January 8, 2010
Welcome to Court Theatre’s blog, Open Rehearsal! I’m Artistic Director Charlie Newell, and I’ll be chronicling my rehearsal process of The Year of Magical Thinking all the way up through our first preview on January 14 and beyond. The process for this upcoming show has been so unusual and personally challenging that I thought it worthwhile to share it here.
The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion’s dramatic adaptation of her own memoir. It is a moving but piercingly honest account of the death of her husband, John, and the year of disorientation that followed. The play also chronicles the death of Didion’s daughter, Quintana, less than two years later. Written for only a single actor, it is an Everest of dramatic writing.
Despite the unexpected pleasure of getting my wisdom teeth removed last month, Mary Beth Fisher and I began rehearsal on The Year of Magical Thinking in early December and continued all the way up to our holiday break. Because this play is written for only one actor, our rehearsals have been more flexible, though not less focused. Mary Beth and I are free to test-drive new ideas, thoughts, and instincts about Joan Didion’s text as they crop up, and the dead ends we discover are equally important to the breakthroughs. A constant concern of ours, of course, is to modulate the tone of the piece. We face two pitfalls: on the one hand, sentimentality, and on the other, cold detachment. Every day, like frontier surveyors, we discover a little bit more of the emotional truth of the text.
This week we finished up our time in the rehearsal hall with a full-blown run-through of the show for our design team, and I’m thrilled with how far the piece has come. Today we move into the theater to begin tech, but even as my immediate attention turns to lights and sound and space, I still haven’t completed my work with Mary Beth. Just this week the two of us discovered a new understanding of the last third of the show, and I’m eager to try out our new ideas!