Monthly Archives: April 2010

Postcard from Rehearsal Room: A Claquer’s view on First Rehearsal

Elizabeth El-Hage, a member of the Gruesome Claque (said “clack”), writes to the blogosphere from her “outsider” view of the first rehearsal:

I didn’t quite know what to expect at this first meeting of artists and production folk, but by the end of the event, I was joyfully overwhelmed and very, very excited by it all. The director introduced us to the play by offering his insights as well as thoughts from the playwright himself, which were beautifully reflected in the designers’ presentation of their work.  I was struck by how carefully their work not only evoked the themes of the play, but that every detail of their design brought me more powerfully into the world that Kayleen and Doug inhabit  – so that set, sound, lighting, and costumes harmoniously come together to illuminate the profound ebb and flow of their relationship.

 One of my favorite points is how the “gruesomeness” of the characters’ wounds, both internal and external, is juxtaposed against the clinical and spartan nature of the set.  Also, I loved that the playwright keeps the characters “trapped” in this gruesome world, as the actors are not allowed to leave the stage at any point during the play, so that it is ultimately up to them to free themselves from their injuries. 

 It’s a lot of craziness in a small space, and I felt the culmination of that come through in the wonderful reading of the play by the actors. I was so impressed by how they embraced the small moments with as much voracity as the large ones and it really brought to light the complicated and wonderful and mystical nature of the relationship between Kayleen and Doug.  

 All of this was such a gush of insight and thoughtfulness and true discovery about the messiness of human relationships, especially how men and women relate to each other in particular, as Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz noted in his remarks. As I was leaving the room, I felt like I had just received all the answers to my college exam on this play in advance, but that the real adventure will be seeing all of it come together in the actual production.”

Wanna know more about the Claque?  Email Rachel@WoollyMammoth.net!

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Postcards from Rehearsal: Observations from the First Week

 Assistant to the Director Andrew Hawkins writes to the blogosphere from the Gruesome Playground Injuries rehearsal room:

Gruesome Playground Injuries“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.” “

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Picture Postcards from Rehearsal: Load-In

The view from the balcony.

Rear House Left

House Right Box Seats

Landscape view from the Balcony House Right

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Picture Postcards from Rehearsal: Changing of the Set

The Clybourne Park set, designed by Jim Kronzer, in its Act 2 look:

The Clybourne Park set being disassembled following the show’s close:

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Postcard from First Rehearsal of GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES

Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz writes to the blogosphere from First Rehearsal of Gruesome Playground Injuries:

Gruesome Playground Injuries

“Gruesome Playground Injuries is a portrait of one of the most unique and extreme boy/girl relationships I’ve ever seen on the stage.  We’d been following Rajiv’s work for a couple of years – beginning with the terrific Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year.  But with Gruesome I felt this remarkable young writer really got under my skin for the first time. 

For starters, the play has a fascinating time signature – beginning when Doug and Kayleen are eight years old and meet in the nurse’s office at school when he is seriously injured and she is feeling sick.  Then it jumps forward 15 years, then back 10, then forward 15 again, back 10, and so on, until they are both 38 years old.  So the audience has the fun job of connecting the dots of their relationship both forwards and backwards in time. 

More importantly, Rajiv explodes in an extreme way the self-destructive strategies we all use to get attention, and simultaneously explodes the power we have as human beings to make another person feel whole and safe.  So every scene sustains an extreme tension between attraction and repulsion, between crying out for connection and screaming to be left along.  Doug and Kayleen seem destined to be together and likewise destined to never quite connect.  Their relationship doesn’t fit comfortably into any “normal” box (like romance or even friendship) and yet we come to view them as soul mates, with an almost spiritual connection beyond what many of us ever experience. 

Ironically, I feel like this very odd relationship may function like a Rorschach test for many of our own relationships, and poses interesting questions about the responsibility we have for one another, and the challenge of sustaining relationships that don’t slide easily into conventional forms. 

Ultimately, I think Gruesome Playground Injuries has the hallmarks of many Woolly plays – it lies on a knife’s edge between hilarity and pathos, examines life on this extreme edge, and raises questions about the lives we all live.”

What intimate perspective would you like to hear on the rehearsal process?  Email discussions@woollymammoth.net to let us know!

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Brightwoodian weighs in on Clybourne Park

“Is our neighborhood Clybourne Park?” The Brightwoodian pondered last week.

An excerpt from the end of the posting:

To answer the question that Woolly has been posing, “Is your neighborhood Clybourne Park?”, well, yes, Clybourne Park is a lot like Brightwood, and many other neighborhoods throughout DC (as well as many other major cities all over the United States). The houses on my block were built in the early 1920s and housed a white (mostly Jewish, from what I understand) majority at the time. Further investigation of exactly how much Brightwood’s history reflects the story of Clybourne Park will require a few trips to the Washintoniana room at MLK. I’ll write more about that in the future, but wanted to post this now in order to give the excellent show a plug before it closes on April 17.

For the entire article, visit The Brightwoodian!

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“Urban vs. suburban development paradigms for the city”

Check out this interesting post by Richard Layman from his blog Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space.  The blog’s manifesto….

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space:   A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic. This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work–historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy–along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

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