Inside the Séance: Blithe Spirit Rehearsal Blog July 31

The following was written by Blithe Spirit Assistant Director Megan Sada. Stay tuned for more dispatches from inside the rehearsal room.

seance

A traditional séance.

The production and artistic teams and cast are back from their break early in anticipation of today’s visitor to the rehearsal room. Much like the Bradmans and Condomines in Blithe Spirit, we are half skeptical, half wanting to believe. Unsure of what we should be doing, we stare quietly as the medium, Medusa, and her friend as they circle a table with 12 chairs around it, breathing heavily, almost running. Medusa swooshes the air in front of her every few steps, as if pushing something unseen forward and out of her way. The rest of us are in awe or just standing awkwardly, wondering what will come next.

We are in our third week of rehearsals for Blithe Spirit. Since a great deal of the play deals with the materialization of a ghost after a séance, we are all curious about what a real one looks and feels like.

Medusa introduces herself and asks us to all sit in the chairs. She tells us that we cannot get up or leave during the séance. She tells us that she doesn’t fake it, so that if the table is shaking, chances are it’s an earthquake. We take a deep breath and she begins to open a door to the “other side.” As most of us are unfamiliar, we do a great deal of wide-eyed looking at one another. Medusa is saying words I don’t recognize but which seems to be a call to the dead; when she does start speaking in English, she quite clearly says that those who only wish to do good or send a message for good are welcome in this space. She asks the volunteers—us—to say the names of their dead out loud. She then says that the group should repeat the name when she calls to them, as our energy will help them come forward.

“Robert…Robert…Robert…Robert…”

Robert makes Medusa nauseous. He apparently doesn’t approve of this séance and leaves.

“Margaret…Margaret…Margaret…Margaret…”

Margaret is full of love. She is happy. She sends her love and leaves…

“Yondel…Yondel…Yondel…Yondel…”

Yondel needs something. He needs to be lead. Ah…he needs forgiveness to pass. Forgive him? Yes.

“Harvey…Harvey…Harvey…Harvey…”

Harvey is laughing. Have a beer with Harvey? Yes. Harvey says firm love will help those who miss him.

“Anyone else? You sure? OK…you?”

“Billy…Billy…Billy…Billy…”

Billy loves you and is proud of you. You’re fulfilling your dream.

“No one else?”

“Thank you to the dead, and please leave now.”

We all dispersed in an odd way—those who spoke to their dead mostly leaving without saying much of anything, the rest of us exchanging whispers as we departed.

The next day, we recounted our individual experiences, each admitting to moments of both questioning and believing. I think our experiences will inform the performance. It definitely helped Domenique Lozano (Madame Arcati) come up with some new ideas for the séance in Blithe Spirit. And, it gave her confidence in that some of her instincts were already spot on.

One fascinating thing that Medusa told us was that “after all, the dead aren’t necessarily enlightened.” That statement gave us all a good laugh. In one way or another, the séance did affect us all. I’m not sure if anyone has gone from being skeptical to being a believer, but we were certainly all moved by the experience.

Blithe Spirit begins previews next Wednesday, August 8; stay tuned for a blog from the designer run later this week. Tickets are available at calshakes.org/tickets or by calling 510.548.9666.

Share

Food for Thought: Blithe Spirit Rehearsal Blog July 18

The following was written by Director of Marketing and Communications Janet Magleby, after sitting in on rehearsals this week. Stay tuned for weekly dispatches from the room!

Anthony Fusco as Charles, Jessica Kitchens as Elvira, and René Augesen as Ruth; photo by Kevin Berne.

Anthony Fusco as Charles, Jessica Kitchens as Elvira, and René Augesen as Ruth; photo by Kevin Berne.

As the Blithe Spirit rehearsal picks up after a ten-minute break in the Cal Shakes rehearsal hall, Stage Manager Corrie Bennett announces, “and we’re back.” Rebekah Brockman, playing Edith the maid, practices walking and balancing a silver tea set on a tray. “Let’s start with page 77 and the doorbell,” says Director Mark Rucker.  Composer/Sound Designer Will McCandless presses the magic button and the doorbell announces Madam Arcati (Domenique Lozano). She has come to visit Ruth Condomine*, at her request. René Augesen (Ruth) answers the door, invites her in, and instantly offers her some tea.

Ruth: “Would you like some tea, Madame Arcati?”

Madame Aracti: “Chinese or Indian? I never touch Indian—it upsets my vibrations.”

Ruth confirms it’s Chinese.

Madame Arcati:”What is in these sandwiches?”

Ruth: “Cucumber.”

Madame Arcati: “Couldn’t be better!” (She helps herself to one.)

This is when I knew that I’d better eat at the café at the Bruns before I sit down to enjoy this production … all this talk about food is definitely going to make me hungry!

Ruth then begins to describe what has happened to her husband and her home since the recent séance. Madame Arcati is thrilled when she realizes that she has accomplished something extraordinary, but apologizes to Ruth and asks how she can help.

Ruth: By zipping her (Elvira) back to wherever she came from!”

Blithe Spirit Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012

Blithe Spirit runs Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes.

When Ruth insists that she go into a trance or “something” and take care of the ghostly issue at hand, Madame Arcati says it takes several days to prepare and she even has to watch what she eats. She then says, “I had Pigeon Pie yesterday.”

Q: What is Pigeon Pie?
A: Recipe here.

After Ruth infuriates and insults Madame Arcati, the medium she leaves in a huff, exclaiming, “You can stew in your own juice!” (For those of you playing at home, that’s food/drink reference number four.) Then, Elvira (Jessica Kitchens—yes, I realize the coincidence here) and Charles (Anthony Fusco) enter. Elvira announces that she’d like a cucumber sandwich, too … alas, she can’t eat in her ethereal state.

Scene Three

Ruth is visiting with Mrs. Bradman. Ruth offers Mrs. Bradman a cocktail: “Sherry, perhaps?” Dr. Bradman enters and Ruth offers him Sherry, too. Director Rucker makes several blocking adjustments to assure that they are bringing the action downstage. But for the most part he lets the scene run completely through, without stopping. I am stunned at how well the actors already know their lines and places. The emotion that René employs in playing Ruth is astounding.

A Few Glossary Words from Scene Three:
Fortnight: 14 nights or two weeks
Dotty: mentally unbalanced, crazy

Corrie announces we’re going back to page 92. Elvira and Charles start again with the line…”Oh, let her go, Charles,” referring to Ruth storming out of the room announcing she’ll have “dinner on a tray.” Anthony wonders how his character will pick up his cocktail with his injured arm.

Then a slight interruption as Cal Shakes’ Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, who has just returned from Italy, unexpectedly drops in. Instant hugs and kisses all around. He is thrilled with the look of the furniture and wondered where we got it. Jon starts noshing on some of the snacks on the actors’ table (he knows the importance of a nice snack) and then is was off as quick as he came.

Everyone goes back to work … page 100. I’m headin’ to dinner.

Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, directed by Mark Rucker, plays Aug 8-Sep 2, 2012 at Cal Shakes’ stunning outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, CA. Get your tickets today!

*Dialect Coach Lynn Soffer has decided that the Condomines’ last name will be pronounced “Condo Mean.”

 

Share