This week, the actors, the stage manager and the assistant director tell you about the rehearsal process for The Importance of Being Earnest.
Zack Nantz, a junior at William Henry Harrison High School, plays Merriman, the butler. Zack is making his debut at Civic Theatre – "I've always liked my role. But at first, he didn't feel quite as prominent as he does now that I've played him more. He didn't seem quite as vital to the story at first. I've made him into more of a reactor to the others.
"During rehearsals everyone has become a lot more comfortable, first with one another and second with their roles. The awkwardness that was there at first has left. We've all developed some measure of friendship. Also everyone has become more accustomed to other people's styles on stage; it's not like you're on stage with strangers. I didn't know half the cast at first. Knowing each other makes being on stage together a little simpler."
Nate Denson, a junior at William Henry Harrison High School, plays Rev. Canon Chasuble. Nate is making his debut at Civic Theatre – "At first, rehearsing was a little awkward because we carried the script in a large, bulky folder. We didn't have all our lines memorized, so it was hard for me to think of my character as more than existing just on paper. Now that we've gotten rid of the script, it's getting better. Every day, I'm adding more flavor, so to speak, to the character."
Jake Ott, a senior at Jefferson High School, plays Lane, the manservant. Jake made his Civic debut in this season's staged reading of Spoon River Anthology – "My initial ideas about Lane have changed quite a bit. The more I've looked into him, why he's doing certain things and where he's going have changed drastically. My ideas about him started more two-dimensional, that he had only one track of emotions, that he was pessimistic the whole time. Although he's never really happy, there are more emotions going through him that just pessimism.
"The characters have gradually become more fused with the actors. They've all taken on their characters very well. I think that we're now to the point where people have their characters down very well and know what their characters are doing. It's now polishing time to make sure the fine details are set in place. I think things are going to go well and things will pull together very well in these last weeks of rehearsal."
Kevin Barlow, a senior at William Henry Harrison High School, plays Jack Worthing – "I've gotten to know the character, how he looks at life, his friends and leading his double life and how it all comes crashing down in the very first scene. He has to be a lot more reserved than he normally is with Algernon and has to be serious when he doesn't want to be."
Bryce Robinson, a sophomore at William Henry Harrison High School, plays Algernon Moncrieff – "In rehearsal, I've been able to build my character. I've learned that Algernon is very laid back. He's kind of a proper Victorian playa. He likes to do what he wants, and he thinks he's superior to everyone."
Margaret Duvall, a junior at West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School, plays Gwendolen Fairfax – "Before rehearsal, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to convey. But during rehearsal there have been many suggestions and questions – like today Cameron brought up the question of why Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.
"A lot of character development comes from working with other people. For auditions, you get the script and start running lines, but you leave space when the other character talks. In rehearsal, people don't read lines the way you would, which makes you take a step back. You think, 'O.K., my character may sound different here.' Sometimes it makes less sense, but sometimes it makes much more sense. The rehearsal process offers a lot of time for trial and error; I've been able to try so many things. Something I loved doing was writing down everything my character said about herself and other characters said about her. You have a general idea, but when you compile an actual, physical list, it becomes so much more substantial and so much more physical and real."
Brian Carless, a freshman at Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, is the stage manager – "I've seen the actors develop their characters a lot. They've been able to fully understand who that character is and they've been able to become that person and get inside them.
"During rehearsals, we set people aside. One actor works with another actor to help them with lines. It's positive peer pressure. Once the lines are entirely down, the characters will really flourish and they'll actually be that person without breaking character. They'll fully be that person and we'll be able to see the show at its best."
Cameron Johnston is the assistant director – "The most interesting aspect of rehearsals has been watching the character development, not just during rehearsals but outside. We go to Arni's every Sunday, and we have kids all around the same age. They're bonding better. And the better they bond offstage, the better they bond onstage. This play is all about relationships, so bonding it really important. At the same time, I can't recognize the characters from when they did the first readthrough to now. Every single one of them has looked into their characters so deeply and is doing a great job of portraying them.
"I specialize in working with the kids one-on-one during the scenes. An actor may have trouble reading into the situation and figuring out exactly what the character is thinking or why the character is saying these things because it's a period piece. One thing I like to do is to give them a sense of what the conversation would be if they're having it in 2009. I tell them, you've been in a similar conversation but may not know it because it's written for the Victorian period. It helps the kids to understand what they're trying to say and to get across what's most important in that scene.
"Once they have their lines down, which looks like it's in the very near future, their next obstacle is getting their characters down pat. No matter what happens on stage, actors have to stay in character. Right now they jump in and out. And it's something they'll have to work with. But once the kids get locked into their characters, everything will be just fine."
Christine Furtner, a senior at West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School, plays Miss Prism – "Other than getting your blocking and lines down, you get to bond with the rest of the people in your cast during rehearsals. It's important to have a relationship with the other cast members and not be complete strangers during performance night. The better the chemistry and the more you know how another actor works, the better you are at responding to them. Nate Denson, who plays Chasuble, is someone I've never met before. Rehearsal helps an actor to get to know someone, especially if you play opposite of them during a scene.
"Character building is really important and during rehearsal an actor realizes, 'Oh, so this is why she is doing something.' And it also helps to have other people to point out, 'O.K., I think this is what your character is thinking instead of this.' Sometimes other people have insights about your character that you might not have thought of."
Jessica Hoffmann, a senior at William Henry Harrison High School, plays Cecily Cardew – "The thing that make the final performances strong is the bond you build with other actors during rehearsal. What you do in rehearsal onstage is important because you're deciding how you're going to perform a scene. But what you're doing offstage is important too. If you don't know that person, you won't know how a person works. You get to know how to work with that person individually.
"During rehearsals you have the time to test the waters. You can try one thing, and the director may tell you, 'I don't see it like that, but if you do it that way you should maybe try to add this.' It's a time when you have to decide how your character is going to be. You can't just think about it, though, you have to do it. So it's a time to physically try different things."