been pretty well able to cast to age: the girls are 16 to early 20s, Giles is in his upper 70s, and the remainder of the performers are a mixture of ages in between. As The Crucible  is  really about a communuity and all its members, I am delighted to have such an appropriate range of performers.

Next, the reading – or mis-reading  –  I mentioned,  was of some notes  about Arthur Miller’s own direction of an early production of The Crucible in (I think) New York. I came across something that said he had directed the play in black and white and I assumed this meant black and white costumes, which excited me as being great for representing the apparently “black and white” attitude of many of the characters regarding witchcraft etc. When I re-read the notes, however, I discovered Miller had used black costumes and a bright white light, so not quite as I had originally thought. However, I am still excited about the black and white costume idea – possibly with some appropriate characters in shades of grey, and maybe a little judicious use of red from time to time. We’ll see…

Finally, a word about today’s rehearsal. The beginning of a  first reheasal always feels like diving,  jumping – or belly-flopping in my case – into water; it’s scary, though exhilarating. As I chose to start by looking at Act 2, I “jumped in” today with Proctor, Elizabeth, Mary Warren and Hale. We worked gently through two thirds of the act, blocking, and  making some nice discoveries about the characters, their relationships, and the venue and how it works.

The initial splash is over – and it was fun!

elaru xx

Team Building

I mentioned last blog that the casting process was likely to take a couple of weeks, and indeed it is proving to be as complicated as I feared/hoped. The reason for “feared/hoped” is that while in some ways I would have loved there to be a simple answer – a blinding flash in the auditions as each character presented him/herself in actor form – in fact there is a real excitement in not having such simplicity – in  trying to juggle a mix of talented people, some of whom could clearly play several roles,  into the best places for the show as a whole. I’m getting there… with a definite Elizabeth, Hathorne and Hopkins ( a tiny part, usually doubled with Herrick and/or Cheever – but my guy’s going to be a fab cameo!); an almost definite Proctor, Hale, Putnam, Mercy, Susanna and Herrick; a possible Tituba (if she’s reading this, I really hope she goes for it!); and lots of options and possibles for the remaining cast. Rehearsals will start next week, so decisions will soon be made.

One of the things that pleases me most in terms of the likely cast is the mixture of people. Several of them I have known and worked with for many years; several I know, but have never worked with in this capacity; some are relatively new contacts – rapidly becoming friends; and some are brand new.  I think we’ll be a good team; aside from talent, humour is a vital attribute in an actor as far as I’m concerned – even (or perhaps especially) when preparing such a serious play – and laughter abounded at the auditions. (I was particularly grateful for the good-humoured laughter from the five first actors to audition; they had to sit outside the priory on the grass for 20 minutes while I frantically phoned around to locate a key for a building which should have been left unlocked for us…)

I’m now looking forward to the rehearsal process even more.

elaru xx

The Beginning of the End

It’s the day before The Crucible auditions, and I’ve decided to try to blog the process from beginning to end.

The Crucible. A daunting, yet desperately exciting, prospect. It’s a strange feeling, coming back to this piece. I played the role of Abigail 18 years ago, when doing my A-levels, and I have been totally in love with the play ever since – re-reading it several times over the intervening years; I find it challenging, terrifying, uplifting and so dramatically clever that, for me,  it is almost a perfect piece of theatre.

The process of putting on a show is rather like a relationship and at the minute, I am  definitely in the early infatuation stage. I know it won’t always be  this easy – plays, like people, tend to become more complicated as time passes (though this is not necessarily a negative trait!).  In this early stage, though, the play can do no wrong; the more I read and re-read it, the more it gives and moulds itself to my dreams – presenting clue after clue as to how  it should be directed. I want to know everything about it – and so am obsessively reading history books about Salem, essays about the play itself, reviews of previous productions…whenever I get a spare moment.

This infatuation will continue in various forms throughout the process, I expect, but tomorrow a new phase starts – the casting. For me, casting, exciting as it is, always signifies the beginning of the end. At the moment, the play is mine. Well, mine and Arthur Miller’s! I am aware how selfish that sounds, but one of the joys of directing is the pre-show preparation; in my head –  I can play as I wish – I can create the perfect show – an ability I certainly don’t possess in real life! But tomorrow it becomes real –  the actors will begin to take over the roles (or some of them at least – casting this time is likely to take a couple of weeks in total) . They will start to become the show’s cast. This is the next stage – the movement from my fantasy to what will be reality.

It’s a good job that one of the (many) other great joys – probably the greatest – of being a director is working with talented, passionate, creative people. And this also really begins tomorrow. This means that any brief sadness at losing some of the elements I’ve played with in my head – as the realities of casting, venue etc kick in – will almost certainly be completely blown away by the excitement of seeing what the actors – and indeed the setting (in this case a priory building) – bring to their roles and to the show as a whole. It is always a privilege and a pleasure to witness this, and to take a part in developing the team.

I can’t wait!

elaru xx