BIRDS OF PARADISE, 2015 FringeNYC participant

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Production Diary #3 -- Getting Into Character

Rehearsals started in earnest this week, and as we get into full swing we’re making big strides toward putting this whole shebang together. 

BIRDS OF PARADISE is what we call a “two-hander” in the biz, since it only features two actors. I’ve always thought a more anatomically correct term would be “four-hander,” but what do I know? At any rate, directing is considerably more fun when you can focus all your time on getting to know two characters, as opposed to some sprawling Russian epic with a cast of thousands, for example, with apologies to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gogol, and THE INSPECTOR GENERAL (love that play). 

Hallie Schwartz and Patrick Truhler rehearse the final scene of the play, book in hand

But this stage of development is for Hallie and Patrick to really sink their teeth into these characters, find out who they are in terms of real people, and drill, drill, drill the lines and blocking until it becomes second nature. We call this “knocking the acting out of the actors.” Yes, they are “actors”, but at the end of the day we don’t want them to “act” like the characters they’re portraying; we want them to inhabit them, become them, (as corny as that sounds), thus making them real to the audience. 

Actors make different choices everywhere during rehearsals, being big and creative and bold as they should be, trying to align themselves to the truth of the situations on the page. It’s an artistic process, so it’s more about feelings than milestones, but the one thing that seems to hold true is the more chances an actor gets to practice a play, and the more used to it they get, the more they will cease to “act” and just be on stage, and that’s when the real drama happens -- when they are fully in the moment, simply doing and reacting.

The only way to do that is through sheer repetition, focus, and relentlessly pursuing the truth of the characters. It also takes a steady supply of bottled water and various baked goods and pastries, as well as a stage manager you can set your watch to. Fortunately we’ve got it all covered! My job as director is to mostly stay out of the actors’ way, offering guidance where I see things going off track, providing insights to the world, defining tangible actions and objectives for the scenes, and generally telling them to “Do it again, only faster this time.” 

Hallie and Patrick bring the real magic however. Our story is a love story, and all of their past relationships and histories come to bear on their characters. Hallie has the advantage of playing the role a second time (in the original Colorado production), and she’s relishing it. Patrick could not look more like an ornithologist if he tried. Hallie and Patrick are also good friends offstage and acted in high school together, giving us a wonderful built-in chemistry to play around with. All of these real world influences give them excellent performance fodder, and on a side note, talk about professional – Hallie relocated to New York for the summer just to do this show, and Patrick is rehearsing while performing Shakespeare in Annapolis, taking an hour bus ride three times a week to join us. You could do a hell of a lot worse than these two kids, and I’m in playwright heaven

Lots of exciting things coming up – completing the set, getting our publicity materials finalized, and sorting out lights and sound. To paraphrase our heroine Emma, that perfect version of the play is out there – it’s only a matter of time! In the meantime, TICKETS to FringeNYC go on sale this FRIDAY, JULY 17th. We have a limited run of 5 shows, and a space with 45 seats, so be sure to reserve them early. We can’t wait to see you, and thanks for reading!

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