Snake Oil: Rehearsals Part I

Toby and Maria being directed by Professor Jones

Toby and Maria being directed by Professor Jones

by Christian Riboldi, dramaturg

Last week we closed our doors to the BYU audiences and this week we began our traveling tour. Recently on our blog we were able to learn a little bit about each of our cast members in order to learn how each on is a little different from the other.

This show has been an adventure from the start. For those of you unaware of how long Young Company productions have to be rehearsed it’s only about 4 weeks total. That’s not a lot of time to put together an entire show let alone a piece of Shakespeare. For everything to work we needed efficient rehearsals that could serve as effective problem solving sessions. The only thing that could solve our issues was rehearsal, our metaphorical snake oil. The cure for all the challenges that come with putting on a production quickly.

The two main challenges we needed to overcome during the rehearsal process were understanding the language and story of Shakespeare, and sharing that story in a way that helps others, especially kids, to understand and enjoy the story as well. In this blog post we will focus on how we overcame the first challenge during the rehearsal process.

Before our rehearsals began, our talented adapter Rick Curtiss, the director Professor Jones, and myself, worked for over a month on cutting the script down from a 3 hour show to a 50 minute show that contained only the essential characters and scenes in it. As a part of that process we passed around draft after draft, checking for gaps in the placement of the scenes and the lines. One of the goals of Professor Jones was to maintain Shakespeare’s language throughout the entire play. So aside from the songs, and a few western expletives, every word of the play is in the original script.

Sebastian discovering how sad he needs to be. Professor Jones directing

Sebastian discovering how sad he needs to be. Professor Jones directing

By the time the script was ready we had just cast the show with our amazing actors you learned about last time. Our first rehearsal with the actors was about understanding the vision of the director and how Twelfth Night helped tell that story. The first few rehearsals were all done from a table reading through the script and trying to understand what the meaning of certain phrases and words were. If anyone had a question about a phrase we wrote it down and kept moving. By the time Christmas break came we had read through the play a couple times and answered most of the questions that had arisen through reading the script.

Feste learning learning how big his reactions need to be from Professor Jones

Feste learning learning how big his reactions need to be from Professor Jones

Once January hit and school started again, all of the actors were expected to be memorized completely, so that we could continue with the rehearsal process unencumbered by our scripts. The interesting this is that even though many of the questions were answered during the read through about the script, it wasn’t until we stood up and began adding movement to the mix that we began to learn what questions we hadn’t answered yet. Whenever one of these questions arose about words or motivation they were addressed immediately or right after rehearsal during notes and we moved on. This challenge of understanding the play required continual effort throughout the entire rehearsal process.

Next time we will discuss how we had to use that knowledge and understanding of the play and transform that into a production that helped others understand Shakespeare.

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