Monthly Archives: May 2010

Postcard from (outside the) Rehearsal Room: A Claquer reflects on reading GPI

Brandon Gryde, a member of the Gruesome Claque (said “clack”), writes to the blogosphere from his “outsider” view of the play:

Tim Getman & Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey in rehearsal for GPI. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Gruesome Playground Injuries is a comedy that doesn’t end in marriage and tragedy that doesn’t end in death. Reading the play the first time, in a group reading with eight other members of the community (The Gruesome Claquers), most of us not involved in theater, I couldn’t help but think of Romeo and Juliet.

GPI doesn’t have a friar, there aren’t any sword fights, and thank goodness there’s no trellis, for if there were, Doug would surely have broken his neck trying to climb it. But it does have a couple deeply and dysfunctionally in love. Family doesn’t keep Doug and Kayleen separated from each other, but life does – a tough family life, college, and other relationships.

But GPI’s humor is just as real as the pain. The comedy forces me review own experiences and question whether the good times sandwich the bad or vice versa? Our jokes don’t get a laugh track and we often express our own humor during our roughest, toughest moments.

But why did it make me think of Romeo and Juliet? Because Shakespeare’s lovers got off easy. Their suicide ended their story and any potential that the two would encounter additional trauma. But real life for most doesn’t work that way. The circular nature of the play reminds me that, unlike most stories, life doesn’t have a strict beginning or ending. We see and are reminded that the experiences of our youth influence the experiences of our teens, which in turn influence the experiences of our adult lives. As the song says, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” GPI depicts emotional scabs that get picked and scars that don’t heal. The story doesn’t have a loose ending with an implied “to be continued” that left me guessing; it had ellipses that make me know the two characters will struggle with the tug-of-war between love and pain for a long time.

I was unable to attend the first rehearsal, so I can’t wait to see how the actors, director, and stage crew bring mobility into a script that is already so full of life. And, since complicated relationships resonate with everyone, I look forward to reading the ongoing stories and blog posts of failed love and other injuries.



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Postcard from Rehearsal: middle school and mortification

Miriam Weisfeld, Production Dramaturg for Gruesome Playground Injuries and Director of New Play Development shares with the blogosphere her reflections on the “age 13” scene of the play:

Gruesome Playground InjuriesToday the actors are working on a scene of the characters’ lives at age thirteen.  Specifically, a middle school dance.  More specifically, the nurse’s office—asylum from the disgrace that can be suffered at a middle school dance.  As Kayleen, actress Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey is digging deep into the contradictory impulses of a thirteen-year-old girl: the fine line between desiring a boy’s attention and fearing his ridicule.  The fact that Doug is an unpredictable spaz doesn’t help Kayleen, either. 

As the production team watches the clumsy push-pull between these young characters, we’re all cast back to the delicious nightmares of our own dances at our own middle schools.  At mine, the DJ crowned the event with a diabolical thing called “snowball.”  One couple would begin a slow dance (a ballad by Boyz 2 Men, I think) as the rest of the crowd watched.  When the couple felt sufficiently self-conscious, the DJ leaned into his mic and purred, “Snowball,” low and insinuating.  This signaled the boy and girl to break apart and each select a new partner with whom to sway, disengage, and further populate the dance floor at each successive “snowball.”  If all went well, even the wallflowers would be dancing by the end of the song.  Looking back, it reminds me of the diagram showing how sexually transmitted diseases are spread.

At the time, of course, none of us saw the dance with such foreboding perspective—we were too concerned about the hail of gossip that might rain down if we chose the wrong partner.  At age thirteen, Doug and Kayleen don’t have this hindsight, either.  But the rest of us do.  The zigzag structure of Gruesome Playground Injuries allows the audience to see the characters at age twenty-three right before they appear at thirteen.  We know that their anxieties and disappointments will mount, driving them to recklessly punish their bodies as they fail to adjust to mainstream expectations.  After each time we glimpse Doug and Kayleen grow older and more self-destructive, the play turns and burrows back into their youth.  That youth, we learn, was spent at a school called Saint Margaret Mary’s.  The other day, I looked up its namesake: Margaret Mary Alacoque was a seventeenth-century French nun.  Clumsy with her nursing tasks and ridiculed by the other sisters of her parish, she disciplined her body with a regimen of self-inflicted pain—the religious word is “mortification.”  It’s fitting, I think.

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Postcard from Rehearsal: shaping the scenes between the scenes

Assistant to the Director Andrew Hawkins writes to the blogosphere againm two weeks into rehearsals for Gruesome Playground Injuries:

Gruesome Playground InjuriesA great deal of our energy this week has focused on staging the transitions. It’s been both challenging and exhilarating.  Director John Vreeke exclaimed one afternoon: “This is harder than scenework!”  To which actor Tim Getman responded, “Yeah, but it’s awesome! It’s helping everything start to feel a lot more real!”

Rachel Grossman, movement coach, and Chris Baine, sound designer, have been with us every day helping us shape these moments—each one requiring a specific composition. The music and the movement both set the tone and mood, but they also create an energy which not only facilitates the actor’s physical transformations but also crafts the play’s journey.   

While working the transition between scene one and two, in which Tim and his fellow cast member Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey transform from 8 year old kids to 23 year old adults, John and Rachel liked the idea of sneaking in a little choreography. “I want the play to keep moving in between these scenes,” said John.  Chris chose a song which everyone in the rehearsal room melted over.

Two scenes later, in the transition between scenes six and seven, the discussion returned to music choice.  We were deliberating between two strikingly different pieces.  Most of us loved one selection because it was haunting, beautiful and macabre, but we were afraid it was playing too much into the emotions of the scene. The lyrics, too, fit perfectly. But that was a huge problem in itself – they fit too perfectly (aka “on the nose”).  We ended up going with option two.

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Picture Postcard from Rehearsal: Gruesome Set Load In

Misha Kachman’s set design continues to come to life.

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