By David Rubin
And so to our first warm weather week. We’ve headed south from chilly Chicago and landed in 75 degree heat in Houston, Texas, for week three of our ‘Tempest’ tour. Lovely! I’m wearing shorts all week in celebration. (Didn’t last…it got cold and rainy here on Day Two!).
We’re actually located quite a way from Houston city centre (39 miles), and about three and a half miles from the University where we will be teaching and performing (at The Bayou Theatre).
Our accommodation this week is slightly different…more of a self catering set up. It includes a kitchen and dining room – each! Homely. It’s located on a highway, or should I say freeway? It’s on a 6 lane road, and we’re surrounded by huge retail complexes. Everyone here seems to drive everywhere. Pedestrians are not much catered for. Good then, that we’ve been provided with two fabulous cars for the week.
I certainly want to visit Houston city centre, and there’s even talk of driving five or so hours through the night, after the show on Saturday, for a visit to New Orleans… I’m VERY keen on that, despite it being almost 800 miles round trip. Always wanted to go there.
Monday. On our first night here a few of us braved a walk across the freeways and to the lovely, Irish themed “Molly’s Pub” It was great. Darts, beers, food and good company – friendly locals. Workshops at the Uni start tomorrow, though my first one isn’t until Wednesady. Leisurely week this one. Fitting perhaps, as Monday was my birthday.
Tuesday. I went into town and rode around on one of the easy hire bikes that cities have nowadays. One of the first things I saw was another Molly’s Pub – maybe it’s a chain. [It is, I’ve since discovered]. I also saw a lot of homeless people. 95% dark skinned, of course. A saving grace for them, compared to the huge numbers on the streets of Chicago, is that at least it’s not below freezing down here in Houston. Houston also has a few museums and a small theatre district. The highlight looks to be the NASA museum. So I’ll be heading there at some point. Having been spoilt by the art I saw in Chicago last week, I might skip this week’s Museum of Fine Arts…
Wednesday was a day pottering around my abode, feeling very at home, what with two bedrooms, dining area, desk, bathroom and kitchen all at my disposal. I prepared for two workshops I’m giving on ‘Performance Appraisal and Feedback’, which I’ve since delivered and which went very well indeed. And I caught up on emails and Whatsapp calls to friends, family and lovely Sal.
Today is Thursday. Our three performances here start tonight. There was some great discussion during my workshops yesterday and this morning, about the challenges of working without a director. Some simply could not fathom it. Others were fascinated and wanted to hear how we negotiate ‘choices’ and directorial decisions in a company whose unique selling point is their lack of director.
Caliban’s attempted rape of Miranda came up for discussion in both my workshops, there being somewhat different opinions within the cast about this. I explained the delicate negotiating process of the rehearsal period, where we are free to make choices as actors and then, hopefully, are open to ‘notes’ from our fellow performers on those choices. I shared that on matters affecting the whole group, we would have a democratic vote to decide on which way to go. Individually there was a greater freedom for each actor to come to their own conclusions, regarding their thinking, in the playing of their part…a freedom to work from our own choices.
It’s very well known within the acting profession that ‘noting’ other actors is not the done thing. It’s a very dangerous world commenting on other actors’ performances, unless you’re the director, and it is a rare thing when it succeeds in acting companies. As a rule, it simply isn’t done. It takes a lot of trust and a letting go of ego.
If it is to work, it helps if the company are close…friends even, which was, I believe the way it was with those first Patrick Stewart led companies of AFTLS.
My very early career was with Chicken Shed Theatre Company, whom I joined at 16. We were just that sort of friendly, tight knit company, in those days, that did openly note each other – and no one was threatened by that as we trusted each other and shared the same goals. This current AFTLS company is getting there… we’re on a journey… we are pretty open to hearing each others’ notes, with the proviso that we can, as I outlined, each take or leave any suggested notes that are to do with our own personal acting choices.
Now it’s Thursday afternoon. Having not performed the show for six days, I’m off to spend a little time with my script. I’ve been thinking about trying a new reading of my line ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep….’ I’m contemplating a sacrilegious breaking up of the line (!), forcing it into a slightly new reading…I’ll see what the others say about it, but the final decision is mine. 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day for Friday y’all. Sal was very pleased with her cards from me!
Saturday now. Four of us went to the NASA museum yesterday which was… underwhelming. There were a couple of interesting bits, but for me, it was too crowded and too highly commercialised to enjoy.
The shows here have been very well received so far, one more to go tonight. Audiences for the first two were around the 100-150 mark. Standing ovation last night!
Desperate though I am to go, I’ve decided to put New Orleans on hold for now. Twelve hours driving on Sunday, our day off, not the best idea. So we’re going to go to Austin or to Galveston instead, before we fly to Vermont early Monday morning, where it’s currently -14 Celsius, for week four of the tour…
Do catch up again next week! And thanks for reading…