Performance Date: 10.23.09
The John Golden Theatre
Allow me to make some grandiose statements I probably have no authority to make. These are thoughts on various aspects of theater that came to mind during a matinee of Oleanna on Broadway this week.
CASTING: Every actor has certain qualities, inherent to their natural selves, that are more or less irrepressible and shine through in any role he or she plays. True, some actors are absolute chameleons, but most actors aren't and I think that's just fine. These "essential qualities" are kind of like the top notes in perfume or the flavor profile of a wine. So whereas a Pinot Noir might be "black cherry and tobacco," Julia Stiles might be "cerebral and confident" and Bill Pullman "affable and self-deprecating." Part of casting is matching an actor's essential qualities to the requirements of a role.
ACTIONS/TACTICS: Actions and tactics are tools actors sometimes use when figuring out how to play a scene. An action, usually identified as a verb, describes what a character is doing to another character to get some type of desired result. Juliet wants Romeo to woo more strongly. As an actor, an action I might try is to push away. That is, I use the sense of "pushing away" to influence the way I speak and behave towards my scene partner, in order to challenge his Romeo to try harder. A tactic is like the adverb. I can push away playfully, reluctantly, or aggressively. Each tactic will have a different effect.
TEXT: A playwright's text is sacrosanct. Most of the time. If a character describes herself as "stupid" or someone else as "self-aggrandizing," it is important and must be credibly addressed. You can decide the comment is a lie or an exaggeration, or you can decide that it's true. Doesn't matter, as long as your choice is supported by the text, or reinforced by your other choices regarding the text.
So here's where I bring it all together with seeing Oleanna.
In the first half of the play, I felt that these three elements I've just described -- casting, actions/tactics, and text -- were working against one another. It made me feel perplexed and prevented me from really engaging in the play.
In the second half of the play, these elements were working in concert. I was much more engaged. And it resulted in an explosive ending that actually made me feel guilty.
It made me feel guilty! How awesome is that? I think that may be all I want from theater -- that it be affecting. In whatever way. It can be imperfect. It can be difficult. Or silly. But I want it to affect me. And at the end of the day, Oleanna did.
No post next week as I will be in Cuba -- Cuba! -- with Infinite Stage for some cultural exchange with a Cuban theater company and to perform at the International Theater Festival of Havana. Pin a rose on my nose! When I'm back, I'll have plenty of shows to blog about and keep me on track in my Year of Plays! (Sounds like Pigs...in....Space!!!)