A Glimpse Into The Rehearsal Process – “Andy And The Shadows”

A little Facebook digest to share with you, looking back on 3 weeks of the rehearsal process of ANDY AND THE SHADOWS. In the comments section, we’ll be hearing from our student subscribers from UM, UC and ND. For interesting reference, click here to check out what an earlier semester’s group of students had to say about the November 2012 workshop reading of the play.

March 6
Gratifying first read of ANDY AND THE SHADOWS, some 26 years in the making. Cried a lot, early, often, and late in the read as well. A good sign. It meant something. It means a lot to have reached this day with a wonderful company, making art from life over time. And now our Crazy Weather Karma continues – as with our workshop reading on October 29 (which had to be canceled cuz ‘a “Sandy”), today’s we’ve got Snowquester shutting down the J. We’ll see if we’re meeting for rehearsals. Hope so. Work to do!!!

March 7
Day #2: 6 hours of table work – nothing canceled – actors present and accounted for – same for audience (mostly) – RACE goes on – the J is closed but the entire theater staff shows up to do what we do because that’s who we are and that’s how we roll – unbelievable dedication from everyone – that’s got to inspire, right? Onward! Cuts and restores, insights and clarifiers, progress and, every so often, a Stump The Playwright Moment – those are fun! What we can’t answer at night, reveals itself in the morning. Let’s see if that’s true! An early rise to tackle some tough stuff. Ready for revelation — And coffee.”

March 8
Day #3: More intensity – another straight six at the table – we go from working on relationships, one at a time, to eventually adding the whole company, finding strategic changes in Act I that must be folded into Act II – that stitching keeps me up too late – after taking students to see the 3 hour THE CONVERT @ Woolly. Guess what? They lied! For whatever reason, the 3 hour show came down at 11:15 and the parking lot closed at 11 and… the lot waited, thank God, but I regret bolting out during the 2nd part of the curtain call. Guess why that’s why I was up too late making changes. More to come. More coffee too.”

March 9
Day #4 – The ecstasy and the agony – Happiest days of table work ever; laughing uncontrollably every hour (and I’m not even alone in this); so much that the back seizes in spasm; lets go – truly painful laughter – as we fix and probe and contradict each other and agree – and press forward. Develop a mysterious rotator cuff pain after driving home from Woolly that’s still with me Saturday morning – can’t lift my arm higher than 80 degrees – with a chiropractor appointment at 9:30 and 2nd act rewrites before and after. Table work ends today with a new read of the whole play at 5. Then maybe I get to decompress as Daniella stages? (or not so much)”

March 10
An exuberant ‘Fanny and Alexander’ brings Bergman’s Ekdahls to the Kennedy Center
“Day #5 reflections: Remember laughing so hard that my arm fell off? Or crying early, late and often during the read through? Doesn’t happen quite the same way reading through the script again, after we’ve gotten all our laughs out; after we’ve gotten all our tears out. Funny thing about the theater, and the rhythms of rehearsal. As we get done with table work–and we spent longer than we intended at the table until we got up on our feet–and many more cuts now remain, and other new insights expose themselves–so there’s only more to do, with a next phase of the process breathing down. The chiropractor identifies rotator cuff and deltoid muscle strain–I’d call it shredding, but it may not be–the exercises I get only increase the pain–the Advil I take, on the other hand, doesn’t. Up till two working on producing stuff and cuts and watch the clocks spring forward. Back at it again at 8 and feeling focussed on losing some precious stuff that needs to go–And finding linking detail from bath-tub scene into Young Raya the Angel. Got a feeling it’s got something to do with yellow knee socks, lamb chops, and cutting the religious cards. (Those would be ‘notes to self.’ Aren’t these all?) Onward to morning coffee and reading yesterday’s review of “Fanny and Alexander,” so much the inspiration for the magic realism in “Andy…” Only sorry I couldn’t see it at the Ken Cen’s Nordic Cool Fest. Rehearsals…”

March 11
Day #6: Staging in the dance studio. Locking in the text for bedroom, bath and convent scenes. Sublime to finally see how a mother washing a son’s hair on stage is going to look and feel. Amazingly real day. Great culmination to a major week. Onward!

March 12 – Day off!

March 13
Week #2 rehearsals: I come three hours into the company’s work after a late afternoon panel at Georgetown on Grace and Politics featuring Anna Deavere Smith, EJ Dionne, Mike McCurry, and Imam Mohamed Majid, followed by reception, FOLLOWED by dinner for 60 hosted by GU president John J DeGioia. Which was pretty spectacular. Spent dinner talking with one extraordinary dynamo, civil rights attorney Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project (one extraordinary organization). Bottom line, couldn’t leave dinner until 9 pm! Got back in time for Daniella and company to show me first stagings of the dream and garage roof hopping sequences. This morning, cuts and restores on a piece of… the garage roof hopping sequence. And so it goes. No more fancy dinner parties for a while, Mr. Playwright!

March 14, 2013
Rehearsal Report #8: Spectacularly productive. Finished staging Act I, text in place (at least, shall we say through designer run next week when we hear it altogether once again – I think). Amazingly, this director wants her playwright in the room the whole time! It’s a new way of working – figuring stuff out – rewriting for action (as in changing “you’re dressed!” to “you’re not even ready” if you figure out that the action would be better served by the dude actually doing something after he’s gotten out of the bath). Lots of good little things everyday. Tomorrow we present 45 minutes from Act I and Congregation Tifereth Israel. They feed the entire company!

March 15
Notes from Rehearsal #9
Reverting to longer note form for this report, cause so much happens in a day. That’s the point really. A lotta peaks and valleys in the course of 6 hours of intense work. It begins with the recognition that second act changes will be due on Thursday and then again on Friday as Daniella stages all of Act II over the next 3 days before putting it all together on Sunday, so we see where we are, the whole show fully sketched out in its staging. And I know that I teach for three hours Thursday night and that all day Friday I’m busy, the entirety of the day and night (with our rehearsals at T.I., and then the dinner, service and presentation), plus morning chiropractor and a staff reading of a new musical at 10:15 am. If rewrites are going to happen, they’re going to have to happen late Wednesday night and as much of Thursday morn as I can muster before rehearsals.

Well, I decide to miss some rehearsal so I can get through the entirety of the Act. That’s what needs to be done. And I take my time upon completion of the revisions (which take hours and hours, but I’m up late and then again early, so I’m done before noon) and waltz into rehearsal, showered and shaved and confident and happy at 12:30, and the company’s been slogging away on the opening film-within-the- play sequence of the act and, while most of the ensemble is buoyant and full of energy as they work through the Pirandelian mischief, at the center there’s a bit of hang-dog unhappiness at how the opening monologue-work went in my absence at the top of the day. Dramaturg, lead actor, and director need to communicate with me that the opening paragraph is still confusing and that for all the nice writing, I still didn’t eliminate the challenge of opening with our Andy at 50 and then segueing into his being 25 once more, on location for his film shoot, talking to his actors. I’m invested in this reflexivity. It’s the framing device of the whole show. But there’s confusion as to why we need it at the top of Act II. Why not just have the framing at the beginning and the ending of the play? It’s confusing enough, with all the Pirandelian mischief I’m throwing at artists and audience! So my beloved collaborators are signaling quite clearly that they’re not thrilled that, in my vaunted rewrites, I didn’t remove the Older Andy moments at the top.

But I’m confident and zippy because I’ve finished all my homework and the stage manager has made copies of the new act two, and I know that the most difficult stuff has been, indeed, wrestled to the ground in this rewrite and that we’ve taken a significant step forward. “Don’t be taking me backwards, dudes, and raining on my parade,” I think to myself. I don’t say that, quite precisely, or even at all. But I’m wondering, as we go back to track through the entirety of the film-within-the-play sequence, and I witness now the actor once again struggling to make sense of how to show the transitioning from 50 to 25, and then asking WHY the transition from 50 to 25, it begins to frustrate. They’d like a clean opening; no confusion. I’m interested in the fluidity of the 50 year old artist struggling to say something which is difficult, and only working his way into his 25 year old persona as the personal wrestling takes us through the end of the first paragraph. At a tense break, I review my intentions with the director. The bracketing of the play. The doubleness that we’ve invested in at the opening and ending of the piece — it’s OF a piece with what this Act II opening section wants to be. As usual, my director hears me. She’s presented her case; her reading; her confusion and uncertainty as to how to stage what’s on the page, but she’s open to listening. We talk. I depart. I go up to my office to check in. I scribe some tart little comments on my computer journal. I’ll share them here, why not?

“Dangerous to walk into a room with confidence in this business. The second you enter with it, they’ll wanna rub it out of you with doubts; with skepticism; nothing rallies a group more than shooting down a little individual gumption and aggressiveness. Not until that assertive charge is codified externally and labeled “vision;” or “bravery;” given the mark of “Quality.” Only then do you receive permission to hurtle forth. And hurtle forward you all do, onto the next horizon and creative challenge. And all is good. But it was that confidence and clarity amid the fog that got you to the next landing. Remember that.”

So there I am. Stewing in my own juice. Back at a familar place with a chip on the shoulder. And I come back to the room, back from our 20 minute lunch (again, I’m a minute late; not good), and they’re just beginning to re-work and this time, as they run from the top of the act, the opening flows. It starts in that private creative clotted place and bursts forward to a wild and lunatic and very funny expression, all within that opening page, and the actors playing actors in the scene all assemble and perform their enthusiasm and sincerity with gusto, and it’s thrilling to see and hear Daniella embracing the intentions of the scene and figuring out the elaborate road-map to guide the entirety of the sequence toward its lunatic tour-de-force realization. It has a shape and a logic — even as — by the end of the day — I’ve been forced to discover a whole other component of the film scene that is an internal contradiction — as in, what kind of ending for the film did our protagonist envision? He seems to have wanted two different endings. A happy and a tragic one. A redemptive and a critical indictment. How can it be both!!? Or in wanting (unwittingly) for it to be both, is that why the film short-circuits, the actors turn into haunting Freudian ghost specters, and our protagonist winds up arrested for assembly without a permit? I’ve learned something totally new that we’ll address in some new moments. And that’s exciting and thrilling and humbling. Mr. Cocky and Confident who had all these notions of Intentions and Purposeful Fluidity, has just been shown and taught something he didn’t realize in his own play! And there are things to address. And he will. And he’s grateful to the company—and especially that smart director—for embracing the first intention to lead us forward only to discover something new we didn’t know that needs to be addressed as we move further down the road to realization.

So it’s a great day, as we gather near the end of rehearsal, to read through the critical big scenes later in the act that I’ve rewritten. And they pass muster. They aren’t perfect–there’s now some new tweaking to do but it’s finer, smaller, the big cuts and reshaping is in place–and we’ll be working on staging these scenes today (on Friday) and it’s good. We’re moving forward. There’s more to share on events from after rehearsal. Some exciting news. I’ll share them in a follow up. Onward.

March 16
Notes from Rehearsal #10: The reading at TI last night of the first 50 minutes of Act I went really well. So grateful for the laughter throughout. Really the most gratifying. Leaned a LOT. About needed restores in the bath tub scene and tweaks here and there, and plenty of nuance and rhythm issues for performance. But what we presented last night was a reading at music stands — going backwards, in a sense, from the staging with scripts in hand we’ve already been doing. Still it was a useful check-in for all of us as to how we’re doing as story-tellers. And where, o where dear playwright, will another 5 minutes of cuts come from? Or are you giving up on this fruitless search (I speak to myself a lot in the 3rd person these days)? No giving up!!!!

March 17
Rehearsal Report #11: We’ve finished blocking the whole play. Today at 2 we walk/run it altogether, from beginning to end; see what we have. The relief is that the rewrites came in and continued and resolved in fairly elegant fashion yesterday. Got a lot done on the car and hospital scene. I missed the wedding staging, out at a wonderful dinner party for Katie’s best-friend’s mother’s 80th b-day. A fun night. Left my bag at the theater. Came back at 10:45 to pick it up, and saw that we’d had another Sold Out performance of RACE. Yesterday was one of most lucrative days at the theater — and RACE has now brought in 5,600 patrons with TWO FINAL SHOWS TODAY (at 3 and 7:30). Our hit encore production of NEW JERUSALEM: THE INTERROGATION OF BARUCH DE SPINOZA brought in 5,700 last season. We’ll probably be breaking that today. Not too shabby.

March 18 – Day Off!

March 21
Update from ANDYLAND Week 3: Designer Run tonight. Because of a syllabus snafu, I’ve wound up needing to invite my entire “Theater of Politics and The Politics of Theater” class to attend the run-through together with the design team. CRAZY teacher/playwright/producer! But the students have been prepared for what they’re going to be seeing (and not seeing; no costumes no sets; some scenes off-book, mostly not). We’ll be like kids in a clown car, stuffed into a community hall. How’re we doing? We’ve cut 5 pages off the play in the last 8 days. A couple key consolidations in each act. Killed off a cute line or two (kinda like a kid or a puppy; something’s gotta get nipped). We’ll be stepping back from further tweaks for the next stretch as we move to commit the play to memory. Still 9 days before tech. Set’s getting loaded in. Working with real furniture pieces. It’s becoming REAL (but it’s still a fiction). Two interviews today (with TheatreWashington and The Forward). Two more next week. The real star of this show, however, is our director, so I’ll be sending every reporter over Daniella Topol’s way.

March 23
Last day of tweaks and cuts – script to freeze after today’s rehearsal through tech run 8 days from now. What a process ! There have been 30 batches of rewrite pages distributed over the last 3 weeks. 6 original pages from the 1st day of rehearsal remain in place, out of an original 106 pages; 100 pages have been revised. The current script is 7 pages shorter than it was 19 days ago. That’s what a Daniella Topol rehearsal process on a new play looks like: Lots of blood on the floor, and a happy company, and a better play. Onward toward our weekend run-through tomorrow, one week before tech!


41 thoughts on “A Glimpse Into The Rehearsal Process – “Andy And The Shadows”

  1. It was remarkable going to a designer run because there was no perfection, no polish, and yet I almost liked it better than the experience of going to a finished play. As the actors made mistakes and commented on the process, their candid enjoyment was apparent to those of us watching. In the midst of a show, the audience sees only serious faces in between scenes, and the designer run was a pleasant change. It allowed us to get valuable insight on the artistic process that produces that relatively flawless public performance.

    There were a number of things that I really liked about the designer run. Maybe it was because the Andy and the Shadows is relatively modern production, minus the flashbacks, but I actually liked how the actors were wearing their street clothes. It made Andy’s story seem more authentic. I wonder if the costumes for the play will be similar. I liked how you could see flashes of the real person behind the character once in a while as the actor called for a line or laughed at their own joke. Not being at all involved in the production meant that we didn’t have to be worried about the mistakes, so we could just be entertained by them. I appreciated that everyone in that room was working hard to make the final production a success, and for that reason I was expecting a rather drawn out, lackluster performance. It was anything but, and I enjoyed it.

    I’m excited to see the final production in a few weeks. I’m interested to see how the flashbacks will be different when all the different elements that make the play are in place. I’m also curious how the actors will use the stairs, because it was difficult to understand the details when they weren’t present. The play is already so funny and also touching, I think that when the kinks are worked out and the set is present to give the full effect, it will really be a moving performance.

    • I the seeing the actor’s be so candid with each other during the performance gives us a really interesting connection to the show. In two weeks when we see the polished production, we will not just be audience members. We have had a glimpse into the rehearsal process — something that is usually only granted to members of the production team. I think we will have an even greater appreciation of the final product because we know where improvements need to be made and how much effort everyone involved has given to the play.

      Even though a design run is mainly for the benefit of the design team, it was awesome how seriously the actors were taking it. I think, like you, I was also expecting a drawn out performance, so it was especially impressive to see the great energy from each of the actors.

  2. The play began with the emphasis on doubleness, and that theme is laced throughout all of “Andy and the Shadows” in both Andy’s obsession with trying to relive his parents’ suffering and the casting. Andy keeps reopening the scars of the past and bases his entire identity on how it inadequately compares to his mother’s. Out of intense guilt, he wants to experience the same type of tragedy, saying that Jerry’s suicide attempt was almost tragic wistfully for instance, but by constantly pressing the issue, he alienates his family and Sarah.

    In the brief post-show discussion, Alana mentioned how she thought the ambiguity of the play was beautiful. I completely agree, and despite not knowing how much of it the second act was intentional due to the lack of costumes, the bleeding between roles played by the same actors really blurred the lines between Mickey’s story and Andy’s before Nate’s actor brings up the cherry soup again and Andy shoots himself in the foot. Mickey and his wife’s situation mirrors that of Andy and Sarah. The men feel like duty takes a superior role in their lives and ends up driving them away, and even though Andy is trying to rectify his situation by having Mickey’s wife remain faithful, the actress defies the writing. It is appropriate that the same woman plays Sarah and that she walks out on the production. Andy cannot delude himself concerning the state of his relationship with Sarah, no matter how many times he claims they are still engaged or that she will accept this next film.

    Therefore, it is a monumental moment when Andy stops seeing the doubleness in the nurse at the hospital. He starts by pushing all of the other roles onto him, talking about James, the record store cashier, and the descendant of a slave whose character origin we do not even see, but then he has “a realization” and stops. He stops rewriting, remaking other people’s histories and recognizes the nurse as his own individual. That is what he has to do in order to move forward.

    As a final note, I’d like to thank Ari, the cast, and the crew for sharing this with us. I think it is pretty brave releasing anything so personal to the world at all, but doing it when the product is not finalized is even more so.

    • There is a lot of ambiguity in Andy in the Shadows and I think that’s the important part of the story; the layering and magical realism demonstrate Andy’s immense internal conflict. It’s inspiring that our professor was able to share this autobiographical work with the public. It’s truly impressive how authors and playwrights are able to transform personal narratives into remarkable pieces of art. I think maybe the reason pieces of art like this are so remarkable is because the storyline is so close to the heart. There are many scenes in this play that were so striking, I think because they were truly original. The bathtub scene especially stood out from scenes in the other plays we’ve seen. I also thought that including the Mickey Marcus plotline was really genius. It perfectly embodied Andy’s struggle: a war hero killed by friendly fire. The play had a good way of intertwining history with reality, and I really liked that.

    • I appreciate the idea of doubleness. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that, must’ve been a late night for me. There were several parts of the play were I was confused. The use of flashback and how some of the actors played multiple characters made following the story a challenge for me. However, after further reflection and reading your blog, I understand the importance of this doubleness. The best example is when Andy overcomes his issue of comparing his life and relationship to his mother’s legacy and his parent’s life. He is so obsessed with “saving his family” he does not have his own life. To him, saving the legacy is his life, but to Sarah and for the audience, this pursuit is unnecessary and annoying.

      I also agree that it was a great experience to see the play as it is in the process. Although parts were unclear for me, I am looking forward to seeing the finished play and will be looking for the doubleness throughout the play.

    • Hi Mary, I would completely agree with your point on how beautiful the ambiguity in the play was, and the way in which you described Andy’s breakthrough. The scene at the hospital is definitely one of the most important scenes in the play. I think this realization is important for Andy, that he needs to focus on what’s in front of him, and to stop deluding himself with memories and stories from his family’s past. His relationship with Sarah helps him to come to this realization, and is to a large extent a motivating factor for his transformation. At the same time, Andy’s transformation would be incomplete without integrating the memory of his family, which is unavoidably a part of his own story, into who he is and into who he will eventually become through his marriage to Sarah. As a final right of passage, before Andy says farewell to his old life, he must come to terms with who he is as the eldest son of a Jewish-American family, and as an individual who inevitably feels as though the burden and glory of his family’s legacy weighs heavily upon his shoulders.

  3. After seeing Thursday’s design run of Andy and the Shadows, I have a much greater appreciation of what costume, set, lighting, sound and props contribute to a production. I think I considered these elements to be secondary to the plot or acting, but I have now come to realize that these aspects greatly enhance the audience’s experience. Because this play melds together the past and present with the real and imaginary, it will rely on these tools to help mark these transitions without disrupting the flow of the play. For example, some of us were confused at first when young Raya first enters the stage because we know that actress to be Amy. This confusion would have been averted had there been an obvious costume change to signify that we were now seeing a European child refugee instead of a twenty-something American woman.

    In addition to clearer explanations, the technical aspects to a production can help prime the audience for certain emotional responses. I think lighting is especially useful in this capacity. I am sure that when the play opens to Andy speaking on stage, lighting will be used to further isolate him from his surroundings. If the stage were dark with a single light on Andy as he delivers his monologue, we would feel an immediate connection to him and be even more invested in what he has to say. I also think lighting will make the hospital scene between Andy and his father even more emotionally charged. That scene really touched me — causing me to reflect on my own relationship with my father. I think viewing it on stage will be even more emotional for me because the added production techniques will enhance the exchange.

    Overall, this experience has just made me so impressed with all of the attention and dedication that goes into a production. Getting even just this small peak into the lengthy preparation process has given me a much stronger appreciation of the time and energy needed from each person involved.

    • Katharine, great job writing about your newfound appreciation for what costumes, lighting and props can add to a production. It is something I didn’t write about in my post. I now want to talk about a different newfound appreciation that I didn’t fully understand before seeing the designer run, and that is the incredible work that puts a production together. Although I wrote about how much I liked the experience and how it was neat to be a part of the rehearsal, I didn’t mention how incredibly hard everyone is working on making “Andy and the Shadows” happen. So much thought is put into the play—like the set design, of which we got to see a miniature of and the skeletal beginnings of the actual set.

    • Like you, I also thought about what costume, set, lighting, sound, and props contribute to productions, but even more so I was struck by how without all of that I could still be moved by the characters and the work of the actors. I think that your perspective was very interesting in this case because there were points where it was clear how props and lighting would have made the transitions that much more clear, powerful and real for the audience. I never really thought about how the technical aspects of a production can impact the audiences as the transition from emotion to emotion takes place. But I did think about how it could have helped tell the story and I really appreciated that we got to see what the designers see and how the story will be transformed by the technical aspects.

  4. Watching the design run of “Andy and the Shadows” at the DCJCC was the first time we have seen part of the production/rehearsal process during this semester. I must say that some of my favorite moments of the design run was when the actors messed up. There was one moment when everyone was laughing during the hospital scene, which is supposed to be very serious, because someone dropped something. It was especially funny because the actor playing Andy’s father was lying on the bed pretending to be asleep, but even he started laughing. It was cool seeing the working out of awkward logistics.
    It was surprising how effective the acting was even though there were no costumes, sets and most of the actors were performing 0n-book. Still, I found myself laughing and tearing up at the appropriate moments. My grandfather passed away this past weekend and I was unfortunately unable to go home for the services and to see my family, so watching the hospital scene was especially difficult.
    It was challenging to understand at first that Andy’s older sister also played his “young mother” and his mother played his “young grandmother.” It will be interesting to see the production all polished and perfected on the stage. Will the actors playing dual characters have different costumes, or will the lighting let the audience know when Andy is interacting with the characters of his mind?
    Having just seen “Glengarry Glen Ross” it was strange seeing Alexander Strain playing another role. I wanted to call him Ricky Roma, but Roma was gone. Coincidentally I saw him walking out of Whole Foods the next day and was again reminded that, “Oh yeah, these actors have real lives…they grocery shop, just like the rest of us.” I really enjoyed the story and cannot wait to see the play in two weeks.

    • Kim, I’d have to agree that some of my favorite moments of the design run was when the actors messed up. This happened multiple times throughout the play, but that is the entire purpose of a design run. The design run, to my understanding, is a time for the actors to rehearsal and get in the groove of their character and a time to work on saying their lines with ease. I agree that the hospital scene was quite comical. Another mess up moment that I found humorous was when the mother said something to Andy about being an ”only child” instead of saying the “youngest child.” It was funny to see how the two actresses playing his sisters reacted to this slip up.

      I also found parts of the play to be confusing. The instance, which Kim describes, was one of them (the scene where Andy’s sister also played his mother). A few other aspects of the play confused me; I could not figure out if Andy was repeatedly having dreams, if he was having flashbacks, or if he was fantasizing. I think all of this will be much easier for the audience to comprehend once costuming and the actual set is involved.

  5. Seeing a rehearsal of Andy and the Shadows was interesting. I didn’t enjoy the continuous breaks from actors forgetting lines or the director jumping in to give directions. It took me out of my “play-watching element,” and the realism of the show was lost to me entirely. But I came to the realization within the first few minutes of the play, so I decided I’d watch it differently than I’d watched other plays. I wanted to look for areas of improvement, see where actors were unsure of their own performance, and I learned to take the whole show with a grain of salt.

    The play was choppy – it was a rehearsal of course – but the themes and messages were not lost in the haze. I often put my own parents on a pedestal, much in the same way Andy did, but I had trouble identifying with his knowledge that the pedestal was founded on lies and exaggerations. I don’t assume my parents have lied to me about their past, but I also don’t assume that they experienced situations that Andy’s own parents lived through.

    It was interesting to see how his relationship with his mother transformed as he unraveled her past. I don’t believe that he ever wrenched the pedestal out from underneath her; I just think the pedestal changed. I think Andy realized that no one is perfect at the end of the day, and his mother is not immune to making mistakes.

    I put my own dad on a pedestal much like Andy did with his mother. In my eyes, he can do no wrong. I guess that’s the special bond a father and son share. I know many kids see flaws with their parents, but I’m still looking with my dad. When I need advice, he is the first person I call. When I’m having trouble with life, he is the first person I call. It’s an entirely different pedestal than the one Andy thrust under his mother, but it’s the same concept.

    • Sam – As always, I like the way you tie in the themes of real life, pragmatic, practical thematic elements and life lessons into your weekly blogger. It makes everything easier to relate to, and soothing to read, particularly given the fake midlife crises we’re all undergoing (count me in).

      We all put family members or folks on pedestals – an interesting facet you chose to focus on. I like how you point out that these people ‘can do no wrong,’ and how you rescind that when you have a denoumet like Andy does. Sharp analysis, good sir.

    • Hi Sam, I really appreciate how you compare Andy to yourself.
      First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation the other day in class. That was really awesome and I have never seen that kind of professional speeches presented by my fellow students so far. In your speech, you said that you no longer want to stay in D.C. during the summer, work in the office in which your name may not be remembered; you prefer go abroad and stay with your family and relatives. I was really touched when you said that. I am also trying to seek opportunity to come back here during the summer, and was hesitated because my mother was sick, and I thought nothing would be more important than family. However, I couldn’t release myself from it. My mother is getting better now and I still want to come here. It’s just I have different status than you and have to squeeze myself–a nonnative— into this competitive society. Although I stay the same, your speech still means a lot to me!

      And for this play, as you compare yourself with Andy, I was then thinking about putting myself into Andy’s shoe. I think in China, children tend to see their parents as PARENTS all the time, and I was so surprised when I hear Americans calling their parents or elderly people by names. That has never happened in Chinese history. I think individualism makes American more independent, see people as individuals and treat them equally; while Chinese will filter a lot of things like age, gender.. before they decide how to talk to them. (It’s getting better now as China is much more open to the world. lol)
      For me, I always see my mom as mother and I for a long time, I thought she was born as a mother. When my mother first shared some of her past experiences with me, I couldn’t understand it because I didn’t think that’s what a mother should have done and I forgot, she was a child by then. And on the other hand, I might judge what she did very personally, and might think she’s right because my mother always right.
      But what ANDY did was totally different than me. He equally treats his parents as individuals, and judges what they had done by using the “social standards” which we use to judge other people.
      I think it’s quite different and I believe that’s rooted in the differences of our cultural backgrounds.

    • I agree with everything that you say about enjoying the play and what is was about. However, I also very much appreciated the choppiness of the play and getting a chance to see a raw rehearsal. Witnessing the actors call for lines and not know where to stand were things that I appreciated in a way because I got to truly experience people work at perfecting their art. Yes, the play did not flow smoothly or anything of the nature, but it was a part of taking in the whole experience that I very much enjoyed being able to witness.

      I also appreciated the mistakes and the choppiness because I realize it is these things that can help to refine and play and point out its weaknesses in order for it to adapt and get even better. I was not at all distracted or felt myself disconnecting to the play because of lack of smoothness. Watching the run-through was a very rare experience for people like me who do not act and do not anticipate acting ever in life. I was very much intrigued by the process.

  6. I’ve commented many times on the personal nature of screenwriting, play writing, the direction process, the production process, the set design, and how every last bit of how we interpret and perceive a play is DIRECTLY correlated to our mood and stance going into such a play. The designer run we just visited was perhaps the best example.

    I go in upset, because my parents are in town and I’m exhausted, having not slept for 48 hours. I don’t want to like this. Seventeen minutes in and I’m checking my watch – why are we flickering between present-day and past tense (something that, in a suggestive rewrite, I would make clearer). But then I decide to silence those thoughts, to rid myself of the music that’s playing my head – mood music, that is – and realize what we’re seeing. As unbelievable an opportunity as the settings (theaters themselves), play choice, and course this is, this was the top of the ranks in terms of opportunity thus far.

    Let’s put it in concrete terms. I want to learn how a play works – I’m watching people before and after the play (including chats with two actors in the bathroom prior to the rehearsal) hone their craft, their passion, their art – that aligns with my stage of life, figuring out internships, networking, jobs, career paths. We’re all lost right now – it’s preternaturally normal – so seeing people like their craft so much particularly teaches me that liking your industry or your craft is vital to the type of product we see in a final, finished play.

    Further, seeing people yell ‘line!’ is also preternaturally normal, human even, people forget their places to stand (during the latter half we saw the stage manager reconfiguring stage stances), forgetting their lines, forgetting which lines come when.

    I still have much confusion about the roles, between the stage manager, the stage right lady reading the script and course-correcting, the line reader, the artistic director, and the two others off stage who seemed to be involved. I have a slew of questions about some of the production, which I look forward to pondering and researching.

    I am most looking forward to analyzing mood versus outcome with the designer run versus overall play – something I think can be marred or advanced by sets, and various production tactics, which should be great to see.

    • Brandon,
      I really like what you said about the inner workings of how a play is rehearsed, refined, and finally displayed. Part of what I like about this class is that I can venture out of my one and only experience of theater in high school and grasp a better understanding of how the world of theater is run in a professional manner. Throughout the semester, we were exposed to elements that explained why this course of named “Theater of Politics”; but I agree with you that this was a very unique opportunity to explore the politics of theater. Much like you, I still have many questions about the process, which were spurred by the overwhelming amount of things occurring while the rehearsal went on. It also didn’t help my confusion considering that there is no complete use of props and stage setting at a rehearsal. But, I also have to agree with you that the glimpse we got into the process was truly a good experience to understand how the final product the audience will finally see was shaped. Lastly, I wish you good luck on your experiment to test the correlation between mood and the degree of response an audience member experiences when watching a play. I am interested to hear what you think after we have seen the final show.

  7. It’s such a precious opportunity to see a REHEARSAL! We got to see many insights of the production team works.I when I first sat down on the chair of the rehearsal room, I thought the whole thing would be very “plain”. However, after seen the whole thing, I think the rehearsal was unbelievably rich because of the multiple layers that the play has. I think this is a genius work in terms of the writing, the way how Glickstein couple’s stories were unveiled. I really enjoyed the way of having the imaginary “ghost” speaks at the same time as Raya, it created a very fantasy scene. I was amused by the part when actors were saying “line”, especially when Jennifer was saying it, and then how she managed her emotions, gestures and facial expressions to continue her actings.

    What I enjoyed the most of going to this rehearsal was seeing actor’s laughs. They are working under high pressures and very hard; however, they still made some jokes while unexpectations happened. I remembered when Jennifer was accidently saying something about “middle child”, we all laughed; and when Sarah couldn’t find the booklet under the pillow which supposed to be there, Alex (Andy) made a joke about it. Also, we could also see how responsive they were: Alex was acting so concentrated and he even didn’t have time to flip his script at the scene of Sarah and Nate were almost broke the bathroom door to check out if Andy was ok. So things were a little bit messed up. Instead of let it flow, Alex asked for a rerun. I could see how tired he was by speaking the most words but he was very responsive and wanted things to be perfect, and others were so cooperative.

    Coincidently, I had a chance to visit the HOLOCAUST Museum at the National Mall today. I went into the room which shows the “Daniel’s Story”. In there, I sadly saw how Daniel’s life had been changed by the Nazi. I saw the model house that they used to live in Germany, and the ghettos of things with the signs of “No Jews Allowed”, or “Jews Only”, some images and settings of how they were forced to work, the rotten food… and finally the room of the concentration camp that they were put in. All along this journey, I was thinking and questioning why Nazis did these to Jewish people. After that, I went to the theater downstair to see the background movie. Although only for 30 minutes, I have learned a little bit more of the background of the Holocaust, and have some ideas of my question. My own opinions of the reasons were– Jews were too smart in all the fields, their belief was quite different as European Christianity, they were minority, and Hitler jealous at them. However, no matter what those reasons really were, Holocaust was one of the most horrific things in the world’s history!!

    Go back to the topic. In terms of the play, I found it’s spectacular to see it because of multiple reasons. First of all, the play is written by our professor, who we have been known for about 3 months, who I think is an awesome person with considerations, always being polite and modest. I have never seen someone with these much achievements, but still acting so amiable. I think it’s very special for all of us— students of Professor Roth— to see his work, and being educated in a different way than before. Secondly, I found it’s so special for Professor Roth to write about the life of him, of his parents, and also about this one of the most significant event in world’s history. It’s very complex and difficult to illustrate this historical event, but I was really impressed by how the layers of the stories were presented, and how the whole play was structured.

    Last but not least, although I have repeatedly said that, I still want to express how I appreciate this class AGAIN. I attended this class as a THEATER-NON-KNOWER (I made up the word.); throughout the semester, I have seen 7 plays (I went to see the METAMORPHOSES on my own); I have attended multiple post-show discussions, one reading, two-days of Theater J’s festival… and now I have experienced how a REHEARSAL looked like. Besides, the in-class discussions with my classmates are also one of the parts which make me enjoy the class. I think many of you may also have the same feelings as me: we might judge someone from their outside look, or the way they act at the beginning of the semester, and we put our own definitions on them; however, as we all sharing more and more our own thoughts and stories, we are now seeing them as totally different person. And I think this is what’s called– embracing. I am now a THEATER LOVER who is confident enough to share my theater experience and knowledge with other people. This is a FANTASTIC class!

    Thank you for your patience. *^_^*

    • I apologize for some typing mistakes. I was moving my paragraphs and sentences so there are some words don’t make sense at all. I apologize for any misunderstandings and appreciate your patience!

    • Hey Jingru,

      Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it, and I agree that it’s very difficult when you have to choose between your family and your career aspirations. Don’t you wish you could just have both?

      Anyways, it’s great to hear that you visited the Holocaust museum. I hear it’s one of the best (not sure if best is the correct word for a Holocaust museum…). Your analysis of the Holocaust is interesting – I think that a lot of the time, people don’t want to think about the tragedy, and when they do, they focus on the atrocities rather than the root causes. In order to not allow history to repeat itself, we must look at the causes of events, not just the events themselves.

      You mentioned Hitler’s jealousy as well as the Jews skill in a wide range of fields. I think you may be onto something there. I would say that Jews have and continue to represent a powerful and talented minority in the world. In the prewar time period, our talents were feared and seen as detrimental to society, rather than beneficial. It was easy to scapegoat the Jews, as we kept to ourselves and maintained our own communities. Also, religious history (the lie that Jews killed Christ) was against us.

      I’m happy you got to see the museum, and it sounds like you gained a lot from your experience.

  8. Going to the rehearsal of “Andy and the Shadows” was an enjoyable experience for me. In a way, it was refreshing and humbling to see the actors not have their lines completely memorized and still be working out the scenes and the movements and where to stand, etc. etc. I enjoyed seeing the process of trying to work out the challenges and making everything flow.

    Watching this run through was entertaining; however, I did have trouble following what was going on a lot of the time. In the discussion that we had after the rehearsal, someone mentioned flashbacks in which the mother in the play also played the grandmother. I was confused when someone mentioned this because I did not realize it myself when I was watching it. Because of the lack of costume changes, I had difficulty keeping up with the characters and the plot of the story with the flashbacks. Looking at the set after the rehearsal, I wondered how it will look on opening night and what scenes will be happening when. It seemed like it will be a very impressive set and I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like.

    I also enjoyed the fact that this play brings up Jewish culture and the painful memory that is the Holocaust to the stage. Growing up, I went to Catholic school, so Christianity was always the norm for me so much so that I would assume that everyone I met was Christian for a huge part of my life. Coming to the University of Michigan and realizing the strong Jewish presence on campus—like having professors cancel class because of Jewish holidays—was refreshing for me because I was reminded that Christianity is not the only religion that deserves respect and homage. I always enjoy plays that can bring to me a culture and perspective on life that I could never experience directly. I enjoy how this play seems to do that but in a contemporary way that makes it interesting and allowed me to understand it without being too perplexed by the cultural references.

  9. To be honest, I was not at all sure what to expect from a design run and rough run-through and rehearsal of “Andy and the Shadows.” I quickly learned that this was an extremely casual event. I thought it was nice that the students in the Politics of Theater class were able to sit in and observe such a rehearsal. I found it useful how the director (or set designer, I’m not sure which she was) explained the set to the audience before beginning the play rehearsal. The miniature set design and layout (in the box resembling a little shoebox) she showed us really helped me wrap my mind around what the levels and angles of the stage would look like once the play opens to the public. I also found it interesting how often the actors called “line.” I observed that the man playing Andy, it seemed, knew his lines quite well. Of course he had slip ups here and there, but I was extremely impressed that he remembered so much in so little time.

    Overall, I really enjoyed “Andy and the Shadows.” I found this play to be very funny. Occasionally I did not understand some of the jokes; this may be due to cultural differences or generational differences, but others in the room laughed. I though the dialogue was able to accurately portray what the character was feeling along with their emotions. I thought that overall, the acting was good as well. I have now seen two productions with Alexander Strain as a principal character. I think he is a phenomenal actor and a perfect fit for the character of Andy. To conclude, I think that viewing a design run was a privilege and I am very glad that I was able to do so.

    • I was also really impressed with Alexander Strain considering how different his roles were from “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Andy in the Shadows.” He had mentioned in “Glengarry Glen Ross” how he usually plays dark characters, and he really embodied both Roma’s ability to manipulate his customers and Andy’s fixation on the past. At this point in the production, it was a good choice on his part to have his script with him at all times, but it was obvious that he knew his lines and how to deliver them very well. Even though it broke up the flow of the play, I was impressed when he asked to stop the scene in the bathtub because he felt like he did not have the proper flow and buildup of emotion. When they redid it, Andy’s explosion over the historical society books was more natural and, just like when Roma was yelling at Williamson, Alexander’s capacity to express such strong feelings blew me away.

  10. Your responses mean a lot, not only to me, but to all of us working hard on the story-telling on this ambitious (potentially confusing!) show. So we’ll be refining and clarifying our choices and transitions, knowing the burden of making our intentions both clear, yet elegantly stated and presented. Looking forward to more questions, honest confusion, insight, and your return to the 2nd preview on April 4th.

  11. The opportunity to see the creative process in motion last night was a first for me. Never before have I seen a play, movie or any other live performance in any form other than the real production or a dress rehearsal. A couple of things struck me as I sat in my stiff chair fighting off back spasms. The characters’ ability to act out scenes effectively without knowing their lines took me by surprise. All the actors at some point were reading from the script, yet I saw no difference in their ability to perform and act out the scene. This was astonishing to me. If I had to read from a script, there would be no chance in hell I would be able to look up, much less act. Another action that struck me was how strong the relationships between characters developed in such a short time. After only three weeks, I was shocked at how well the actors worked with one another. Honestly, the only real difference I noticed between the run through and an actual performance was the actors had not yet memorized their lines. Another aspect of the performance that struck me was just how many people are involved in putting on a production. From the gentleman keeping track of the time and helping to rearrange the stage, to the women following along with a script to yell out lines to the actors, I was struck by the large scale of the theatre operation.
    I found the play to be very funny even though at times I had trouble following the play. I think once proper stage lighting is added, the audience will have a much easier time distinguishing between the real world and when the lead character is dreaming. All in all, it was a very unique experience. I’m glad I was able to learn some of what it takes to develop such a production.

    • Brian, I also was impressed at how strong the actors were in their characters despite having to read from their scripts. Seeing this gave me some insight on the acting process and how building a character is so much more than just memorizing their lines.

      I also didn’t realize how MANY people their were involved behind the scenes of this level of production. I have done some small community-theater productions, and never would have guessed that there would be an entire group of people that created the costumes. That model of the set we were shown before the play started? It was so detail-orientated and planned out. It just made me realize how much meticulous work goes in to these sorts of large-scale productions.

      I also was impressed by the fact that it is so close to the play’s opening and yet the actors are still rehearsing in a completely different space. After all the time they’ve had to work on their characters and bond as a cast, it must be such a surreal experience for them when it all comes together with a set and costumes.

  12. As usual, I came into the evening with no expectations and an open mind. I suppose when I thought of a play rehearsal, I thought of breaking down the okay play into smaller scenes and segments. I thought we would be watching the rerun of scenes again and again. I was happily relieved when I found out we would be watching a full play run through! Of course, the actors would still be occasionally calling for lines and the scenes would be restarted now and then, but the play would have a flow.

    In my midterm and in a few other blog posts I have mentioned that I enjoy seeing the actors out of character in post show discussions. When I am able to see that these actors are more than just the characters they play, it adds much more depth and meaning to the productions. It is for this reason that I loved seeing their rehearsal SO MUCH–we were able to see both the characters and the person behind the actor.

    It was absolutely hilarious to see the slip ups (like the only child comment) and appreciate that these actors are still learning more about their roles and developing them further. It was cool to see the actors work through the kinks in the scenes (like how can Andy’s mother scoop a cup of water out of the tub?) and learn the flow of lines. At one point, the actor who played Andy asked to just restart the whole scene so they could get it right.

    Seeing the relationships between all of the actors and dynamics that would develop further in upcoming rehearsals before the play opens made me more perceptive as a theater-goer. I have a deeper understanding of what goes into a play and how the final product comes to be. I also have a lot more respect for the actors, director, crew, and playwright. I can imagine it would be very rewarding but also at times very frustrating to work on a play endlessly. In the end, I have a feeling this play will be worth all the hard work.

    Unfortunately, I had to duck out early of the rehearsal. BUT I’m kinda excited because now I don’t know how the play will end!!!!! I’m very excited to see the complete play, on stage, in costume, with a full set!!

    • Sarah:
      I liked how you talked about being able to see the relationships and dynamics between the actors. I thought that was one of the coolest things about seeing a rehearsal! When you go and see a final performance, you are seeing the actors as their characters. Seeing them perform in a rehearsal is kind of like talking to the actors in a post-show discussion. We get to see them as themselves, and as the characters they portray on stage. I really enjoyed seeing how Alexander, Andy, and Victoria, Sarah, interacted when they were not in character. It was very clear to me that they had developed a friendship, and they seemed to have really great chemistry. It offered a side that you never really get to see as a theater-goer.

  13. Seeing the play “Andy and the Shadows” in this stage of the production was a curious experience. From the beginning of the play I was interested in who Andy was. The first scene admittedly I was confused, wondering why there was so much rambling in the first ten minutes. However I did come to understand what I think was the urgency of his storytelling as it progressed and I hope to further explore that storytelling when I see the production again. Something I think I really enjoyed about the play was the humor of the wording, with such sitcom like timing that I actually really enjoyed.

    There was one very specific thing that caught me by surprise; which was how much I could hear Ari Roth’s voice in writing of this play. My classmates and myself are in a very unique position because we do hear from the writer of this play beyond the stage and the voices of the characters that bring his words to life. The sarcasm, hilarious rhetoric, and answering questions with profound questions; at times it was really like I could hear Professor Roth speaking through Andy. I wonder if that feeling will still be present after edits are made throughout the production process. Nevertheless this challenged my thoughts in previous weeks about how the characters stories are the one’s being told, based on my experience this past week I am beginning to think that it’s not just the character’s stories that are being told through plays but the writers as well.

    Finally a literary buff moment: Andy’s obsession with Earnest Hemingway was intriguing and understandable considering that the theme of much of his works was war and love. But even beyond that it was his adventures that probably attracted Andy to his work- much of that being reporting on wars like the Spanish Civil War and World War II and taking Safaris. I hope to further explore some of these thoughts when we see the play a second time in its full production.

    • Jamesa, I love that you also talked about hearing Ari’s voice. As someone who understands the fraught, parental, passionate, intense relationship of a writer to their own written words, I thought more about Ari’s voice than many of the other aspects of the rehearsal. Andy’s consistent role as both a player in his own life AND a narrator of it, spoke to the tendency of humans to have a running dialogue (often in our own heads) about what is going on around us. To hear that dialogue vocalized was very interesting.

      To add another literary buff moment to your own, the narrative style of this play reminded me more of fiction than it did of the productions we have seen thus far in this class. Of course the characters were beautifully crafted and spoke in their own unique voices, but I found that the protagonist’s (Andy’s) frequent commentary on his surroundings closely resembled fictive narrators’ tendencies to do the same–and how authors’ voices are so inexorably embodied in those of their fictive narrators. I think this play reminded me why I love reading and writing so much.

    • Like Alana, I appreciated your comments on hearing Ari’s voice in the character. Knowing that this play was partially grounded in fact made me wonder, multiple times during the designer run, about what parts of the script is true and what parts are fantasy. I agree that there were moments where I could hear Ari’s voice and I think that was also reinforced with him sitting on the other side of the room. It was also interesting during the post show discussion to know that the play has to be shortened and the different scenes that are up on the chopping board. I think during the discussion, I agreed that the scene with the parents broke the flow of the story. In retrospect though, I wonder if that’s actually a good thing, because there’s so much blurring of the line between Andy’s imagination and reality that the pull back into realism from another person’s perspective might help ground what is or isn’t real.

  14. I found the design run of “Andy and the Shadows” to be an interesting experience and a great exercise for the imagination. I went into the experience blind. As this is an original work, there are no reviews (yet), no pamphlets, and no pre set up stage to understand what the setting of the play is. Everything was a work in progress. I must say that everything is progressing greatly. The actors are stilling learning their lines but they display immense confidence and style in each line they know. That confidence allows them to bring their characters to life, in a way that allows the audience to get to know the character, even without costumes or the actors themselves knowing exactly who their characters are yet.

    One thing that I found interesting was the set up of the design run. Of course the students were in the corner. The design team was in the adjacent corner, watching the play for however amount of times they have seen it. I can imagine being in the zone with this task in mind, making sure the set fits their vision of every scene. I enjoyed how parts of the set were made to be for multiple purposes, with different layers. I’m not sure if this is how it will be during the play but I thought that the actors moving parts of the set out of the way when they were in transition to another scene added to the complexity of the characters who have their own histories, agendas and even secrets. They are just as much apart of the setting as they are characters in the story.

    Additionally, the story is entertaining and funny. I personally am not a fan of flashback but its uses in this work were clear and revealing of different aspects of the characters and their past. I cannot wait to see the finished product in a few weeks, I am sure I will find another aspect of the work to appreciate when everything flows as it should.

  15. I definitely appreciate the opportunity to take part in a designer’s run. I am sure that it was hard enough for the actors to concentrate and focus in their acting, let alone having an extra set of students coming in to sit through the rehearsal.

    The play itself was not hard to follow, but I think the lack of an actual set made a difference because it was not very easy for me to imagine the background of the scene without actually having something there to connect to. Other than that, the overall experience was great. I just want to add that the crew’s performance was incredible. Even though there were times when the actors and actresses forgot their lines, they were able to memorize most of their lines and play their roles almost flawlessly. The overall flow of the run-through was very smooth and the dynamics between the actors and actresses was solid.

    I am looking forward to watching the play soon, and hopefully, I will get a better look at the play.

  16. I thought that watching the designer run was an incredible experience. Having participated in many rehearsals myself, I thought I knew the drill and walked in a bit jaded. However, this experience far surpassed my expectations. There were many elements of the rehearsal that were fascinating to me, but the part that I found most intriguing was the ability to see a working version of a script that our teacher wrote. In many of my classes at Berkeley, professors assign their own books or articles as part of the curriculum, in addition to providing a breadth of external academic resources. Their passion and expertise shows through in both their selection of relevant, challenging material and their ability to synthesize it in engaging lectures. However it is usually when I read my professors’ own work that I truly understand why they do what they do. Watching the rehearsal of Andy and the Shadows, and witnessing my professor’s own work for the first time, paralleled the experience of exploration and understanding that I have had with many of my instructors at Berkeley. It not only reinforced my opinion that Ari knows what he’s talking about, but it also helped me learn more about him, and in doing so, I gained a deeper sense of admiration.

    Aside from this furthered understanding, I was reminded of the stagnant, stop-and-go of the rehearsal process that I had forgotten about. Part of the professionalism of the actors was in their ability to conduct a scene, acting as their characters, come out of it to receive directorial instruction, and immediately resume acting after making whatever adjustments were necessary. The fluidity and ease with which they made these seamless transitions was indicative of discipline and experience. Needless to say, I was very impressed. That being said, I can’t wait to see the final product and witness the transformation that the production undergoes in the next several weeks.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed attending the rehearsal of Ari Roth’s, “Andy and the Shadows,” because I got to witness what a read through and rehearsal is really like, as well as to get an idea of what the play will look like on stage.
    I was really impressed by how invested the technical staff and the actors were into the play, at the rehearsal, and how much focus and attention to detail goes into practicing and perfecting a performance. At the same time, you could witness the development of the characters both in the play as the rehearsal progressed, and of the actors in becoming more attuned to the characters they were playing.
    I realized that a big part of the learning process at a rehearsal involves not only the actors learning their lines, but the development of the characters on stage, and even learning how those characters utilize the space of the stage and interact with each other. The script and props, and even the directors are just the framework of the play, but the personality and relatability that the actors bring to the characters is what brings the characters to life on stage.
    It is telling, and it can even be understood as a metaphor for life, that perfecting any art form requires practice and investing yourself into the unfamiliar until it is no longer unfamiliar, but art. I think feedback or instruction is an important part of the rehearsal process from my observations, and I believe that the actors benefited from the presence of a pseudo-audience at the rehearsal, if only in terms of gauging how audience members respond to certain scenes or to their presentation of certain scenes.
    At the same time, I think that outside perspectives and advice is also important to realizing the final performance or presentation of the play. For as good as the actors are at their craft, they would not be able to improve, if they did not receive feedback and instruction from directors. I think that realization helps me to feel more confident about trying things that I may not think I am great at, at first, and to trust in the wisdom of the ‘rehearsal process’.

  18. I really enjoyed attending the rehearsal for Andy and the Shadows on Thursday. As I have mentioned before, I have no experience with the theater process or set design or all the other parts necessary to make a play work, so this rehearsal was a completely new experience for me. Also, one of the things that I mentioned in my midterm that impressed me most in the beginning of the semester was learning to appreciate all the work that the actors, directors, etc. put into the production. It was really neat to see this in action and not simply view the final project, and it gave a whole new perspective to the play going experience. For example, we saw both the set—under construction—and the actors and actresses performing the play, but still working on getting everything right. It is interesting to think that not only do both parts have to be completed on their own, but they also need to be seamlessly incorporated together for the show to turn out well. The fact that they only have a few weeks to do so is equally as impressive and shows the dedication that everyone involved has to their work.

    Another thing I enjoyed about the rehearsal was the more casual nature of it compared to a performance. Although it did get a little annoying when the play was stopped for an actor to ask for a line, it was nice to be able to view the actors as both themselves and their characters. I especially enjoyed the couple of times that an actor messed up their lines. Not only did these moments show the “in progress” nature of the whole show, which helped keep me from falling too much into the play going experience which I feel is not the proper state of mind for a rehearsal, but also these lines were usually followed by a quip about the mistake from another actor that everyone enjoyed, which I felt showed they all want to make sure the real performances go on without such slip-ups and they have great chemistry, which is good for the play.

    Though there were still things for the actors to work on before the premiere of the show, there were many things they did very well and that show good potential for the play. I am really looking forward to viewing this show in a few weeks. From the little glimpse into the show we got on Thursday, it seems like a very interesting show, and I have faith that the company will perform it well and everything will come together. It was a little difficult to understand without the set or costumes right now, but in a few weeks I think it will be a very funny and entertaining show.

  19. I was absent from class when everyone went to the technical rehearsal, but was able to attend a spacing rehearsal at Theater J this past Friday evening. I was such a wonderful and unique experience. The raw setting of the stage was up, featuring a house-like construction that had a second floor about 7 to 8 feet off the ground, and a dining room table that tripled as a bed and a bathtub. The props were “doofies,” which are stand-in, temporary props, used as space-savers.

    When the rehearsal first started, the fight coach was there and I was able to see some of the actors practicing their fight scenes in “Andy And The Shadows.” It was really interesting to see a behind the scenes view of what goes into producing a fight onstage. I learned that the most important thing when it comes to coordinating fights, is the actors’ safety. Two of the male actors were practicing a scene in which they are fighting over a rifle, which was actually a plastic tube in rehearsal, and one of the actors actually falls to the ground. They went through the scene until they feel safe and comfortable, which was especially challenging since the actors were about 8 feet off the ground on a platform.

    I then got to see the cast act out a few scenes. It was really different since the purpose of the rehearsal was not to go through lines or theatrics, but to practice spacing and positioning on the stage. There were frequent pauses in the performance and the actors kind of just said “blah blah” or “bloop bloop” instead of lines. They often repeated scenes when the actors felt out of place or when the director didn’t like something. So I was able to see a variety of placements rather than anything to do with plot.

    I think my favorite part of the evening was the last scene I got to see before I left. Andy was in the basement or a cellar with his parents, looking at his dad’s jam and his sister was upstairs with angel wings and seemed to only be present in Andy’s mind. It was really cool and it got me really excited to see the actual performance of the play. They had to go over this particular scene multiple times to make sure lines were being said at the right time and that actors were in the right place. This scene had also been talked up because it is the scene where a jar of jam breaks on the ground. Professor Roth had talked to our class about it previously and talked about how they still had not figured out how to break a glass jar on stage without glass shattering everywhere and making a huge mess on stage. I talked with the Assistant Producer during one of the breaks, and she told me that they decided to put clear tape around the jar and cracked some of the jars beforehand in order to solve the issue. I didn’t actually get to see them break the jar, but I saw the scene and how it happened. I’m really excited to see how this scene turns out after knowing how much went into it logistically to make it happen. There were countless meetings spent discussing how to make this jar break safely and they spent hours rehearsing the scene to make sure it would all go smoothly.

    If anything, this experience made me appreciate theater a lot more. So much work and practice goes into the littlest things. Fights have their own coaches and jar-breaking has its own meetings. I never knew that performances had “spacing” rehearsals and I never knew they had technical rehearsals and readings before that. Theater is meticulous and they rehearse absolutely everything until they have it down to a near flawless performance. This was such a worthwhile experience and I cannot wait to see a preview performance of “Andy And The Shadows.”

  20. Much like when I saw the reading of “Ulysses on Bottles,” seeing this rehearsal for “Andy and the Shadows” reminded me that the power of theater is so much more than an impressive set and costumes. The real magic, at least for both of these particular productions, lies in the script, the writing, and the talent of the actors to bring the words to life. Although the plots were incredibly different, I couldn’t help but draw parallel in the writing styles of these plays. Both have a dream-like, broken reality that speaks to the more important issues at stake behind the action. This was by far my favorite part of “Andy and the Shadows.” I don’t think this story could have been told in any sort of linear, realistic way without sacrificing the internal conflict of the main character. Much like Ulysses, Andy is dreamer, a revolutionary, seeking clarity in a world that he can’t quite make sense of.

    Going back and reading the Professor Roth’s script after seeing the rehearsal made me appreciate the play even more. The language, although spoken so fast by Andy (which is appropriate for how scattered/distraught he seems to be), is quite powerful just on the page. The surrealism of characters playing multiple roles was perhaps my favorite aspect of the play. I really loved Raya’s character, and the decision of using the actress who played Amy as the young ghost of Raya. It may have seemed confusing at first, but I think it’s necessary and significant to show the cycles of our lineage. By the end of the play when the audience finally learns the true story of Raya’s survival it is heartbreaking. In the post show discussion someone mentioned being a bit uncertain about this was the actual “truth.” I just assumed that it was, however, if there were any way to assure that no one in the audience walks away questioning it, I would recommend making that change. Perhaps changing the conversation among the siblings in the car would do this? I’m not exactly sure.

    In the disclaimer of the script it says that “Andy and the Shadows” is Part I of a 3-part trilogy on Post-War Remembrance. I found this particularly intriguing because as a history major one of the themes in my senior thesis is on the way we “remember.” I think that a history told through memory, such as Raya’s story, speaks so much more about a historical moment (especially one as horrifically beyond comprehension as the Holocaust) than a textbook ever could.

  21. Like a lot of the comments have said, I very much enjoyed the designer run! I feel like the entire run went a lot more smoothly than I anticipated. There were mistakes that happened, but only one that was major enough for the scene to restart (the one with the bathtub). Most of the mistakes were humorous and trivial slip ups, like the one child comment –which I actually thought was intentional and left me somewhat confused with thoughts like “Wait, is Andy hallucinating siblings?” until it was corrected- and when the book fell on the floor. I think it was a little hard to see the different “levels” and I didn’t get as much of a sense of space, but I didn’t think it detracted from what we were watching at all. It’s more of the fact that I didn’t even think about there being lots of different floors to the set.

    For the most part, I felt that it was easy to “follow” the plot. It really wasn’t particularly complicated and if there were any doubts as to what was happening, I feel like costumes would definitely clear those up. On a somewhat different level of comprehension though, I think my interpretation of the play was somewhat biased by the expectation that the play would contain a lot of Andy’s consciousness, and so there were some moments where I couldn’t figure exactly what was “truth”. I brought this up during the post-show mini discussion, for example, as what exactly was the true version of what happened during the Holocaust with Andy’s mother. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was simply turning the direction of his extreme imagination in order to pull down the pedestal he’d put his mother on, or if that was the reality of what had happened that he’d continuously refused to accept.

    This was definitely a very different experience and on some levels, I think I enjoyed this a lot more than some of the actual shows I’ve seen. The atmosphere was more relaxed and it really helped that it was acceptable to laugh when some mistakes happened. We were also very close to what was happening and we got to see a lot of how staging is done and how different little things that you don’t think about while you’re planning (ex. the open drawer) is dealt with during these practice runs. We were the guinea pigs for this, but I’d definitely recommend a repeat with other classes that take theater. Perhaps earlier on in the semester even? It gives a very different perspective to what we’re doing in the class!

  22. I would like to begin by saying that it was a very unique opportunity to see the rehearsal for “Andy and the Shadows”. First off, I have seen rehearsals and participated in some in high school, but the rehearsal for “Andy and the Shadows” was quite different. What made it so interesting for me was the high degree of dedication the actors had for their characters. I was particularly cognizant of this when Alexander Strain (Andy) asked the director to be on book. I note this moment because the scene Alexander asked to be on book was a very delicate and emotional part of the play; I really appreciated how Alexander asked to be on book so he could maintain his character and better portray Andy at this current moment. I do not know if Alexander did this so the audience could better visualize what the scene will look like once it opens or so he could be more dedicated to his character during the scene. Regardless, I appreciated his dedication to the scene. I felt like it was very difficult to follow the play without the use of a full stage and props, but my confusion seemed to be mitigated by this dedication. It was through the actors’ acting and dedication to the play that I was able to imagine what the play would look like once it opens.

    On a different note, I felt like “Andy and the Shadows” was a highly relatable play. I felt like there were four themes that I related to. The themes were those of family, guilt, confusion and suffering which I felt was laced throughout the play. In this play, I felt a variety of emotions that were prompted by nostalgia and memories that seemed so similar to my own experiences. I was especially moved by the moment Andy shared with his father in the hospital. I think in this one scene I saw elements of human emotion that everyone can relate to. Much like the experience I had watching “Our Town”, I personally thought back on moments I shared with my dad and I felt so guilty for not having taken the time and opportunity to truly listen and understand him in all the moments we shared. While my opportunities to be with my dad are unlimited (thankfully, my dad is by no means ill or, god forbid, deceased), I still wish there were moments that I could go back to truly listen to my father and appreciate his thoughts. I always seem to subscribe to the saying “you never realize what you have until it’s gone”. But after watching “Andy and the Shadows” and feeling this level of remorse and guilt, I guess you just have to be reminded of what you could lose.

    Overall, I thought that the rehearsal was a great experience to see the makings of a great production. I am eager to see the final product on the stages of Theater J.

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