First Weeks

Note: This is a cross-posting from Paul Holmquist’s “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere.

First Weeks

We are now out of the theoretical and in practical research mode, testing staging theories on an approximation of the set and figuring out the way we are going to tell our story. I say “we” because the process, for this director at least, is about collaboration. I can’t imagine doing this alone, the show will be that much richer for the contributions of all involved.

There is a sense of enthusiasm that continues to develop as we get into the scene work and discuss characters and as we stage this sucker. Rob has had to cut much, but he tried very hard to keep in as much of the dialogue from the book he could, often rearranging some small bits here and there to emphasize thematically the growing trust, honesty, and heights of courage and speak to the heart of what is in the book. And the entire cast is on to it.

We came across a particularly tricky page or so in the script where Richard is in a variety of different locales trying to get to work and No One notices or recognizes him. The morning after Door leaves, Richard is running late for work and the people on the street almost knock him down by bumping into him. Gary and Sylvia at the office look at him like they never met him before. His desk and things are gone. Jessica doesn’t recognize him. His apartment is being shown to a potential new renter. And the phone stops responding. Then Croup and Vandemar show up, and they are not happy.

This all takes place in about a minute. There is no way I could imagine staging this without the cast in the room, just for the sake of seeing the bodies move in the space. On top of this physical necessity though, many of the cast members are directors and fight choreographers themselves and frankly there is no end to the feeding we get off of each other when we try and sort out a problem. This sequence took input from most of us to figure out.

This is such an incredibly rewarding way to begin a process – collaboration and enthusiasm will go a long way for us in rehearsal and make the run for the actors that much more enjoyable. Everyone is getting along great, thinking and chattering and joking and figuring it out together.

It is hard to judge what to blog about or share at this point. We’ve blocked the play. We are performing the entire play from start to finish for the first time tomorrow night. The fight with the Beast of London, which we haven’t had the pieces in place to play with before, comes Wednesday. To tell you about specifics or show you video of some of the combat we’ve choreographed would be showing too much – we want you to come see the show LIVE and not know what’s coming in advance! Just trust me – I’ve collected some of the best minds and voices in Chicago theatre to this project, and we’re going to show you something incredibly special.