Road Trip

We’ve been in Maine for a week, rehearsing hard.  We haven’t had reliable internet at the house until now, hence my radio silence.  There’s so much to tell!  But first, how about a photo essay on our road trip from New York City to Stonington?

The OHA van departed Brooklyn at 9am. By about 10:30, it was cruising north with a cargo of five actors, one composer, several instruments, at least six suitcases, and a small container of figs–actual figs, not a snake. This will come up again later.

We stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for lunch and ran into a few other members of our Stonington–bound company. Left to right: Michael, Jeffrey, Christian, Per, Stephanie, Amy, and Sutton. Look at all those lovely people.

This Is Where We Had Lunch.

The Portsmouth Brewery has been a stop along the way for many generations of OHA-bound performers.

This is What We Colored While We Had Lunch.

I mean, they gave us crayons and they gave us a coloring page called “A Good Garden.”  Sutton, Amy, and I did some good work.  Version 1, above, is captioned, “Hello Flowers,” while in version 2 the protagonist comments, “I’m just experimenting…I mean watering my earth plants.”  As are we all.  As are we all.

Monkey Tee, Monkey Do.

In Maine they sell t-shirts and monkeys are involved.

Per, Amy, Sutton, and Melody are not touching the moose.

Don’t Touch the Moose.

Also in Maine, there are moose-related photo shoots, like, all the time.  Per, Amy, Sutton, and Melody are not touching the moose.  The moose might be touching Sutton, though.

‘Cuz see, they had a sign.

After not touching the moose, Sutton and Amy also did not touch the baby bears.  Then we got back in the van and drove the last few hours to Stonington.

Roadtrip Sunset.

The sun sets on a long day’s journey on the road to the Opera House.  Bedtime for weary travelers…I do promise to tell you more about figs and the snake soon.  Before we go, though, what about one little peak at things to come?

Here is our space

This is where we make our play.

Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch

Of the ranged empire fall!  Here is my space.

Kingdoms are clay:  our dungy earth alike

Feeds beast as man:  the nobleness of life

Is to do thus; when such a mutual pair

And such a twain can do’t…

–Antony to Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 1

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My Heart My Mother

We started working on music yesterday, and it’s gorgeous.  It turns out this cast can sing.

Our sound designer/ composer is the gifted Phillip Owen, who also created music for 2010’s Measure for Measure at Opera House Arts.  So I’ve gotten to sing and play some fiddle on his music before, and it’s a treat to be working with him again this year. Especially after hearing the ensemble tackle a few of the compositions he’s created for us. The style in which he’s composing is Sacred Harp Singing, a shape singing tradition with roots in 18th-century English parish music and the American south. The genre is new to me, so I consulted the internets and came across this description by a Sacred Harp singer: “this 3- or 4-part music did not imitate European musical tastes of the time but instead exhibited a stark, rugged, and often lively style representing a fusion of elements of Anglo-Celtic folk music with those of medieval to baroque European church music.”  …Ummm, yummy.

The music we sang today was just delicious.  It hovers in the air of memory between the church choirs of my Catholic childhood and some rough medieval magic chant.  And here’s where it gets really exciting:  the text that we’re singing in this evocative form is all from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

My heart my mother,

My heart my mother,

My heart my coming into being!

Are you tantalized yet?

You go in through the Disk.

You speak with the Disk.

You speak with the shining ones

I am the Sun’s eye,

Yea,

I am in my egg,

In my egg.

I make my nest in the limits of heaven.

You are in the Sun’s eye

When it closes.

Come join us in our Egypt on the hill in Stonington!


If It Be Love…

…tell me how much.

Sometimes the first day of rehearsal can feel like the first day of school.  You get to meet a lot of new people.  You hope you like them.  You hope they like you!  You hope the people in charge inspire you.  You hope you do well and have fun and everything gets off to a good start.  The world is full of possibilities, some of them golden and bright, and you hope those are the ones that materialize.

I had dinner with a dear friend this evening, a talented actress, and she pointed out how useful it is that actors tend to be very good at the first day.  They excel at diving in, forging bonds swiftly, going fearlessly in the direction of trust.  Company.  Ensemble.  These words that mean together, in the same place, working towards a common goal:  these are the actor’s conscious and immediate need.  Due to the financial pressures on professional American theatre, we often have short rehearsal processes:   for Antony & Cleopatra, today was our first rehearsal, and we have 30 days between us and an audience.  For ANTONY & CLEOPATRA.  That’s  shocking, right?  Shakespeare’s fifth-longest play, clocking in at 3,573 lines.  A play whose action leaps from Egypt to Rome to Greece, spans roughly ten years of history, features multiple battles on land and at sea, and tracks a passionate and legendary love affair in the midst of the political and military maneuvers that lead to the rise of Rome, the fall of Egypt, and the end of 3000 years of Pharoah. Thirty days ain’t much.

With the right crew, though, it might suffice.

So wait–what about the rehearsal?

Ohhhh, right.  The subject of this post.  Our first day of rehearsal was totally exciting!  “Signs point to yes,” says my magic 8-ball.  It’s always about the people in the room, and I’m frankly thrilled about these people.  It was a really good first day and I can’t wait for tomorrow.  So I think maybe it is love…But let’s not say any more, lest we jinx a good beginning with too much early talk.

Cleopatra:  If it be love indeed, tell me how much.

Antony:  There’s beggary in the love that can be reckoned.

Cleopatra:  I’ll set a bourn how far to be beloved.

Antony:  Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.

Fire and Air

I’m playing Cleopatra this summer.

Rehearsals begin in New York in three days, and still I’m not sure I’ve wrapped my head around the fact of it.  One of Shakespeare’s greatest roles, last Empress of Egypt, descendant of Alexander the Great, pharoah, goddess, siren, at once a real woman and a cypher.  Much has been written about her, which is a daunting fact in the face of a first post on a blog about her…but Forward!  Character is always a unique entry into story, and I hope that my journey towards Cleopatra will offer some insights about the woman and the play.  Join me for the ride!  The barge is beautiful, by all accounts.

More information about the production, and Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House on Maine’s beautiful down east coast here.  Stay tuned, lovers.

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety.  Other women cloy

The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies.

–Antony & Cleopatra II-2, spoken by Enobarbus