Welcome back from Spring break, Loyola! Chicago is warming up, and so is our production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
On Friday, the cast met for the first time to read through the play. Hearing them for the first time, the director can begin to form ideas about scene work and answer any final questions that may come up about the text. “One of the major acting skills that Tennessee Williams requires of us is to be able to talk and to do something onstage at the same time,” warned director and professor Dr. Jonathan Wilson. The read through, a staple of every production process, is an opportunity for Wilson to track these stage actions while he hears the dialogue.
Creating the world of the play, according to Wilson, is about paying fierce attention to the given circumstances of the play. He emphasizes the heat noted in the first stage directions, and points out all the places where the actors will be trying to balance noisy stage actions with important dialogue.
And what a dialogue it is! “He has created characters solely through what they say and how they say it,” says dialect coach Dr. Nan Withers-Wilson. “We feel like we know these people because of the way they speak.” Tennessee Williams has won awards for his writing, and Streetcar has a Pulitzer. The cast is taking the challenge seriously, and dialect work is already underway. Actors will continue to meet individually and in groups throughout the process with Withers-Wilson, a voice and dialect professor at Loyola and author of Vocal Direction for the Theatre.
For the actors, it’s also a chance for them all to meet and read together for the first time. They are already finding the human humor in this deep drama, and are very clearly excited about telling this story. Seated in a circle, the actors look at each other to deliver their lines, barely relying on their scripts. The cast began this process off-book, memorizing all their lines before coming into the rehearsal room. Watching them connect is incredibly exciting, and I can’t wait to see how much it grows as the process continues!
This week, the cast has begun preliminary staging. This means playing out scenes on a version of the set (currently
being built in the Kathleen Mullady theatre) that is taped out on the floor of Mundelein 409 (see the picture at right). They’ll figure out where to stand, sit, and move throughout the space while Dr. Wilson guides them to create strong stage pictures. The goal of this next phase of rehearsal is to find the natural flow of movement through the space, discover motivations for movement, and give the actors their first chance to interact as characters in space. Once the show is staged (also called “blocked,” if you ever hear that term), the ensemble will start the show over from the beginning to precisely work individual moments and rehearse them to discover the depths of emotion in this complex play.
Happy Spring, everybody! I can’t wait to bring you more exciting details from the rehearsal process of A Streetcar Named Desire.