Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Once Upon a Time…

February 14, 2012

By Bryan Hunt
Assistant Director, Into the Woods

It’s week one here at rehearsal for Into the Woods, and already we are off to a rollicking start. Just as the score begins with a steady, lively pace of chords that doesn't let up until the final moments of the show, our rehearsals are driving forward at the same pace that I'm sure will not let up until our opening night in Baltimore... and in Westport!

First rehearsals are often like the first day of school, bringing together a bunch of people, some strangers, some friends, a teacher (in our case a director) and lots of lessons to be learned. Your head is spinning trying to remember the 25 new names that have been introduced to you, and filling with the stories of catch up since the last time you saw some old friends.

Mark addresses the cast at the first rehearsal

After this customary meet and greet, our fearless leader Mark Lamos explained his vision for the production. He started off by stressing that this will be our version of this story. Though many productions have come and gone, and with many still to come, this is the only time this group of people, at this moment in time, will create this version of the piece. He went on to talk about the plays foundation on fairy tales, but to him they should be treated as just tales. Fairies never once appear in the script, and beyond that, a fairy tale implies a happy ending with no real threat or danger involved. For instance, when you think of Hansel and Gretel for instance (though they don't appear in the play) you think of a pair of charming little children, skipping through the woods, leaving bread crumbs and after cleverly overcoming an evil witch, they return safely home.  Never once, at least for me, do you consider the fact that these are two children, KIDNAPPED in a time without Amber Alert by a stranger, and only after MURDER do they reach safety. And at what price? These are the kinds of things we want to explore and exploit for this production.

Allen Moyer's scenic design model
 After a discussion of the set designed by Allen Moyer, and costumes being created by Candice Donnelly (designer for the Playhouse’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart in 2011) we settled in to a read/sing thru of the script. With our music director Wayne Barker plunking the score out on the piano, we heard this wonderful story out loud for the first time. What struck us most was the power of the woods. Though it has no lines or lyrics, it is a character in the play, ever changing, deceiving, manipulating, and teaching the characters who journey into the woods. If you've ever ventured out into the woods I'm sure you've had that moment when everything is going just fine, there's a pretty stream, a chipmunk, then you turn a corner and all of a sudden, perhaps because of the sun changing position or some other mental shift, the world becomes uneasy and foreign. It can be very terrifying. This is what we believe Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine were after when conceiving this story, and what we hope to bring to you as an audience. 
Costume Designer Candice Donnelly
discussing sketches with Mark

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