Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wendy-Housing Our Play

The monsoons haven't let up, this year. People in Hyderabad have told me that the monsoons have lasted two weeks now beyond their usual stopping point, and yes, we should blame global warming.

One direct consequence of these continual rains is that we won't be able to take Tempest outside. We had planned on it, and had reserved the space, but rehearsal after rehearsal got put back indoors because it just kept raining.

So last night my cast and I made a decision. Our play would be indoors only.

The question then became: where? There's no good theatre facility at the university. There's an auditorium which is primarily used for screening films, but it has no wings and no backstage space. There are a few lecture halls, but those aren't theatres (and again, no wings, no backstage).

My students assumed that we would use the auditorium, since it was the newest and therefore "best" building. I told them that we would be staging our play right where we were, in the rehearsal hall.

"But there's no stage!" they said.

I told them that we would create one.

Which is what we did today. We took pieces of bamboo and set them out on the floor in the shape of a rectangle. We took draperies and made a back curtain and wings. We found a pipe and hung some lights (they aren't even fresnels -- they're coffee-can lights). We went and gathered wood and rocks and arranged them on the stage to bring the natural world indoors.

I should add that as a director, I have always wanted to do this. A group forms a relationship with a particular space, and the play is birthed there. And then, inevitably, during the last week we have to tromp the play over to some shiny auditorium and place it in this foreign environment and so many connections are lost. Directors spend the majority of tech week saying "but it was working so well in the rehearsal hall!" and the actors have to essentially re-learn the play.

But today we built the set to complement the space and to enhance the story we had been telling in this very room for the past four weeks. Like Peter Pan, instead of moving Wendy, we built the house around her.

When it was finished, one of my students came to me. "I thought it wasn't going to work," she said, "but it looks like a real theatre in here now."

I agreed.

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