Director’s Diary (continued): Ice Glen

Two weeks from opening Ice Glen, everything begins to take on its reality. The actors put the scripts aside and, their hands and eyes newly free, take up the props, develop gesture, make eye contact with their scene partners. The set will soon be painted and lit, turning a neutral stage and raw wood into the place of the play—in our case, rooms in a grand home in the Berkshires, the nearby woods and fields, and a Boston office. Mary Kulcsar and Judi Heath are working on the costumes that will communicate the characters’ personal circumstances. Rehearsal furniture and rehearsal props are gradually being replaced by the things we will actually use, and the props we have merely been miming will come into being. The plastic apple will be replaced Monday with a real apple, and the actress will actually be able to chomp down on it, and then work on eating and talking at the same time.

The publicity is coming out, including the gorgeous photos by Michael Stanley and Al Kulcsar’s great poster and cards. This means there’s no turning back!

As a director I’m in the “tweak and try” stage. The basic movements and emotional arcs have been worked out and are becoming natural to the actors. Now we look for ways to improve and clarify the scenes; and the actors, more certain of who their characters are and where the scenes are headed, have interesting suggestions to consider. We did completely re-block one scene a couple of nights ago, reversing the relative positions of the two principal actors and thereby greatly improving the scene, but most of the changes we’ll make from now on will be small ones, although these kinds of changes can still have enormous impact on the way the lines or scenes work.

With fewer “big” issues to think about, I’m finding some time to participate in other aspects of the production. I’m helping to work on one of the gowns, for instance. And I’m having great fun building one of the props: a lump of mud. I love fabricating props, and this is one of the most challenging I’ve taken on yet. How can I make a lump of mud that is credible to the eye and manageable for the actors who have to carry it around? I spent this afternoon wandering the aisles of Poster Craft, picking up an unlikely assortment of materials that I think will do the trick. The success or failure of what results will ultimately be for the audience to decide, but first I want the prop to feel real to the actors. Theater is illusion, but the more we ourselves can believe in the illusion, the more easily the audience will believe in it too.

So here we are a week before First Dress, the most amazing rehearsal in the whole process, when the actors are actually clothed and coiffed as their characters and step into the physical world of the play. I’m very grateful that we still have a week before that, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the change reflected in their eyes when suddenly everything is real.

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