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.
Wednesday July 22, 2009
Yesterday we had an unexpected day off cause Marsha was sick, so she needed to stay home and recover. Today we dove back in and much to our surprise, made a lot of really interesting headway.
Marsha is a deeply intuitive actress. She is a kind of wonder. She travels in such interesting, authentic directions that reveal humor and sadness, alternately and simultaneously. But then she stops and says “I just don’t get why I’m saying this.” In attempt to try to answer, she forces me to help her as an actor of the piece, not a studier of the piece. It’s one thing to understand what a moment is about, in Beckett, or Shakespeare, or in any poetic universe, but it is another thing to find the “hook” into how to play it, that is, from the character’s perspective.
We have a small but astounding room of minds working on this play, all coming at it from different places, but all working on the same thing: how to bring this play home, to make it connect to us, and therefore (we hope!) to the audiences. And Dan Hiatt—what can I say, what an actor, what a person. He really feeds Marsha even when his character is curled up in a hole, outside of view of the audience. But Marsha can see him, and that means everything to her—it allows her to connect to another human in this seemingly “one-woman” show.
But it’s nothing of the sort. The marriage is so palpable in the script and we keep striving to unearth it, Dan, Marsha and I, to find the connection between husband and wife, Willie and Winnie, even as they don’t seem to connect. They are married all these years, and despite Winnie’s constant fears, Willie is not leaving her. It’s beautiful. Full of disappointed wishes and dreams, but enduring nonetheless.
Beckett is so brave in facing the difficult questions of relationships and memory and being a living, thinking, feeling person, and finding a way to endure with humor, wit, and a whole bevy of mechanisms that are part of all of us. Such big stuff.
We ended the day with the “cement” part of the rehearsal—that is, routing in the beginning of the play which is chock full of business and lines all playing off each other. It’s brutal and will be so till we conquer it. Learning how to do this play is about doing this play, if that makes any sense. It’s a mindblower to be sure, but so rich, so challenging, and if today is any indication, pretty delightful to experience and shape.
Meanwhile, Caela, Seren, and Edgar in props are experimenting with the umbrella catching fire. Love it.
See you again soon.