The latest in a series of dispatches from inside the rehearsal process for Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, written by the show’s director (and Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director) Jonathan Moscone.July 24, 2009—it’s so beautiful, so sad, so oddly heartening. The theater so rarely gets to the heart, the real heart of the matter, and the distilled image of these two at the end on the mound is just that: the heart onstage.—she even cracked herself up. Amazing how that happens. Something so painful being so funny. It’s like Chekhov taking to the extreme.
Today we assayed Act Two. Marsha made so many profound discoveries and is really finding out what it means to be buried up to her neck. I mean, can you imagine that? Well, Beckett did. Which is why he is so amazing. And so difficult. But oddly, without activity other than eye movement, her heart beating, and her words, Marsha drives Winnie amazingly, assuredly through this portion of the play.
Then Dan came in to rehearse Willie’s first time coming over to “this side of the mound.” I won’t give away the plot, but it had us in tears
I know I know. Beckett is a brain. A mind among minds. And we know that in rehearsal. We are sometimes a bit daunted by the Everest like nature of scaling this piece. But the heart, it’s all about the heart at the end of the day. Like Shakespeare, you may not got every word, but if there is palpable connection between actor and words, where thoughts are the results of feelings, and in turn, feelings the result of words, the brain gives way and one can feel it.
We all go home from rehearsal haunted, daunted, heartened, and nervous. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But if not here at Cal Shakes, then where? I am lucky to go through this massively difficult piece. I couldn’t do it anywhere else. I don’t know how it will all play out (a theme of these blogs) but I am reminded that this is a journey, and we’re carving out a path to somewhere that I hope is rich with feeling and smart with thought.
Marsha was pretty damned funny today
Sometimes when I am directing, I wish I were doing something else. Like selling shoes. I love shoes. And I’d probably get a discount. But then again, who needs more shoes? I think I need theater.