Assistant to the Director Andrew Hawkins writes to the blogosphere from the Gruesome Playground Injuries rehearsal room:
“GPI is off to a great start! The thoughts that Miriam, Howard and director John Vreeke shared during our first rehearsal on Tuesday have echoed many of our discoveries during table work this week.
Howard called Rajiv Joseph’s work a very “personal and private piece” and the play certainly seems to stand out from Woolly’s other selections this season. When asked how this particular play fit into Woolly’s current season- a season full of explosive political commentary- Miriam explained that each of the plays have dealt with the idea of a collected responsibility we all have to one another. While the other plays, she says, dealt with that collected responsibility during major political events or with cultural and sociological issues, this play brings that collected responsibility down to an intimate and personal level. In one sense, she added, “This play represents a microcosm of the bigger questions we’ve been asking this year.”
In his first rehearsal speech, John talked about how evocative the play’s title is and how it lends to a lot of interpretation and inspiration. He said that this play is partly about the injuries that we all sustain within a lifetime and about how the playground itself is a beautiful metaphor for life. John said he sees Doug and Kayleen as two unique individuals who are both disenfranchised and who don’t succeed at life but always manage to find one another and try to work it out. On why this piece works as a memory play, John said that “if the audience knows what happens at the end, then it will be interesting for them to go back and see how it all happened.”
While reading through the scene where Doug visits Kayleen in a mental institution on the second day of rehearsal, all of us at the table experienced the heartbreaking realization that these were still, by the age of 33, two people madly in love with one another but completely incapable of communicating those feelings. Even after years and years of horrifying injuries, games and avoidance tactics, wouldn’t you think they’d be able to be open with one another? John remarked that this is indeed a “very smart play about relationships and how we are our own worst enemies.” Actor Tim Getman, who is playing Doug, added that it’s also about “the mythology we create around people we ‘can’t have’ and that there’s so much distance between Doug’s idea of Kayleen and Kayleen’s idea of herself.” In my own reflection, I believe this play illustrates the distressing reality that people with traumatic childhoods have the capacity to say “Thank you, I’ll have another,” — and that’s because it’s all they know.
Each day we grow more and more impressed with Rajiv’s writing; his punctuation contains brilliant nuances. By employing a full stop or dropping a sentence down onto a new line, Rajiv points out exactly where Doug or Kayleen divert or reveal vulnerability. This has been informing the actors a great deal on textual interpretation, like internal beats and shifts, as well as character investigation.
Another major discovery was John’s direction to not play the subtext. He started to notice that some of the more light-hearted moments were starting to get burdened with the weight of the subtext. He pointed out to Tim and Gabriella Fernandez-Coffey, who is playing Kayleen, that it’s easier to play the subtext, but that the harder part is not always playing them. “We’ll get all the subtext,” he said, “it doesn’t all need to be played because if it does, it becomes indulgent.”
Everyone is very excited to be staging this in the round. “By being in the round,” John said, “everything gets more intimate. The audience is looking at audience, we have a mirror image, and the actors are more vulnerable.” Tim and Gaby are definitely more vulnerable with this set up and they do not get a break at all during the show. With changing costumes and applying make-up onstage in full view of the audience during transitions, they have to stay connected the entire time. Near the end of rehearsal today after we had just finished doing some preliminary staging of the first two scenes, Gaby stepped back and was really quiet for a moment. Then she said, “Wow! This is going to be something to ride. This is unlike anything I have ever been a part of before. This thing has an engine! There is so much going on.” Then John asked, “And that’s good, right?” And Gaby replied, without skipping a beat, “It’s remarkable.” “