Friday, January 23, 2009

WITNESS: Jacque Troy - the process

By actress Jacque Troy who plays Viola Pettibone in WITNESS

Interesting New Questions in a New Location


The last time I sat down to write, I admitted that I love researching history and other important factors, whenever I’m tackling a new role. Since we’ve now moved into the Todd Wehr Theater with our production of WITNESS I’m enjoying all the new curiosities that arise from this important phase of rehearsal.

After working on a flat floor, with only colored tape to show all the edges of platforms and steps, it’s fascinating and sometimes challenging to experience everything in three dimensions. With Nate Stuber’s authentic and enormously inventive set, entrances and exits have to be done differently in order to get where you need to be on time. Our timing is also affected by the fact that many of the female performers in the cast (including me) have traded in the tennis shoes we normally wore in rehearsal for high heel shoes. Props chosen by Mark Hare to “dress” the set, help all of us create more vivid characters, but can also prove distracting when they’re first introduced. On the first Monday in the space “my” grocery store suddenly contained large jars of real candy. It was hard for all of us to concentrate thinking how delicious a licorice whip or some salt water taffy might taste when we were working so hard.

A beautifully evocative lighting design by Jason Fassl also means we have to get used to how we, as actors, best use this new element. On the first day, while trying to make a quick exit to backstage, I ran right into a wall!! I didn’t hurt myself and enjoyed laughing at my clumsiness as much as the rest of the cast. Luckily, our assistant stage manager, Matt, was on hand to provide me with some glow tape. Despite that silliness, it was so great to see how Mr. Fassl created a train and fire with the clever use of lighting.

Pam Rehberg’s striking costumes mean we all look quite different to one another, too. Because the play takes place in the 1920s, many of the female performers are wearing wigs for a more “period” look, and male performers, young and old, are often in hats. These costumes also mean that there are new rules for movement. We all laughed about the required “sitting lessons” provided by Ms. Rehberg, when our female performers of 2009 had to be taught the right way to “sit in church” if you lived in the 1920s.

Finally, the introduction of Josh Schmidt’s sound design helps to create mood, but also requires the actors to find ways to benefit from and compliment his work. Just four days before opening, our director, John Maclay, and Mr. Schmidt decided that the cast should sing two new songs to enhance existing sound cues. Luckily, both tunes were familiar to all of us. You’ll recognize them too, when you come to see the show.

I love that all the technical and design elements provide new puzzles for us to solve during “tech week”. And before the excitement of playing for an audience begins, we get to enjoy the excitement of exploring a small town in Vermont in the 1920s. I know I can’t wait to share what we’ve discovered with our audience.

Photo by John Deighton Hemingway, Jacque Troy kneeling on the ground and actor Dan Katula as Harvey Pettibone with WITNESS cast

No comments: