Table Talk

Posted in Dramaturgy, Rehearsal, Summer 2009, Twelfth Night on May 30th, 2009 by kellinewby

As we go through the rehearsal process, I hope to update you on how we work.

The first part of the rehearsal process is what M calls table talk.  Essentially, we spend the first two weeks sitting around a table with a bunch of dictionaries, a dramaturg, a director and a stage manager.  During this time we:

  1. Figure out exactly what we are saying
  2. Discuss the importance of the beat within the context of the play, Elizabethan culture, and the period in which we’re setting the production.
  3. We begin the character work.
  4. Eat and get to know each other.

It is a time of discovery.  First we read the scene aloud, focusing on the words.  No acting allowed.  This is a great time to look at each word, listen to the iambs and take in the sound of things.  Next we look up words in the reference books strewn about the table, including books that give definitions based on what they meant in Shakespeare’s time as well as various copies of the play with footnotes galore.  M. encourages us to look up words we understand in addition to words we do not because we often find alternate meanings that give us a new perspective.

Then we have an in-depth conversation about all the things we’ve found.  The dramaturg will tell us about his research and help us out with particular lines.  The conversation is lively and creative.  It’s like a really great lit class.

Sometimes M. then has us “unpack” the text.  She is insistent that we don’t paraphrase the lines.  It’s about finding all the nuance of each line.  It can be a little silly.   So, for example, in Olivia’s line: “I heard you were saucy at my gates”, I might say something like this:

I, me, myself, eye ball, heard, listened, eavesdropped, was told, gossip, you were saucy, cheeky, bratty, unruly, naughty, plucky, marinara at my gates, barriers, doors to the outside, chastity belt [everyone giggles and throws out other ideas], Bill Gates, gated community…

You get the idea.  It is a long slog to go through an entire beat this way, but it does yeild one or two interesting associations when we do it.  It also makes you think about how well you know the meaning of a word, and the meaning of your line.  It helps the director see the sort of instincts you’ve got about motivations early on.

This is also a time for the director to begin asking questions that she wants us to consider as we move forward.