February 21, 2012
Photo by Kathleen O'Rourke
Assistant Director, Into the Woods
Well here we are two weeks into rehearsal for Into the Woods. The staging of this play has been quite a challenge. Moments that fly in two seconds when read on the page, suddenly require much more attention. You realize that in those two seconds, not only do the birds need to pick through some ashes, but the cow needs to get on stage, “Jack” needs to attempt to milk it, the “Baker” needs to have given “Little Red” three sticky buns, and the “Bakers Wife” needs to have exited with her tray of goods and brought a basket on stage...and oh yes, the three houses, two trees and a pile of trunks need to have executed some choreography by crew members that we don't have in the room with us. We often feel like the Baker trying to remember "...the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slipper as pure as gold…" But these are the challenges that are fun in the rehearsal room.
We finally got all of these hurdles cleared and settled in to the first review of the entire act. Watching the early rehearsals of a really well constructed musical can be incredibly powerful. Sometimes, during the first runs of a play, actors forget lines, people are in the wrong spot and the thing can come to a crashing halt. But with a musical score backing the rehearsal, it's almost impossible to forget where you're going. And not only that, even if the actors are off their game just trying to handle the new choreography given moments before, a real moving performance can still be given. I attribute this to the power of the musical.
Music is alive. Just as the human body has a pulse, so does music. We move to the beat or the beat moves against us, but it hits us deep in the soul. Text has to be interpreted first intellectually before it can impact us on an emotional level. Even if it only takes a fraction of a nanosecond for our brains to decode the information, it still takes time to process. Music can bypass that, driving straight to the heart, motivating our imaginations to transport us to a new state of emotion. The same can be said for Shakespeare. I'm often asked in interviews for directing jobs what kind of theatre I like most, and my response is always Shakespeare and musicals. People always think that is somewhat strange, but to me they go hand in hand. Shakespeare knew the sounds and rhythms he's was imbedding in his poetry, just as Sondheim was aware of these same things when writing his score and lyrics. It is the soul of these pieces that can move an audience.
I look forward to seeing what our incredibly talented cast can do to nurture this and am truly excited to see it in front of an audience.
On Stage May 1-26