(Finally! A blog by Associate Artist James Carpenter!)
So here I am, ostensibly blogging for Cal Shakes, I’m 3 weeks into the rehearsal process of Uncle Vanya, and have not blogged one single letter of the process…
Why is that? Well, hard to explain.
Excuse # 1. I fear Chekhov. Yes, I’ve a bad case of Chekhovphobia; I can’t always sense on reading his plays just how they function–it’s only in rehearsal, that I begin to see the dynamics of what the author may have intended. So, happily here is a cure for my phobia–I just have to do it. It does, however, lead to some hesitancy on my part on blogging the process. Apologies. And many thanks to Timothy Near, our director, who has helped immensely with my therapy.
Excuse # 2. The role of Professor Serebryakov is a great role, a pivotal one, but he’s got one line in act 1, a big scene in act 2 with his wife (others come in later at which point he leaves), a big scene in act 3, and a small scene in 4. As a consequence I’ve been called in to rehearse for a few hours here, a few there and have only a faint overview of the show as a whole and little interaction with the other actors on stage.
It’s odd when this happens–you’re cast in a role in which you have little to do, or one in which you interact only with a few people in the production and as a result feel almost that you’re in another play. Which is arguably as it should be with this character–he does feel apart, out of his element and alienated.
Excuse # 3. I hate my character. Not the role mind you, but the the man that Chekhov has limned so acutely. He’s spoiled, arrogant, selfish, and conceited; he looks down on all the others and has no tolerance or understanding of their lives and the challenges they face. I’ve known real people like this and I didn’t like them either.
Thankfully though, I once played a character which I found to be thoroughly disagreeable and on expressing my feelings to another actor was told “Well then, you’ll probably never be any good at it, will you?”, so I have a prior lesson to go by on that excuse, and while I’ll probably never ever love this man, I will find a way to tolerate him, at the least.
Excuse # 4. This is a rough one–Many times actors are required to perform in roles that are out of their experiential realm. We have to find ways of accessing those same feelings, perhaps finding experiences in our own lives which engender parallel emotions. I’m playing an older man than myself, one who has health problems and who fears death and stultification. This has caused me to explore some of my own fears so I can perform the role and it’s put me in a bit of a dark spot. Apologies again. I’m better now.
Doing Chekhov seems to have affected my dream life as well; one of my more notable dream sequences had me afflicted with a bout of uncontrollable flatulence–and not just occasional mind you, but a muted continuous “Bbbbrrrrrpppppppttt” which varied in pitch up and down the musical scale and which followed me wherever I went, sometimes stressed in tempo with my footsteps.
It would occasionally cease when I came to rest to pour myself a cup of coffee, say, and would be accompanied by a long Chekhovian pause by cast and crew who breathlessly awaited to see if Jim’s farting spell had finally abated. I knew they were waiting. They knew I knew, but were feigning nonchalance. The air would still and silence reign as I slowly stirred in my sugar and half half, silently, fervently praying for no resumption of intestinal volcanism. And breaths would expel in unison, life unpause and begin anew–albeit with some grumbling on the part of the others (“When is he going to stop?”)–as I strolled away pooting helplessly, apologetically.
I don’t think I want to know what that one means.
Coming up: Hysterical Chekhov stories!