Scott Wright (Hortensio / Sly / Grumio / Vincentio) on managing rehearsals for six people.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…
In the weeks leading up to the beginning of rehearsals for The Taming of the Shrew, I put my hand up for the job of Rehearsal Coordinator. I’d been allowed to “assist” the rehearsal coordinator on a past production but in truth, that was really more about officially observing the RC than what I’d been doing – which was watching & learning by experience how it all worked.
As the very small cast was set and rehearsals began, the first job was to lay out the schedule – particularly for the short-term (i.e. the next few days) – which is really a maze of conflicts, scene labels (do we work on I.iii or III.i …?), and dates. Not to mention the schedule of performances.
It’s a very eye-opening experience doing this job. I found that I made a number of miscalculations about the amount of time certain scenes would require (and possibly about how much time the characters in our cast of actors would require for debating character and scene choices…) Some scenes are significantly longer than others, and when looking at the list of scenes it was far too easy to make the amount of rehearsal time for II.i (which is ALL of Act II) the same as for IV.iv (a comparatively short scene.)
Something else that took me by surprise as a relatively new Rehearsal Coordinator was when, as we finished the time period allotted for a particular scene and the talk and debate and brainstorming (and laughter…) came to a natural ebb. Everyone turned and looked at me expectantly as if to say, “Ok, what’s next…?”
Good thing I had it all worked out…
As Many Of Your Players Do
When the small-cast concept for The Taming of the Shrew came up I couldn’t help thinking, “Six…? How is that gonna work…?” I’ve done The Taming of the Shrew twice before this, and there are a number of scenes where there are at least seven main characters on stage. This play also has a scene for Shakespeare’s typical army of servants and attendants, and in the final scene almost the entire cast of characters is supposed to be at table for dinner!
The small-cast thing is something we’ve done before too, but when we did it with The Tempest in summer 2010 there were a few differences. There’s generally a smaller cast of characters in The Tempest, and there are two fairly distinct groups of characters who don’t interact much but appear in alternating scenes, with the big exception of the final scene where, again, everyone appears on stage.
The challenges in The Taming of the Shrew for doubled actors in a very small cast are, as always, to make very distinct character choices that help the audience recognize who’s speaking at any particular moment. The addition of hats, costumes, and props help to further differentiate characters, but the demands of a small-cast production make it necessary for those costumes and things to be especially simple and specific.
This particular challenge – of making very clear character shifts, sometimes very quickly within a scene – has been, and continues to be, really tough for me personally. As our show continues to come together and prepares to open the first weekend of January, we’ll be working to make all those elements come together to make this familiar, funny, and fast-paced story come to life in the way you’ve come to expect from us.