Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Cleopatra Trap?

I was not in very good shape this afternoon, but I managed to keep it together through a four hour rehearsal. Everyone's patience helped a lot, despite their being left, in some cases, for long stretched of time without anything to do. All in all, we managed to firm up the blocking of four big units -- the whole first Egypt sequence, essentially -- and made a number of useful discoveries along the way.

Unit 5 was the most taxing, because it involves high emotions (Antony's wife is dead, Cleopatra is about to lose him to Rome) and a lot of dime-turn tactics and deliveries. The tendency is to play emotional subtext close to one's chest, yet these scenes call for a lot of histrionic acting -- and not just the bits where Cleopatra is showing off, either. In fact, I'm starting to worry about whether or not the audience will be able to distinguish between feigned emotion and genuine distress. At one point, I told Monica that Cleopatra is a lousy actress -- but only because she has to be, because her "acting" needs to be so much bigger than her (already big) delivery that it's tantamount to stuffing all the scenery into a blender, mixing it with ham and cheese, and drinking it for breakfast.

Is that really what I want to end up with in my show? Am I falling into a Cleopatra trap -- the reason, perhaps, why so many critics despise her (because she encourages overacting)? Or will the audience exult in it, because it's giving them what they want -- ie. a diva?

Well, we'll see. In the meantime, the love games they're playing (snakey-liony-hissy-growly-chasey-wasey) are, for better or for worse, subdued. Nothing kills a bedroom game faster than hauling it out of the bedroom (and onto the stage).

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