When is a popsicle not a popsicle?
When it’s onstage with two characters just waiting to connect.
Dani and Kate discuss theatricality vs. realism in finding the soul of W;t.
On the Secret Life of Props.
Kate: Hey, Dani, how has the design concept talked back to you during this first week of rehearsal?
Dani: In the initial staging I felt a real tug between the theatricalism versus the realism of the piece. We needed a trash can and then also added a sharps container and a biohazard disposal. And I was asking myself – “Is this too real?” and “Is it enough to tell the story?” We also needed to look at the very real stage direction of two characters eating food that melts.
Kate: So when a popsicle is not just a popsicle, right?
Dani: Yes. That scene where your character and the nurse share a popsicle – using the actual popsicles in rehearsal – this is essential to the process, because the more real the props are, the more they become a gift to an actor. The actor is working on the real activity of putting on gloves, using a syringe, or eating this melting treat, and yet the emotional component of the scene is freed instead of forced, because of those very technical things.
On Creativity and Editing.
Kate: Tell us why messy is best in the first work-through.
Dani: I use to be a lot like your character Vivian; I like details, and I can be uncompromising, expecting perfection from myself. But I have found this does not serve the early part of the rehearsal process. A huge part of the director’s job is facilitating the creativity of the other artists. When we work messy, everyone is invited to be creative, freewheeling and even silly.
Kate: Like how we’ve now started to name the props. The IV drip is named “Mags” after our very brilliant pulitzer prize-winning playwright – Margaret Edson.
Dani: Exactly! That silliness shuts down the critical part of ourselves so we’re freer to share ideas. If we explore tons of possibilities, we’ll have more and better material to edit later. We can’t underestimate the importance of laughter in the rehearsal hall. If we only stuck with the hard emotions, it wouldn’t encompass the whole truth.
Kate: Well, then we’re in luck! It’s joyful to work on a text that is stunning in complexity and depth of connection. At the same time, that same material seems to have so much room for all of us, as actors. Kinda like you, Dani. (Just sayin’….)