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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Making of Trojan Women: Part 1

Katherine Crockett and Ellen Lauren. Photo: Craig Schwartz
During the 10-week residency at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles where Trojan Women (SITI Company, directed by Anne Bogart, BAM Harvey Theater, Nov 28—30) originally premiered, the cast took turns emailing diaries to each other, to the company members not directly involved, and to the board and staff. Here and in subsequent blog posts, excerpts from these entries about the process of making Trojan Women.

Day 1 – Ellen Lauren (Hecuba)

How extraordinary to have on day one around the table the expertise of the Getty’s staff, classicists, ands scholars. Ken [Lapatin, associate curator of antiquities at J. Paul Getty Museum] speaks of the layers of Troy excavated, and he's so breezy and engaging, with the modern irreverence that can only come with a deep knowledge of his subject. Anne brings up that it seems from her reading she is finding that a central metaphor is the idea of an earthquake having leveled Troy, not fire. And that the play is a series of aftershocks so that finding where those all are in the text is key. It’s not lost on anyone that "earthquake" here in LA is a particularly potent image.

We are shown the furniture and talk about the props. And we are reminded again that the Getty is a museum, not a theater. To that end, Ken reminds us that it is the job of the Getty is to communicate through its artifacts the ancient world to the modern community. Another layer. So human and moving to me. So that the props, while not having to be slavish to prefect re-creation, can suggest in a shield, in a goblet, this whole culture from so long ago. These things become a bridge, in that sense, to antiquity.

Day 2 – Barney O’Hanlon (Chorus)

Today the Getty Villa was closed to the public so it was just ours. We trained as usual with a particular emphasis on gearing the training more towards the build of Trojan Women. The training wants that. Viewpoints [an improvisation technique] always reveals the potential of what this piece might be, and we are now beginning to blur the lines between Suzuki [an acting method designed to uncover the actor's innate expressive abilities] and Viewpoints for this build as the two trainings have never been closer than for a project such as this. When we got to the theater today Katherine Crockett, a guest artist and a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, is playing Helen of Troy. She was doing a dance warm up, doing total Graham repertory, while we were doing our measly little actor warms up. It was hilarious and cool and very right for this process!

Then we started from the top of the play doing a read-through, slowly analyzing everything. The goal is to get through 25 pages a day before Jocelyn [Clarke], the playwright, has to head back to Ireland. Jocelyn is so open and making changes and listening beautifully and helping us enormously. The big treat of the day, as no public was at the museum, was that we were able to go to the outdoor amphitheater and begin staging from the top. VERY THRILLING! The acoustics are amazing. It will look stunning and Christian [Frederickson], our composer/performer and sound designer, got a big thumbs up today in the sound check in terms of not sending too many decibels out to disturb the neighbors of the Villa. A very important step.

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