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Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Making of Trojan Women: Part 4

At the Getty Villa. Photo: Craig Schwartz
The fourth part of a blog series about the creation of SITI Company's Trojan Women.

Day 24 – Brent Werzner (Poseidon)

We started rehearsing the play inside, from the top, before we moved outside to try our first run-through. As always it is a challenge to find myself back in the theater and working Poseidon’s prologue after last working in the amphitheater. It takes some winding up before hitting a stride today. I enjoy what Anne [Bogart] brings to my attention, examining the “knitting” of the moments. She challenges me to be more aware of my breath, my choices. During this first portion of rehearsal we really examine the moments when the Trojan Women learn their fate as decided by the Generals of the Armies of Greece­—what was decided by the drawing of the lots, and also Kassandra’s vision.

Now we’re outside. (I understand one of the final conversations at the pool yesterday was a discussion on how it had been a great day and how we should really do a run-through tomorrow.)

Cue dramatic drums.
We suddenly found ourselves at that very moment. We battled through it. Boldly. Before the play started, I was staring at the black marble statues that surround the foundation just inside the Villa—the whites of their eyes with black pupils staring through me. They are watching us. Again, I have the feeling of being so very honored to share the stage with such fine actors and performers. Ellen [Lauren], Barney [O'Hanlon], Leon [Ingulsrub], Akiko [Aizawa], Makela [Spielman], Katherine [Crockett], J. Ed [Araiza], GM [Gianino]: I learn every day from watching you. I’m always watching throughout the show—a silent statue, observing the navigation of the Trojan Women through post-war delirium, learning what it is to be alive onstage.

Day 34 - Christina Frederickson (Composer)

At 6pm we had an hour outside to confirm and solidify the new Kassandra scene. I think it’s very cool; it helps us to see Kassandra as someone who’s aware of what’s going on outside of her trance state. She now shows us that she clearly understands the deep implications of the war, especially to the Greeks who have died far from their home and families. And then she started spinning again and gives us a preview of the Odyssey, tells us that fate of Odysseus. The new aspect to this rehearsal was that the Getty reopens the grounds at 6pm in preparation for the show. So we’re down on the floor of the amphitheater working, and the public starts walking in, looking down on us from the back of the theater and the café. It feels like being in a petri dish; I had a hard time concentrating, felt like we should be hiding the work we needed to do. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot to do so after staging the curtain call, Darlene released us to our own time, either on the stage, or in my case, inside.

First audience, and it was full. We start at 7:58, Brent’s long cross from the very back of the museum. At 7:59—the house announcement and my cute to enter. I start the earthquake rumble after “in case of emergency” and we’re off. It’s a ride, and it’s really something to take it with this big audience.

It turns out there are some laughs in Trojan Women. But laughing isn’t really what we’re all there for… I can’t really explain the moment when Hecuba lifts her head and howls over the broken corpse of her grandson; it has to be experienced. There was a woman in a wheelchair in the front row tonight, about eight feet away from Ellen in that moment, and afterward she quickly looked at her neighbors in the audience: “did you see that?”

Did you see?

Day 36 – Ellen Lauren (Hecuba)

Our crowd for tonight’s show begins to gather and peek over the back at us. It’s not as intimidating today. I welcome them. It’s as it should be.

The women are escorted into the back of the museum for our places call. We walk around back through the fountain garden with the tiled wall. The crescent of the new moon is up in the sky, which is at the "blue hour." We then have a deeply private moment walking into the museum in its hushed empty state. There is something almost holy about it. I nod to Brent, waiting like an athlete, awake and wound. I pass the Gallery of Dionysus, the vase of Orestes killing Clytemnestra. “Stay this moment, stay," I whisper to myself, calling up Virginia Woolfe’s reverie.

We have begun. The house is packed. Brent walks gracefully past us (Akiko and Katherine on the other side from Makela and I) and into the light. Christian lets the earth rumble and the crowd hushes. Brent booms, “I am Poseidon.” I walk to Poseidon’s cadence and stretch out on the ground just as he finishes his lament. I can smell the Swifter "mountain spring" scent on the stone that is used to clean them. I press my ribs into the marble and widen them to open up my lungs. Then I am up. Crawling into being, into the light, into this new world, telling this old story. I feel the weight and responsibility of playing what amounts less to a "character," and more of a signifier—this thing, this experience called Hecuba. It is a statement by a playwright, by a director, by a company, by all people in all situations across time and borders, about the acceptance and assertion of our life force.

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