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.

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Séance Prep: Blithe Spirit Rehearsal Blog July 27

The following was written by Box Office Manager Robin Dolan. Stay tuned for weekly dispatches from the Blithe Spirit rehearsal room!

In Blithe Spirit, chaos ensues after a British couple hosts a séance in their home. I have a friend Medusa who leads séances, and has even created a beautiful Victorian parlor in her house for this purpose. While she and I were talking about the play, Medusa offered to do a séance for the actors. This is an introduction to that supernatural event.

Doing psychic work is demanding. Being attentive to what other people are feeling and being supportive of them are absolutely central to the process. You also have to set the space so that, hopefully, something magical will happen. Medusa came early to our offices in Berkeley and, while waiting, did a tarot reading in the office. We looked at it together, and all signs pointed to a meaningful experience. We then went into the rehearsal hall to speak with the stage manager about how to set up the room. We set up a small table with a circle of chairs around it; Medusa had brought her own tablecloth, a photo of her grandfather, some candles, and the charms she uses while reading. We set these up, and she did some deep breathing to get herself centered. While the artistic team sat quietly on the other side of the room (surely wondering what in goodness’ name was about to happen) Medusa took my hand, and we ran around the table three times in order to draw a circle around the space: One draws a circle to create a special space, so that when one steps into the circle, it is as if you are entering a different world. Then I quietly left the room, and they began.

We’ll be posting another entry soon from someone who took part in the séance. I’ve heard from several actors and the stage manager that it was both moving and interesting, and that it has influenced what they may do in the show. If you’d like to learn more about Medusa and her séances, she can be found online at facebook.com/MedusasParlor.

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