Today was my first opportunity as part of the Cohorts group, to observe the actors from the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, honing their lines from Scene 2  of The Royale, the story of Jay Jackson, (Jack Johnson) the first black boxer to attain the title of World Heavyweight Champion.

Jay, the boxer, manager Wynton and his promoter Max are discussing negotiations to tease the retired world champion out of retirement to fight Jay Jackson. So begins the scene…

Director Megan Sandberg-Zakian led the ensemble through the intimacies of the scene with ease, commanding each actor’s best self with humorous, yet respectful comments and commentary. She expertly interceded; reacting, repeating, refining, reiterating particular phrases and words until suddenly the printed pages became as three-dimensional as the characters who spoke them.

We, as theater goers, see and feel the characters in these moments, and hear the words spoken just once; what we are not privy to, is the sculpting of each of those moments, the fine tuning of the intonation and articulation of a phrase or even a single word. the work is intensive… and impressive.

Megan led by example, expressing her vision, perspective, and interpretation of the playwright’s intentions and, in turn,  Jeorge and Tom, Toran and Mark worked to breathe  life into the characters,  four ordinary men determined to help make boxing history. With the energy and rhythm palpable in the room, I suddenly felt myself transported  from the rehearsal hall to Jay’s dressing room, near ringside; the two hours just flew by!

Boxing would not be my normal purview, But I am intrigued and curious about what comes next. Can’t wait to see them on stage at dress rehearsal!

–Carol Lyman, Cohort

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The cast of The Royale: Mark W. Soucy, Toran White, Thomas Silcott, Jeorge Bennett Watson, and Ramona Lisa Alexander. Photo by Meghan Moore.
The Royale runs September 13 – October 8.

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