MIKE FRIEDMAN: What happens on the first day?

first read
First rehearsal of Home of the Brave, March 29

Sean, Lila Rose (the playwright), the actors and production team sit around a large table, with the Cohorts in a circle around them. The actors just started reading through the script together for the first time. The atmosphere seems relaxed, with frequent laughs from the Cohorts. This is going to be very funny, and very entertaining! It would be interesting to know how much work and preparation was spent on the road to this first reading.

After a short break comes the more interactive part of today’s rehearsal: going carefully through the script again, discussing it, asking questions, proposing ideas.

There is a lot to discuss. The characters may behave in farcical and at times absurd ways, but it still is very important to question, discuss and make sense of their, their perception of themselves and the world around them, their motivation. Why did Bernadette run for the Senate, and what were her plans before Adrian appeared?  What was Marianne’s college experience and relationship with her mother before she turns up for the Christmas dinner?  Just what has been the course of the relationship between Val and Marianne?

I come back from feeding the parking meter just in time to hear Sean preface the meeting: “I am not here to have the best ideas, but to hear the best ideas.  . . We must figure out challenges like the barn scene together. . .” Sounds great, but how will it play out in reality? It soon becomes apparent that the director has thought at length about the character, and is able to speak about each with calm assurance, as if he were reading from a more detailed script before his mind’s eye. But Sean’s approach is to start each segment of the discussion with a question, as a sort Platonic dialogue.  Did you always want to be a politician? . .  . How has your experience been in the Senate? . . .  How early should we reveal that Adrian is evil?  . . . What is the backstory of the relationship between Marianne and Val? . .  . I think that if I were at the table, I would be encouraged by the respect shown by the director to the actors . . . and more flexible later on if asked to do something “his” way.

The actors seem relaxed but focused (or could they be acting?).   They comment on and ask questions about their characters, and respond to Sean’s inquiries and comments. There is a lot of humor and laughter. Consensus is reached so far without much difficulty. Lila Rose, sitting next to Sean, at times makes changes to the script, and the actors read through the modified section.

-Mike Friedman, Cohort

 

homeofthebrave-470sq_0
Home of the Brave runs April 20 – May 15 at Merrimack Repertory Theatre. Karen MacDonald, pictured.

 

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