I had the unique opportunity to go from the Cherry Orchard Smash and Grab straight into a shakespeare play at a regional theatre. It gave me a great amount of perspective jumping from the chaos of the Smash and Grab into the precision of Shakespeare.
For me, the greatest lesson created in the friction between the two was this: The structure of Shakespeare’s language can hold the recklessness of the Smash and Grab acting style. In fact, I think it needs it. Meaning, if you fall into the rigidity of the language, you’re dead. The actor needs to have invested in that language, and needs to have done his homework, but he also needs to have the playfulness and the spontaneity of the Smash and Grab.
This realization manifested itself this way: I don’t get very nervous before shows. I get the occasional butterfly, but I believe that if you’ve prepared and given everything you have to the rehearsal process, you have nothing to be nervous about. So, given that I will get the occasional butterfly going into a traditional performance, I was expecting to be infinitely more nervous going into performances for the Smash and Grab. As it turned out, I wasn’t nervous at all. Not in the least bit. And I realized why, as I stood in the wings waiting for my first entrance into the first performance of Romeo and Juliet. In a Smash and Grab, there is nothing to get right and therefore, more importantly, NOTHING TO GET WRONG. No marks to miss. No blocking to forget. No timing that has been worked out….
It is here that the Smash and Grab attitude can have it’s greatest effect on a traditional process: there must be nothing to ‘get wrong’ in any performance. Even though you’ve spent three weeks as a company painstakingly working everything out, there can be no fear of messing it up. And this can only happen when the group agrees to it as a whole. So that there’s no conversation afterward about “I missed that” or “You forgot the letter” or anything along those lines. What ever happens is a gift. An adventure to be had by both the actors and the audience.
Now, everyone says this going into production, but they never work on it, and they never try and find a group mindset to allow it. This will be a goal when I direct Bridesburg in the spring. I’m not sure how to go about it, but it must be found. Lets have an adventure….