February 1, 2007KR BlogUncategorized

Rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We have our first preview audience tonight, and this is always an uncertain moment. Particularly with a play like Midsummer, where characters so often address the audience directly, it’s a little bit as if you’ve been rehearsing for three and a half weeks without one of your cast members, and now that last cast member is finally showing up. In fact, I often tell actors to think of previews as rehearsals at which people have paid to help us rehearse. I don’t suppose that’s an encouraging thought to people who go to preview performances, but it’s vital for those of us working on a play to think of it that way. This is our chance not simply to test what we’ve done so far, but also to continue to move forward with a critical element added.

So what do I hope we’ll learn, and how do I hope we’ll move forward? At a basic level, of course, I want to find out what works and what doesn’t. In part, I learn whether audiences laugh at the same things that we think are funny. I learn also where people get bored, or confused. It’s astonishing how you can tell whether people in a dark room are following a narrative or not, and whether they care. Beyond that, I hope we take advantage of the opportunity to find greater detail in our work, greater spontaneity and life.

In this particular production, tonight is my first chance to see how audiences respond to the doublings we’re doing, including the gender switching we do from Thesues to Titania and from Hippolyta to Oberon. Most of the preview write-ups and blurbs about the production are focusing, understandably, on that aspect of the production, as in today’s Editor’s Pick in the Boston Phoenix. Tonight is our first chance to see how audience process these choices and so many others.