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July 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye to The Cherry Orchard (Part Two) – Gregory Prest

Gregory Prest

Gregory Prest in rehearsal. Photo: Sian Richards.

Here is part two of yesterday’s post about the process of working on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. For part one,
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7.  In the theatre we make an agreement with our fellow actors to hurt and be hurt by each other (especially emotionally). This cannot be faked.

8.  “What can we do?” and “How can we do it?” are far more interesting than “This is how it is done” and “This is the only way it works.” In this process we visited Bouffon, Commedia, Naturalism, Viewpoints, Actioning, productions by Strehler, Stein, Pina Bausch, games, research, endless conversations, countless translations, learning Russian phrases, all wearing white, wigs, make-up, individual set and costume designs, complete recasting, massive cuts, Eric Peterson playing Firs, four different rehearsal rooms, making a mini-documentary about our personal relationship to debt.  We created a culture that came up with “Treat Saturday” and invented the phrases “ABK – Always Be Killing” and “Mini-van” as a verb to mean making a seemingly idiotic scene proposal that will hopefully reveal something.  We had many laughs and many tears. How much of this process revealed itself in what our audience experienced, I don’t know.  What it did do is to create a massive shared toolbox.

9.  Sometimes being part of a group means making room for someone to be an individual and opt out of ensemble activities – then accepting them back in when they are ready to rejoin.

10.  When you are unsure, make a proposal – at least then there is something on the table to be discussed.

11.  Focus is active. It is something that you have to practice. It is not a state of being. The struggle to be present is what creates presence.

12.  Extensive research of the world the playwright is writing from and writing to gives you something to feed on the whole way through rehearsals, opening and the run. Fattening yourself up with this prevents feeding on your ego in hungry times of uncertainty.

13.  Being given a question in response to a question can be very frustrating. But frustration is at times useful and necessary. There is a great line from Ovid’s Metamorphosis: “frustration, prolonged, begets invention.”