Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Deconstruction" and Rehearsal

The rehearsal process at The ASC starts with a "Ren Run," short for "Rennaissance Run," which is a performance of the show that has been entirely rehearsed and self-directed by the acting ensemble in a single eight hour rehearsal period, after everyone has showed up off book (though they are allowed to call "prithy"--ASC speak for "line" during the run). The run accomplishes a number of things, including: showing the director actors' ideas, accomplishing a lot of initial blocking, getting actors on the same page, introducing actors to each other, and getting a solid jump on the intense, but short, three week rehearsal process that follows.

Immediately following the Ren Run, rehearsals move to table work, which typically is two-three days of working in a by-now well established, three step process: 1) actors read allowed not the text, but their paraphrase of the text [important: paraphrasing puts text in the actors' own words, but strives to retain Shakespeare's syntax as closely as possible], 2) actors get on their feet, book in hand, to say aloud the text itself but with the sole, initial intent of pounding out the meter, and 3) actors get on their feet without book in hand for a first reading of the text (one scene at a time), when some initial, exploratory direction, shaping, and blocking may be tried out.

The table work and ren run are an unusually efficient means of making sure everyone knows what the heck they're saying (paraphrasing), how they're saying it (scansion), and what they may want to say before the director imposes his or her own ideas (ren run). I love this process and, if I ever direct classical text, will try to emulate the model.

A note about the paraphrasing process:  it's "deconstructive" in the correct sense of the word. Most of the time people use the word "deconstruction" they mean simply to "take apart" or "dissemble," even "destroy," when actually, it means (at least to Derrida, who coined the word) to investigate the multiple possible, or coevally active, meaning of a word, phrase, or longer passage; to recover lost or hidden meanings. 

Of course, Derrida's project was to loosen up our understanding of language as a binding, univocal conveyor of 'meaning;' to make us stop thinking that we actually understand what we're saying, whereas the intent here, in paraphrasing Shakespeare, is to understand as fully as possible the ambiguities and options presented in the text. Many times, one meaning out of several will be chosen to be the most playable, and it helps considerably if everyone on stage knows which meaning is in play. 

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