Snake Oil: Rehearsals Part II

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by Christian Riboldi, dramaturg

Welcome back to the 4th wall! We are in our second week of our tour of Twelfth Night. Last time we were able to learn a little bit more about how we have used rehearsals to overcome the challenge of deeply understanding the language and story of Twelfth Night. Today I’d like to share how we’ve used that knowledge from rehearsal to tell the story in a way that makes everyone else feel like they understand the story just as well as we do.

First lets start with the mediums that we as theater practitioners have to tell stories. We have body language, vocal intonation, music, costumes, set, sound effects and props. Basically in this production that is it. Now that is a lot to work with, but it’s difficult for it all to work together to tell one cohesive story.

This process of collaboration began months before rehearsals with the production team and designers. The main duty of the designers was to use their different mediums tell the story that supported Professor Jones vision for this show. Here’s one of the designs for the set from Professor Scanlon.

Twelfth Night Backdrop

Fast forward two months and we were starting rehearsals with the memorized actors. The main first immediate concern for the production was adding the musical element to the show so that the story was completely cohesive and made sense. Obviously music takes a while to rehearse especially when we needed to incorporate live instruments, singing, dancing and percussion. This was the main focus of most of the rehearsals and we used the time in between singing to block and rehearse the scenes between the songs.

The challenge with music and choreography is that is needs constant attention and practice in order to stay crisp. So as we continued on with the individual scenes we still focused heavily of rehearsing and refining the songs during each of our 6 hour rehearsals.

By the time the main skeleton of the show was put together we were ready to start integrating the other mediums to tell the story. We first began to add props, which would clarify actor intentions and help the actors understand additional context and motivation for their lines. Here is an example of Malvolio in rehearsal reading his fake letter from Olivia.

IMG_3785Obviously one of the most noticeable aspects of this show is the abundance of blatantly fake mustaches. As an actor wearing a mask or a mustache can make the world of difference in the development of your character. Because of this, we began using mustaches as early as possible during the rehearsal process. It was incredible to see characters morph and develop as we added mustaches, props and costumes.

Overall the rehearsals for this production were very fun to be a part of, effective at problem solving, and a needed tool to produce the story that was developed for our great audiences. We hope that all the students enjoy watching it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

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