Report, 10/1/08

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

We began running Act I in Dale’s back yard. We made it through scene 1 one and a half times before decamping to NCTC’s lobby, courtesy of Jeff A. Dale never thought that the sun set at 7:30 when he offered his back yard. (Saturdays will be fine, since it’s daylight.)

We worked on getting more crowd-ness into the scene.

I.2 and I.3 moved very smoothly, very short and well-played.

We ran I.4 a couple of times, finally agreeing that we would work the Battle Ballet next Wednesday when everyone could be there. We will devote the time to learning it and making it work. We ran a facsimile with Dan and Dale fluffing their way through it while Jeff gave his speeches front and center, shifting to the defeated Romans when he could. Marc watched it from out front and says it works.

I.5, short and sweet, and then we decided to cut 1.6 and 1.7, heading straight into the Grudge Match in 1.8. Again, we have to (have to!) get the fight choreographed. Dale will work on this over the weekend.

1.9 is very stodgy, but will probably prove more interesting after everyone starts to learn lines.

1.10, short and sweet.

NEXT: We will meet on Saturday at the park, 10:00, to work through Act II.

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: 9/13/08

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.

Report: 8/27/08

Present: Dale, Marc, Dan, Jeff B.

The problem of the day was the final scene: what does it mean and how do we stage it?

Dale wanted to start with Coriolanus’ death, the hard part. We futzed around a bit, and then Dale shared a moment he wanted to steal from another production the review of which he had read this summer: Aufidius does his last speech trying to pull Coriolanus’ body up by himself. He calls for others to help him bear C’s body offstage, but even with his last line, “Assist!”, no one moves. He is left clutching his true love to himself.

We played that, liked it, then worked up to it. The final attack on Coriolanus evolved into a choreographed death scene, naturally. I won’t describe it here, because if audience members are reading (or begin reading) this site, we don’t want to spoil the surprise. But it mirrors the opening and provides us with a shocking image of the two men for the ending. Dan came up with the perfect close to the play, which solved the problem created by no one assisting Aufidius in the traditional dead march.

We looked at V.5, that bizarre little pantomime of a Roman triumph, and found ways to have Volumnia scare the audience one last time.

Everyone has commitments this Saturday, it is Labor Day weekend after all, so we will not rehearse this Saturday. We will meet back next Thursday, Sep. 3, and we will make our casting decisions for the major roles at that meeting. Scary.

Report: 8/23

Present: Dale, Greg, Dan, Marc.

The Problem of the Day: what to do about I.4-I.10, i.e., the War. On the one hand, we have stage directions like Enter the army of the Volsces and Alarum. The Romans are beat back to their trenches. On the other hand, we have eight men at the moment. What to do?

We set as our goal for the day the creation of a score for these seven scenes, since the solution clearly lies in combining sound and movement to create a stage picture which the audience can recognize as “battles” or “armies.” In other words, we had to map out the dance, to be choreographed later.

In this we were wildly successful. We used our sticky sheets to write “video/audio” descriptions of each moment in the sequence, and drew stage pictures to go with them. Dale has now transferred all that information to his notebook, so we’ll have it for reference.

Dale had brought in two six-foot staffs, 1-1/2″ round. We played with those as both weapons and set pieces. (We also pole-danced, but that’s another story.) If we get large pieces of blood-maroon jersey, we can stitch those down either side to create tubes into which the staffs can easily slip. One staff + jersey = flag/banner/waving thing. Two staffs + jersey = gate/wall, etc. Now we easily have the gates of Corioles, managed by two performers.

In fact, two of the women in I.3 will become the “gate-keepers” as their “sewing” becomes the gates. Volumnia and Virgilia drop character, catch the two poles tossed from the side, we have racks of staffs on either side of the stage, and we change scenes to the battlefield.

The Battle Ballet, as we’re calling it, will consist of the cast evenly divided into left and right, recalling the ritualized warrior poses we opened the show with. Much drumming and hollering. Martius is dead center, narrating the fight with his two monologues, as the battle flows around him.

We used the sidewalk/greenspace vs. the raised stage in a number of meaningful ways, so that was fun. We have drums coming from “backstage” as well as from behind the audience to indicate locations of the different areas of conflict.

And the Title Match, as we’re calling I.8, begins with the blood-red flags running across the stage, leaving behind the assembled cast, staffs in hand, facing up, and Martius/Aufidius revealed on the raised platform. They fight, Aufidius flees, and Martius, cheated of his hand-to-hand victory, is left. Segue into the triumphant Roman camp, praising a clearly frustrated Martius, who has to climb down and join his celebrating friends whether he’s in the mood or not.

NEXT: Wednesday, August 27, 7:00-9:00, Newnan School of Dance. We’re going to tackle the end of the show and as many of the other scenes in Act V as we can.