by Georgina McKee, Advisory Company
In trying to write this post, I have come accept the fact that I don’t know how to talk about this play. I don’t want to talk about it actually, I think it’s best to leave things unsaid. I don’t even think I could talk about it in a way that would bring it to life well, it has to be experienced. It is a powerful story that should be shared in that sacred space and time of live performance. My only regret in being part of the cast, is that I won’t get to sit in the audience and watch the story unfold! Which means, that I am envious of the experience our audiences will have. That being said, I will try to share a few thoughts I have had about the process.
When I first read The Other Place over a year ago, I fell in love with it and felt that it was a perfect fit for Forward. We read many plays in search of the right season selection, and we spend a lot of time discussing each one at our monthly meetings. I love few things more than sitting around that table with a group of passionate and articulate people, having deep and touching conversations about plays…what a joy! When it came time to read and discuss The Other Place, I was curious to hear everyone’s opinion. Once we had decided to add it to our season, I was excited to see how we would produce it. When I was cast in the show, I was thrilled to be on the inside of the process. I have been looking forward to starting rehearsals for some time now, and my hopes and expectations have not been disappointed!
As I sat around the table at our first rehearsal, I was reminded of why I am so proud to be part of Forward Theater. That room was full of smart and curious people who are passionate about story telling and community engagement. Whether it is an audience member who stays for the talk back to share an insight, or a member of the Advisory Company bursting at the seams to plan an upcoming event, Forward cultivates relationships that create strong, relevant, dynamic and challenging art. Our upcoming production of The Other Place is no exception. It is everything you want in a play. It is funny, challenging, honest, smart, surprising, touching…it has all the best elements of good story telling. And having been in rehearsal for just under a week, I can attest to our passion and commitment to doing this great script justice.
One of the things I love about this play, and something that makes it unique for a contemporary play, is White’s use of punctuation. He is very specific about each mark, much like Shakespeare. A period is very different than a comma and it is clear on the page that each choice is deliberate and purposeful. Navigating that as an actor is both challenging and comforting. The challenge is in making your choices adhere to his road map, to need and justify the space an ellipses provides as you search for your next word. Yet, in the same breath, the very fact that White has provided such a clear map, creates some ease, a little less ambiguity about his intention in a given moment. Some playwrights fit well in my mouth, that is to say their writing pattern feels natural and similar to my own speech pattern. White doesn’t come naturally necessarily, but by adhering to his punctuation, I am learning who he wrote these characters to be. I try to come back to the page when I get confused or am questioning my intentions in a given moment. I think that will continue to be a large part of my work in this process—using each comma, ellipses and period to inform my choices.
One of my favorite parts of working on a play is table work, discussing the play and reading through it out loud with the cast and director. Sitting around the table for a few days allows us to dissect the story and create some history that may not be on the page. We get to ask questions of each other about our characters’ thoughts and intentions, their experiences beyond what the playwright provides. This isn’t information that you the audience will really ever know, but it helps us to create more robust and authentic people for you to witness. It is a very satisfying creative aspect of working on a play, writing bits of historical fiction to fill out a character or answer any questions that might arise from what the playwright has written. There is so much humanity in this play, so much depth and complexity to these relationships, it is a pleasure to bring them to life.
Because there is so much wonderful mystery in this story, so much that we discover at the same time the audience does, it is helpful for us as actors to have the whole picture while we work. That way we know exactly what we know and when we know it, within the world of the play. It is a tricky occupation, the business of creating a ‘true’ false reality and fabricating authentic and organic experiences…it is truly…a mystery.
I can’t wait to share this story with our audiences and to hear their experiences and thoughts about it . Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful production and I look Forward to seeing you all in the theater!