Wednesday, September 01, 2004

rehearse again in a hearse

I love the plays of Wallace Shawn . MY DINNER WITH ANDRE is the most action packed story I've ever raced behind. I've seen the movie version of it three or four times and it always leaves my head spinning. The play consists of two men seated at dinner, talking about their lives. That's it. But in that conversation there are more ideas and stories than all the fake androids in I-Robot, white-honkey storm troopers in Star Wars and sinking extras in the Titanic combined. It's an amazing play in that so much can be packed into so little movement. A lot of Wallace Shawn's plays involve very little action: THE DESIGNATED MOURNER consists of three people talking and I think THE FEVER is one person.

I've always wondered how these plays were rehearsed. They are so simple and could be worked on anywhere. I like to imagine THE DESIGNATED MOURNER being rehearsed in a hearse and MY DINNER WITH ANDRE being rehearsed in real restaurants with the actors going through their lines while everyone else eats away, unaware of a rehearsal in process.

A good question to ask an actor is: what's the strangest rehearsal space you've ever worked in. I'm sure for the Fringe Fest in particular there are a lot of tiny little spaces that large casts have squeezed into. Last night my director - Melinda Esworthy - and I met on Granville Island to work on DISLOCATED LIPS. Since the weather was nice, we worked outside on the cement stage in front of Performance Works. Ahhh, from such humble beginnings. I made ridulous suggestions as we blocked the second half of DISLOCATED LIPS and Melinda hammed up her "I really don't think so" face. A good rehearsal that was cut short by the rain, but otherwise it's a great little spot that I recommend to anyone with a very simple stage set-up.

Once I rehearsed for a part in a cemetary, but that was when I was fifteen and it was for one of the worst performances of my career. More on that some other day, but that brings us to today's short, short story about death, frogs and doing things in the wrong place:


"So Min-Jung tell us about Korean frogs," Tom asks point-blank at the not unattractive student.

"What ?" she says smiling at the bald-faced absurdity of the question, knowing that there has to be something to it, She has been in Tom's conversation class for two weeks and has come to expect the unexpected.

"Tell us where frogs are buried," he elaborates with a smile.

"Oh you mean the story of the naughty frog ?" she asks, adding quotation marks over the word frog with her raised eyebrows. Her eyebrows are thin and are at the bottom of an exceptionally large forehead. Her eyes and lips are so luscious however that no one notices this overhead immensity.

"Yes," he responds. Tom has asked this question dozens of times over his teaching career. He knows the story inside out and loves to hear how different students use various verbs, nouns and adjectives to explain it.

"Well there's this very naughty frog that doesn't listen to mother."

"Listen to his mother ?" he corrects.

"Yes doesn't listen to his mother and if the mother tells son to go south, the son goes north. The mother is sick and going to die so she says, 'Bury me by the river, but she thinks he will bury her in moutains," she says all this with flirty eyes directed at Tom. "But when mother dies, the naughty frog feels too bad and buries her by the river. The next rainy season she is washed away and that is why frogs cry."

The other two students in the conversation class feign interest, both of them trying to put together the words needed to complain about their teacher flirting too much with a classmate.

They have no idea that Tom and Min-Jung will soon be going on a date.