By Robert Fuller, dramaturg
Kris Jennings, the director of Cyrano, used several unique techniques during the rehearsal process, which helped the cast with memorization, movement, and characterization.
- Under readers: Each member of the cast is assigned a fellow cast member to stand behind with a script and read their lines for them. This aids in memorization, and allows the actors in the scenes to have their hands free to focus on characterization. This also helps every member of the cast to stay busy, at all times, during the long parts of the rehearsal when their characters aren’t onstage.
- Applying a single word to each scene: Before each scene, the cast members involved decide on one or two words that describe the scene. These words include anything from kiss, separation to protection, to verbal jewelry, and flat soda. These words help them to visualize the scenes, and the feelings involved.
- Strings: These are activities the cast participates in before each scene. Once the one word description has been chosen, they take turns performing nonverbal actions, that they feel embody the feelings being expressed in the scene. This allows them to have a feel for the actions of the scene, and allows them to convert these abstract methods to a literal performance. (This method is shown in practice in the video below.)
These unique methods of rehearsing were partly taken from “Brian Astbury’s Trusting the Actor.” I was intrigued and amused by this method of directing. To see another company put these methods into action, check out this video from the National Theatre in London.