Rehearsal Process, part 2: Dropping In

Posted in Rehearsal, Summer 2009, Twelfth Night on June 19th, 2009 by kellinewby

Dropping in is weird.  And uncomfortable.  It is everything you might make fun of in an acting class.  But, it works.

Here is the process.  Let’s say there are two people in a scene,  Sebastian and Viola.  The two actors sit directly across from each other, feet flat on the floor, knees alternating (yes, that close).  The director and assistant instruct the actors to roll forward and create an actor pile.  The actors are then told to breathe deeply and evenly as they get massages.   They slowly return to sitting position and make eye contact.  There is no breaking the eye contact for the entirety of the exercise.

Behind each actor sits someone with a script.  This person feeds the actor lines and questions, instructing the actor to repeat only the word of phrase that comes from his or her lines.  It goes a little something like this:

Director: Spirit.  Are you a spirit?  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: Father, son and Holy Spirit.  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: Why do you say this?  Are you a ghost?  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: Do you think she’s a spirit?  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: Are you afraid of ghosts?  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: Is Spirit the name of an airline?  Spirit.

Sebastian: Spirit.

Director: A spirit I am indeed.

Sebastian: A spirit I am indeed.

As you can see, it is a long, slow process, but it is meditative.  The purpose is get away from intellectualizing the script after the table talk sessions.  The director poses questions to both the character and the actor.

Last year, I was highly skeptical process going in, but by the end  I was a believer.  Most of the suggestions just float by and a lot of the power of the exercise is being that close to someone you don’t know for so long (you certainly feel like you know each other after an hour of uninterrupted eye contact).  Every once and awhile, a question will strike me powerfully.  During a dropping in session last year between the girl playing Juliet and myself (I was playing Lady Cap), I was asked, “When was the last time you laughed together?  When was the last time you were in her room?”  The answers that came from purely gut response motivated my acting decisions and the intimacy of the drop-in created a warm, family-like repore between Juliet and I.  It was very easy to grieve when I found her “dead.”

So right now, in between getting things up and moving and making physical choices, amdist the chaos of clowning, sometimes we turn down the lights, breathe deeply, look each other in the eye and let  the heart of the play speak to us.