Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 14:56:43 +0400
From: Gary Grant <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Megan Terry on acting
This piece of acting theory is incredible. I have shared this work with my actors on Icarus's mother and they ate it up. Thanks a million. You are indeed at the right place at the right time. Likewise, you must be a superb performer to have found this location in your career.
I am also directing Megan Terry's Comings and Goings and also being lost at one point in rehearsal, I sent her an email and her response was in concept similar to what you have discovered. Terry and the Omaha Magic Theatre spent three days in residency here at Bucknell but as you say, that's another story.
On 9/23/96 Megan Terry wrote:
I'm pleased you are having such an excellent time working with COMINGS AND GOINGS. Not to worry, there are infinite ways to do this play. It's constructed so that risk and chance are foremost. Two of the hardest things for some of us theatre people to realize. We want to make things work and then freeze them that way, part of our endless search for perfection perhaps?
I have seen the play work in many ways. When it does not work, though, it has been when the actors played a memory of something they thought had worked with another audience in a previous performance or rehearsal. That is the paradox of this play. To give up. To give up everything to confidence in yourself, and your ensemble and your director, that you are prepared for anything and above all you, the actor will live before the audience in real time in that moment. Whatever moment comes up for you. I understand not wanting to stop an actor when that actor is soaring, but, if the actor has been there once, that actor then knows as G. stein would say "where there is". Once known, it's possible to arrive there again. To save you and your actors the anguish of loss, the kind of loss an actor feels every night when the play is over and knowing you'll never have "that" audience again, modern video technology has come to the rescue. Just videotape, with a home cam corder the three performances, and possibly some different stages of rehearsal. BUT DON'T LOOK AT ANY OF THEM UNTIL THE RUN IS OVER. Then have a party for the brave and let the shyer ones look at the tapes alone. Always remind them to let go. Let go of what worked, because it only worked with that particular audience in that real time. That is the beauty and terror and great challenge of acting. That's why I think actors are brave and should get hero's medals when they can do this.
Some ensembles have decided to learn all the lines, male and female, and not worry about gender. This can add another dimension to the play. What really holds the play together for the audience, whether sophisticated or not, is the prowess of the actor. The surface theme of arrivals and departures can put the audience at ease, so they think they know where they are and so they will not worry and just enjoy what the power of the actor is. What inspired me to write the play was a dance that was about nothing but dance, and how well the dancers could dance. The surprise that the subject of the dance was dance itself. I said to myself, why not a play that shows of, 'what is acting', and how powerful is theatre, when only a few givens are changed, how radical it appears, and also how funny it can be as the audience discovers not only the actor's (the ensemble's ability, the teamwork, the underpinnings of teaching that has gone on, the dedication of all involved, the demonstration of community and trust, in the very essence of what the ensemble had to commit to do the play at all, but the reassuring humor and fun, when they, the audience gets the double, of connecting the dots, or clues, no matter how few, each scene contains.
I have seen the play work as total naturalism, as a combination, as free flying improv, when all the lines were learned by all participants, and the audience spun the wheels that sent the actors in. In that type of production the actors wore numbers.
So, as my cousin, would say too much freedom might make for paralysis, so you have to "limit yourself to free yourself." Your plan as described sounds fine. Do what is best for you and your group, because confidence can be built through the security of knowing what the parameters are, then they can be free to fly within those parameters.
First of the week we will FAX you the music. I know we have it in a file. It was published in the first collection VIET ROCK , by S & S, NYC, with C & G, Keep etc., and Gloaming. It was in the back of the book. Marianne dePury, who wrote the music for VIET ROCK, wrote the music for C&G, also.
There is, unfortunately, no visual record of the first production. It happened before cam corders were invented. Toward the end of the Open Theatre, New York's Channel, Thirteen televised The Open Theatre productions of MUTATION SHOW, TERMINAL and NIGHTWALK. I think Lincoln Center Drama Library would have these tapes. But the playing style of C & G, in the very first productions was much more playful, very fast, very young and daring than these later productions of O.T. which of course had the power of maturity, at least two years of rehearsal each, and were more contemplative in overall effect (this is my personal point of view, of course). Others may have a different remembrance.
Remind your students that play is a four letter word. They are allowed to have fun in sharing their art and skills with their audience, the audience is also a member of their ensemble. There's lots to play with within this play: they play off the text, the theme, themselves (i.e. their life experience up to now and what they've learned from you and from rehearsals), they may, also, enjoy playing off each other and the audience. Remind them too, that their brains are amazing, they can do all this and enjoy it all in the same instant.
Good luck and have fun,
Gary Grant (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Department of Theatre and Dance.
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Phone: (717) 524-1235, Fax: (717) 524- 3760
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