Report, 9/26/08

Present: Marc, Dale, John David, Jeff A., Dan, Greg, Jeff B.

Welcome, John David Bilon as Cominius!

We met in the Greenville Street Park to work through Act V. Surrounded by two separate weddings and the Obama campaign, we were unmolested.

Still unsure about V.1 and V.2, we staged them anyway. Kevin, we have cut all the business with the guards. The scene now starts with your silent approach to the camp, then CORIOLANUS: Now what’s the matter? MENENIUS cuts the opening bit of that big speech, starting with the the [to Coriolanus]: The glorious gods… and ending with … The good gods assuage thy wrath. Then, after AUFIDIUS: You keep a constant temper, the guards escort you silently away, and we continue straight into V.3.

We did not do V.4, since Kevin and Greg were not there, nor V.5, since it’s just a parade. However, someone needs to do the MESSENGERs in V.4; Scott and Andrew, take those. Also, John David, take the SENATOR in V.5.

We worked a lot on V.6, the final scene, just because it was so much fun and because it’s so important. It’s going to be very important to keep the crowd noises going during the fight and during Coriolanus’s death slump. Perhaps one of the Conspirators needs to come pull Aufidius up from Coriolanus’s body to bring him back to the business at hand?

We went back to the beginning of the play and tried to walk through the scenes to see how and where we would stage them now that we had a better feeling of the space. Act I remains as we planned, on the raised platform and the sidewalk, and then starting with II and III we begin moving down the middle of the greensward to the other side of the amphitheatre, ending at the seating area for most of IV and V.

We will give the audience a ten-minute break after III.3, the banishment scene, cut IV.1 [goodbye at the gates], and pick up with IV.2 [Volumnia chews her some tribune ass] after the break.

We bogged down again at the Battle Ballet, aka I.4.

NEXT: Wednesday, we will meet in Dale’s back yard. Let’s focus on Act I.

Scott Stroud, Dale needs your email.

Report, 9/24/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Greg, Dan, Kevin, Jeff A., Jeff B., Scott

First, welcome aboard to Jeff Allen, who’s been busy directing The Odd Couple at NCTC, and to Scott Stroud, who found out what we were up to and joyfully signed on.

Second, tonight was our last night at the dance studio. We’ll be working at the Park on Saturday and in Dale’s back yard thereafter.

We worked through Act IV. Scene 1 covers Coriolanus’s fond farewells to his family and friends. Blocking problems abound, although those may vanish after we discover new ways of dealing with the space in the Park.

Scene 2 is a lot of fun, with Volumnia giving the tribunes a piece of her mind.

We’ve cut Scene 3; it’s useless. Scene 4 is short and sweet.

And then there’s Scene 5. The servants are comic; we will have to work on props and the physical comedy. Dale and Jeff enjoy themselves a little too much during Aufidius’s speech.

Scene 6 is the “café scene,” in which the self-congratulatory tribunes and Menenius are stunned to find that Martius has turned against Rome. It worked the best of the scenes tonight, possible because we had worked it over extensively before.

Scene 7 is nice and short, just Aufidius musing over his boyfriend’s hubris.

We then had an inconclusive discussion over Dale’s suggestion to cut V.1 and V.2. Many suggestions: start V.1 halfway through; cut V.1 but leave V.2; cut a lot of the Monty Python guards in V.2; cut the end of Aufidius’s speech in IV.7 and segue straight into V.3.

Problems with all the approaches, of course. Best would be to leave the scenes in, but the general feeling is that we need to cut something in order to get the play down to two and a half hours. Discussion was tabled.

After everyone else left, Dale, Marc, and Jeff A. went back to I.3 and gave it a whirl. Totally workable.

Report, 9/20/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Jeff B, Dan, Kevin, Greg

We worked through Act III. Scene 1 is huge, starting with more “wish Aufidius was here” talk from Coriolanus, and kicking in swiftly with the Tribunes’ blocking of his path to the consulship. The violence escalates as Coriolanus just won’t shut up, until we have a riot. Jeff worked on all the arguments against letting the people have a voice in the government, getting them to be clear and pointed. We all worked on trying to keep the tension of the political nightmare high.

Scene 2 is actually fairly comic in that we see Volumnia in full sail, grinding her son down until he agrees to knuckle under and apologize to the Tribnues. Marc had her practically spitting blood.

We worked the opening of scene 3 a couple of times, getting the Tribunes more and more scheming. We also found a nice moment in the scene where it looks as if it all has been settled, and then Coriolanus once again throws the whole city into chaos when he won’t let things go.

We began the rehearsal with a workthrough of the Battle Ballet, catching Kevin up to speed on the second, more tricky half. Then we had a deep discussion, okay, it was an argument, when Jeff rejected the stylized, Taymoresque BB, wanting something more realistic to respond to. Dale’s argument for the BB was that we couldn’t do anything realistic, especially to the extended “voiceover” of Cor’s description of the battle, and that the BB actually drew time out for the speeches, plus echoed the warrior opening.

Finally we had Jeff do the speech while we did the BB, then again trying something more “realistic.” No one was convinced either way. We tabled it for further development after Kevin suggested a third way, still stylized but not as flamboyant as the BB: the Romans line up, center, facing up, while the Volscians enter from their gates and face them in a line. Choreography to be determined.

Report: 9/17/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Greg, Dan, Jeff B.

We worked through Act II, which is the kickoff of the actual plot.

In II.1, the return of Coriolanus, we got some more mileage out of the Tribunes and Menenius. (Kevin, we’re thoroughly exploring your character while you’re away. You can just mindmeld with Dale.) We have to find a Cominius to replace Philip. John, if you’re reading this, be looking at the role.

We had previously worked the end of the scene with the Tribunes, and it showed. The subtleties of their deviousness began to develop.

In II.2, which seems to be a very formal kind of “let’s praise him and make him consul” scene, we found a lot of informality by relating the procedure to the Good Old Boy system in place around here, i.e., they are not seriously presenting and considering his consulship; they’ve already decided this at cocktail parties over hor d’oeuvres. This is just window dressing, which the Tribunes recognize. We see this mostly through Menenius’s insouciance about the matter. Coriolanus is just bein’ difficult.

We went over II.3 several times, exploring the Citizens. We’ve given them cracker accents, and it works. It pulls out the comedy and delineates their social status very quickly for the audience. Even their Monty Python overtones come across.

We didn’t get to the Battle Ballet, but we will on Saturday. We will also tackle Act III.

Report: 9/13/08

Present: Marc, Dale, Dan, Greg

Down by one: Philip Hauser has had to withdraw from the show; he had a job come up for the weekend of the show that he couldn’t turn down. Dang. We do need to replace him.

We worked most of the morning on the Battle Ballet. With any luck, we’re finished. It’s about 20 measures of drumming, four of intro, then two sets of eight of actual battle. Dale will type up the choreography and post it here. It was hard to tell with just the four of us there, but it looked as if it might actually be exciting. Certainly the whack/whack/whack sequence is heartstopping for us.

We worked for the last hour on the essential Tribune scenes, defining their characters and giving Dan and Greg a chance to begin working through their material. As always, we sought to discover the tautness of a political thriller, and with these two characters, we didn’t have to search very far.

NEXT: For Wednesday, let’s try to get Act II roughed out. We’ll start going over the Battle Ballet weekly as well.

Report: 9/10/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Dan, Philip, Jeff B.

We started with I.9 and I.10. For I.9, the trick is going to be keeping the scene alive by focusing on what makes Martius our hero: he’s modest, he’s generous, he’s self-sacrificing. All his difficulties are in civilian life. Another problem, our constant one, is crowd control: who’s onstage and where are they?

Dale brought poles for everyone, and it rapidly became apparent that the whole show is going to be about leaning on poles unless we’re careful.

In I.10, Marc restored lines that Dale wanted to cut, on the grounds that the audience needed to have underlined for them the rancorous rivalry between Auf. & Cor.

We looped back to I.6 and played with that one some more, trying once again to keep Martius our hero.

We went outside to play with our poles and developed an idea for the Battle Ballet that would involve actual contact. Dale discovered that our cargo pants ride low, making it difficult to lunge. Marc is going to record some drumming tracks for us to work with.

In other news, Dale is still looking for fabric for the gates. He will try the awning place on the bypass next.

For Saturday: the Battle Ballet, and let’s begin to work on the Tribune scenes in I.1 and early act II.

Report: 9/6/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Dan, Greg, Jeff B., Kevin, and introducing Philip

Dale suggested that since we were losing an hour or so of our 10:00-2:00 time slot to lunch, that we go from 10:00-1:00 without lunch, but with snacks, perhaps, and get more work done. That was preferred to a 9:00-12:00 solution.

Marc started with breathing/vocal instruction so that we all have a chance of being heard in the amphitheatre without injuring our vocal cords.

Then we started working on Act I. Philip took on the role of Cominius. We worked the opening scene a couple of times, although we’re putting the actual choreography of the pantomimic opening off until we have staves for everyone. (Dale promises to have them for next Wednesday.)

Points of exploration: the constant tug-of-war for, as Marc has put it, the control of perception, first between First Citizen and Second Citizen, and then between First Citizen and Menenius.

After running through I.2 (the Volscian council scene) once, Marc asked us to play it again and make Aufidius a little more of a loose cannon, so that his irritation with the sloppy organization of the Senate becomes noticeable and they’re a little afraid of him. Jeff asked to see more valediction in Aufidius’s last line to the Senate.

We skipped I.3 until we get a firm Virgilia, we’ve nominated Jeff Allen for the role.

We skimmed I.4 through I.8, trying to get a firm grasp on the flow. We realized as we launched into the Battle Ballet proper that many of us had not been there the day we conceptualized that scene, so we had to catch those people up in concept. That’s going to take a whole day’s worth of choreography to get under our belts. Again, everybody’s got to have a pole.

Good work today, and at least we’re under way.

For Wednesday, we’re going to look at I.9 and I.10 and go back and look at some of the other battle scenes.

Report: 9/3/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Greg, Dan, Jeff B. (Kevin was at a meeting.)

The problem of the night: who was to play Coriolanus? We started by having everyone state the roles they would like to play; we wrote people’s initials next to the characters. It was a pretty even distribution, i.e., we all liked almost all of the roles. (Dale and Jeff were the only two who expressed an interest in Coriolanus, though.)

Then we read through IV.5, where the boys meet, from the opening through the boys’ exit, five times. Each of us read Coriolanus. Then, and history will not believe this, we voted via secret ballot on whom we would cast. Jeff got it by acclimation.

Finally, we sorted ourselves into the remaining major roles, texting poor Kevin in the middle of his meeting with the news that we had forced him into Coriolanus. This confused him so much that when we told him he was really going to be Menenius, he didn’t know whether to believe us or not.

Here’s the cast so far:

  • Coriolanus: Jeff Bishop
  • Aufidius: Dale Lyles
  • Menenius: Kevin McInturff
  • Sicinius: Greg Lee
  • Brutus: Dan Coleman
  • Volumnia: Marc Honea

Marc also thinks he can double Titus Lartius, and we’re holding Cominius for others who might be joining us. Virgilia and Valeria we left up in the air, although Dale likes Valeria and it would be very interesting for Aufidius to double Virgilia.

We really need some extra hands at this point, to help fill in all the other little roles that clutter this play.