The photo, a rehearsal shot by Jim Hynes, shows Aoife Corry , as YERMA, with Claire Keating and Marie Hegarty in the background. The production, a collaboration between NUI Galway and Core Theatre College, was performed in February 2014 at the Mick Lally Theatre Galway.
The production occurred in such an amazingly organic, flowing way. Whilst interviewing for stage management, I met a student who happened to be a singer, and who was studying Spanish. This student ended up creating and singing the music, teaching it to the student/ actors and in finding a guitarist who played Spanish guitar who played live. This in turn made me fully realise the general atmosphere I wanted to create was as if the audience was attending a Spanish music session rather than a Play. The person who was organising sound was shifted to the lighting as we went further to develop this ambiance and have only live sound. The central area where the main action took place had the feel of a small stage where someone might have got up to dance flamenco rather than perform scenes..
The rehearsal process eschewed text analysis, other than when we worked through the scenes. I find too much analysis destroys spontaneity and creativity, and it was for this reason that I chose a very direct actable translation by Peter Luke. I would like to talk about this issue of text analysis more.
Michael Chekhov talks eloquently about the relationship between the Intellect and the Imagination . The lntellect is the lab assistant, working for the Professor of the Imagination. You mine your imagination first, then consider how that might affect the emotional AND intellectual understanding of the character and the play.
I was brought up on the idea of high and long scrutiny of the text before you got up to work; to only learn your lines when you had actioned them in some way, when you had pored over every phrase and sentence. Now I know that can result into falling into a bog that becomes harder and harder to get out of . The thing is,Intellectual knowing might be reassuring but does not really help you act. Acting is a different sort of knowing: it is instinct; Imagination; sensations. It is not that the Intellect plays no role at all, it is vital, but it cannot come first , other than for research and for reading the text.
Because people are so often trained in a more text-oriented way, I was a little nervous about pursuing this process so radically with students whose experience of Chekhov technique was stronger for some than for others, but I need not have worried. The approach really freed many of the actors for whom this work was new to go places, way outside of their ‘comfort zone’.
Our first week of rehearsal involved only one serious discussion of the play and one readthrough. What was interesting from students’ feedback subsequently was how much they felt they knew about the play without having had much discussion. Of course they had read the play and done some background research prior to the beginning of our work, but we did not engage with that overmuch. Later when we worked on the poetic sections we worked extensively physically on the images.
Had we been doing a Shakespeare or a Jacobean play , a more intellectual examination of the text to explore meaning would definitely have been necessary , as it is often hard to understand, but actors would have been encouraged to do as much of that work as they could at home. Language in Shakespeare is everything; story;character; psychology; set .When doing a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream with young people, I got a fabulous MA student to meet the students separately to go through the meaning of the language with them , and the myriad of mythical stories which the characters tell, before they came in to work in rehearsal.
If you eschew the intellect altogether of course there are dangers. The production can be shapeless, the story fuzzy, the language disregarded. But I would argue that without atmosphere, radiating and receiving energy, and a full unfettered, emotional and imaginative response first, the real core of a piece is harder to dig out.