Tag Archives: character teams

Experimental Parameters

As promised, a list of the parameters of our experiment that I read aloud at our Friday, Aug. 30th class meeting.

    1. Theater is a space of imagination, thoughtfully informed by worlds, times, and experiences outside its space.
    2. Within Uncle Vanya characters’ realities are driven by feelings and their ability/inability to be articulated through language and action.
    3. The purpose of character teams casting is to offer actors a chance to unlock a shared, yet separate, understanding of complex characters by making specific, detailed choices born in the space where language and physicality meet. This approach offers an audience the chance to pay close attention to character construction through actor performance.
    4. We seek to disrupt our audience’s nostalgia about historical realism by focusing their attention on our fabricated world within the walls of Sheafer. We are offering the audience a glimpse into the process of constructing theatrical reality — just as the characters seem to be processing the notion of “how did I get here?” in their lives. Everything is transparent and open but not improvisatory, simplistic, or unprepared.
    5. Baker writes of her approach to the text,

The goal was to create a version that would make Chekhov happy; to create a version that sounds to our contemporary American ears the way the play sounded to Russian ears during the play’s first productions in the provinces in 1898.

We seek a similar, lofty goal: to create a version that appears as something new, unseen before and yet ultimately recognizable and relatable to our contemporary Duke University audience.

And a few of the items Jeff mentioned about performance conventions:

  • We will be thinking about Chekhov’s vaudevilles and the swing of the pendulum in his major works between farce and trageey; laughter and tears.
  • Some characters will be broader in their performance than others based on their actions and given circumstances.
  • Audience members (both on and off-stage) are always aware that we are watching a rehearsal/performance of the play (as in Vanya on 42nd Street).
  • Music is used for transitions and, in vaudeville terms, interludes (possible song & dance moments).
  • Character teams work together, helping each other prepare for their chance to tell the story.
  • Age will be achieved with costume, props, movement, voice. Not makeup.

Shoot for the stars

Well, hello there,

My name is Mike Myers. I’m a junior majoring in Theater Studies and Philosophy, and I’ll be playing the other half of Astrov with the dashing Nick Prey. I can tell this is going to be an exciting experience, given the talent represented in our ranks. I already feel connected to everyone in this cast, having worked and played with most of its members, and having been super impressed by everyone else.

As a student of directing, I am particularly interested in the direction we’re taking this show. I can’t hide that I harbor some unease surrounding the realization of some of our initial driving concepts, but with this stellar team, I do believe we will navigate this new terrain with grace, and I am excited to see the discoveries that we make.

In particular, I wonder:

  • What, if any, unity will we desire between the main actor-pairs? Will we seek unified character interpretations, physicalizations, or choices? Will we give individuals free reign to interpret their characters uniquely and let that itself be a statement? And will it be important to unify our production by making the same choice for every actor-pair?
  • Logistically, how will we navigate shared blocking of the show? If we must trade off opportunities to pioneer blocking, will one actor’s impulses be more valuable than the others (in a given moment)? Will one actor feel like they own a certain section less or more than another?
  • Will the double-casting give each actor less time to work with and live in the role? How will it affect our performances/character discoveries/choices to watch another person portraying our same role?
  • How will it feel to stay engaged, in character, and in the moment during performances if we have to take breaks (physical and spiritual) from performing and watch our counterpart?
  • How will Nick Prey and I fit into the same costume??? His feet are wayyyy too big. Though changing in front of the whole audience won’t be a problem for us after ‘Love and Human Remains.’

I can’t wait to see you all in rehearsal, and I know this show is going to be a lots of fun! Love you all!