Thursday, 9 October, two weeks to the opening – we are at Flashpoint theatre, almost half way through rehearsals. The set is almost ready, complete enough for the re-creation of scenes to take place. The Director and the Actors are now ‘separated’ and away from the discussion table – a crucial stage of deconstructing the characters of Laura and Rage through analysis of their personalities, motivations and behaviors. The process of ‘decoding’ the protagonists both in their private and school contexts allowed the Director to reveal the characters’ personas and bring them to life; and was necessary for the Actors to understand Laura and Rage as human beings they were going to impersonate.
Rage is a two character play with an extremely intense plot, based around complex issues and conflict, and a gun as the actors’ companion. Such was the scenario the Actors entered when they were cast in the roles of a pacifist teacher and a radical, suicidal student. Based on my chats with both Ariana Almajan and Marlowe Vilchez, sorting out their initial instinctual and rational reactions towards the characters they were going to become and the roles they were to play, was crucial in being able to move forward toward rehearsing and perfecting scenes.
Ariana commenced her adventure with Rage overwhelmed by how intense the play was, and how exposed she would be on stage as one of only two players. Playing a female subjected to physical violence only added to her pre-rehearsal jitters and a list of challenges she had not faced in her previous roles. Also, there was a barrier Ariana felt existed between her and the character – she simply did not feel comfortable in Laura’s skin. Whilst being able to relate to the teacher’s personal life, the actress was not accepting of Laura’s blind idealism and naive trust in a non-violent way of life, a stance which seemed to her to be totally devoid of realism.
Marlowe had his own set of issues to deal with, such as the age factor and complexity of the character. Rage is not your average teenager, but a well read, intelligent and articulate person with maturity well above his years. To add to the challenge, he also happens to be a sociopath, and as such brings an extra layer of complexity to his already diverse identity – quite a challenge for Marlowe, who is no longer a teenager and who never impersonated a young sociopath before. He also never handled a gun, a task requiring practice and getting used to, which next to working on voice modulation, language and mannerisms became one of many challenges to overcome.
Ariana and Marlowe tell me that whilst they are now much more relaxed having had the opportunity to get used to the characters and reconcile with the personalities they had to become on stage, the challenge of bringing Rage and Laura to life is very much on and the nervousness has not left them yet. They must have internalized the tension, as I cannot detect it when observing them practicing and perfecting scenes, under the guidance of Joe Banno. What seems obvious is that Joe’s directing style is very much team based. The actors feel comfortable responding to his comments, advice and instructions, as well as asking questions and offering their input. There is always time for impromptu discussion, if necessary, and humor, which gives all a much needed respite from a very intense effort.
Most of the director’s work is done from outside the performance space. As an experienced, highly skilled director and an amazing communicator, Joe rarely needs to join the actors on stage to demonstrate specific movements, gestures or the Actors’ positioning. His input is smooth and transparent, his intentions clear, and his rapport with the actors exceptional. The three make an amazing team. I am excited to be able to witness a great director and two talented actors bringing the play to life, adding new layers and depth to the characters with every repetition of a line or a scene, every instruction, question and response, and every digression, exploring new dimension of a dialog or the Actors’ interaction.
It is still a work in progress, but the end result can already be seen and sensed. Cannot wait for the premiere!
October 22, 2014 Preview at 8 pm
October 23, 2014 at 8 pm, Opening & Reception Follows
Saturday, October 25, 8 pm Press Night
Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Matinees: Sundays at 2:00 pm
TICKETS: $8 – $40 Online: http://www.aticc.org/home/category/get-tickets
For 16 + Audiences
WHERE: Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint
916 G Street NW, Washington DC
WHEN: October 22 – November 16, 2014