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The basal idea in all branches of the hang fire. Some seem almost to retroWorkshop is to discover what special grade. Any wise director knows that ability, if any, each person has, and to his cast may at times grow a bit stale on help him to develop it. Consequently, one side of the work. Then he shifts at a first rehearsal the actors move as them to another, or subordinates everythey like, except when they get into bad thing to bringing an actor or a group up groupings. This freedom is given that, to standard. The watcher, failing to “finding themselves in the parts,” they keep his eye on the advance in the whole may make the broader interpretive ac- play, deems these slow rehearsals signs tion as personal as possible. When the of the director's ineptness, or unimpormain positions have been obtained in tant, and cuts them. A few days later this way, the director does more in sug- he is greatly surprised at what seems gesting the movement which reveals to him the sudden, unexplainable betcharacterization or adds beauty to the terment in the rehearsing.
When a grouping; but always there is the re- final rehearsal goes badly, young coaches peated question, after a movement or are too ready to rest on that silliest of position has been tried successfully: traditions, “A bad dress rehearsal makes “Now do you feel easy, comfortable? a good performance." Correctly underIf not, what do you want to do?" If stood, this means one of two truths. the actor has a definite suggestion, it is The badness may result from the nertried. If possible, it is not discarded vousness or weariness of the company. until the actor is convinced of its unde- If so, because of the bad rehearsal, the sirability. Usually the first week goes effort of every actor to do his very best into main positions, the general inter- on the first night may make the play go relating of the acts, and memorizing brilliantly. More probably the saying lines; the second into details of position means that an experienced producer, which are interpretive or which give facing a bad dress rehearsal, will arrange beauty to the grouping, to finer points meetings within the next few hours of characterization, and to the climactic with the actors and his aids by which movement of the play; and the last week he will bring the play into far better to polish, dress rehearsals, and final per- condition. If, on the contrary, the formances. It has been proved that the company on the first night does not actors of the Workshop get better results believe that the producer has done his by rehearsing three or four hours a day utmost for them, and that, therefore, six times a week for three weeks than the fate of the play is wholly in their twice or thrice a week for a longer hands, they will, from lack of steadiness, period.
turn a bad dress rehearsal into a bad Students, until trained, even those first performance. Discipline must lie who are interested, watch rehearsals back of all good rehearsing, but not the very ineffectively. It is useless to at- immediate, unquestioning obedience of tend now and then, or to come for part militarism. The producer works mainly of a rehearsal and leave when other at- through persons, not groups or masses. tractions call. It is equally useless to To work, not in spite of, but with, the watch eagerly for corroboration of one's individual, there lies the difficulty, the own ideas as to coaching or for ideas to everlasting problem, and the inspiration combat. Each producer has his meth- of producing. Moreover, putting on a ods. If he gets good results, the points play is not, properly, to find a field for to be watched for are, what fundamen- the exhibition of the producer's fads, tally he strives for, and how this is at- a very common fault among amateurs, tained. Nor should his ideas or ways be and certainly not unknown among proslavishly adhered to, but used or dis- fessionals. Students of producing must carded later by any watcher as his judg- be made to understand that a play is ment, matured by experience, deems not its scenery; its lighting; its theories wise. Rehearsals have no steadily of movement, gesture, voice-handling; climactic movement. Some advance the its schemes of color: but recorded emoplay or individual scenes with great tional states which will fail of their strides. Some move jerkily.
proper effect if they are not made to produce in any audience the emotional shop will permit, what the author response desired by the author. This thinks he wrote. Then, if the play they must do with whatever aid set- fails in part or as a whole, its author will tings, lighting, or other accessories may not seek to find excuses, but will painsgive, but not as secondary to them or takingly search out how the faults may despite them. The producer's art is be remedied. interpretation by all these aids not of Except for the making of scenery his own individuality read into the play, flats and a few of the more bulky but of the author's purpose divined by properties, the organization does all its close study of the piece and, better still, own work. To-day this may not be by sympathetic consultation.
unusual with experimental theaters, , Of course the play could not be pro- but it was when the Workshop began duced in three weeks were there not the its history in 1913. It is the undeniable discipline already mentioned and hearty evidence provided by the Workshop coöperation by many skilled people. that such an enterprise may depend Just before a piece goes into rehearsal wholly on itself, which has in large part it is read to the artistic and producing made the practice wide-spread. How force as well as to the actors, all of whom are all these needed workers gathered? watch it for the special problems it may Admission to English 47 and 47a has have for them. Immediately after the already been explained. For the other reading, copies of the play are handed activities any student in either college to the costumer, designer of scenery, and even outsiders of all ages may volunproperty mistress, the person in charge teer. This is because, with one exception, of lighting, and the stage-manager. there is as yet no course offered in the As soon as possible, these meet individu- other activities. The exception is ally with the author to make sure that instruction in designing and painting they know exactly what he wants, and, scenery, a course offered in the school as groups, to establish their plans co- of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. operatively. Within a few days the Though this is no part of the Harvard director sees either a rough drawing or a or Radcliffe curriculum, a student may model of the scenes. If the settings enroll himself in it as outside work. submitted are known to be satisfactory Its members design much of the Workto the author, the director makes no shop scenery, and paint virtually all of changes unless important stage business it. It is high time that this and playalready in mind requires them. .He producing should be accepted at both wants to give the author and other per- colleges as course work, though not to sons at work as complete self-expression count for any degree. There is the deas he can, and he relies on his aids to mand, and from very promising students, see that costumes, properties large and but till such work is part of the curricusmall, lighting, and scenery are satis- lum, naturally it cannot be so organfactory to him when the first rehearsal ized as exactly to meet the needs of the is called. Till that time, when he will Workshop. On the other hand, when know just what he thinks the play de- established, such courses must be the exmands in all these respects, he reserves pression of more than one set of theories further discussion. Moreover, he trusts or one personality. Otherwise they will the author, who attends all rehearsals, soon become set in method. The Workto see that the different departments shop is not a place for the mere systemagive him or her what the play, as it is tizing of established practice. Its very developed from day to day, requires. breath of life should be rebellious exHe knows that, if the author makes perimentation. Only by feeding in new undue demands, the head of any de- material constantly and by giving all partment will come to him for arbitra- sorts and kinds of persons a chance can tion. The Workshop is no place for the that breath be kept stirring. furthering of personal idiosyncrasies or Naturally, with all these activities the fostering of fads. The desired result centering in lower Massachusetts, the is to make the play, when produced, as room is rarely vacant. The inclosed nearly as the equipment of the Work
space in one corner, grandiloquently called “office,” is so crowded with its Why dwell on dress rehearsais-times desk and two chairs that a necessary of necessary adjustments to the actual filing-case must be placed outside, among stage, of confusions hard to clear away, the scenery. So constant is the coming of weariness and even discouragement and going through this “office" that it to persons who should know better? is really a passageway: Round the No matter how bad a dress rehearsal, director's rehearsing-table meet three all is not lost. There is still time betimes a week the Harvard classes in tween it and the next evening for special play-writing. At whatever hours are rehearsing of actors, groups, scenes, acts, free from other engagements, students, for consultation with actors and comor members of the company who have mittees, which may bring the desired had some experience in production, improvements. If the repeater of that rapidly prepare for presentation to the phrase about a bad dress rehearsal could classes and the director the second kind be present in any producer's office the of plays already mentioned. Here all day after one, he would not dare utter it carpentry goes on, and large properties again, for he would learn that, if the are made. Here the scenery is painted. director and his forces have been busy Here committees meet. Here the direc- before, the intensity of their work is tor holds the innumerable consultations tenfold increased in these hours before which the work entails. Is it any won- the first performance. der that the activities sometimes clash The Workshop usually produces a and that, as something must give way, play for only two nights. Very rarely an important rehearsal must often be it repeats it for a charity. Its principle transferred to strange and unfavorable has been that it exists for its authors conditions, in order that scene-painters and its own audience, and that it should or other workers may finish their labors be seen under its own conditions rather in time? Cramped, overcrowded, burst- than exhibited elsewhere merely as ing with the energy which all this youth, an entertainment. Of course it disreworking coöperatively, insures, the Work- garded all this in war-time, playing in shop pleads for an adequately equipped Cambridge, Boston, or at Camp Devens building of its own. Without this it for sailors, soldiers, and radio students. cannot do properly the work which it is One must be prompt at any regular called on to do; without it there can be performance. The doors, which open no development of instruction for which at seven-thirty, are closed at eight. there is a steady, insistent demand from Five or ten minutes later, when the people so competent that their needs director has finished a brief talk to his should be met-needs in play-produc- audience, the doors are opened to lateing, lighting, and stage design.
comers. Thereafter no one may enter After two weeks of rehearsing in these until the end of the first act. No doubt conditions, a Workshop play goes to its this seems hard, but at a Workshop perfirst dress rehearsal. Two nights be- formance a first act is not confused by fore, the producing force, except the belated footfalls, slamming seats, or director and his immediate subordinates bits of dinner conversation. So well who are still at work in the rehearsal- known is the rule now that very rarely room, meet in the auditorium of Agassiz is any one obliged to wait outside. House, Radcliffe College. Here, on the Passing up the staircase, one will only stage in the two colleges available notice on one's left a table where any of for the Workshop, they labor for the the printed plays from the two courses next forty-eight hours to perfect the de- may be had. At the door of the small tails of setting, lighting, and properties auditorium----with its gallery it seats that must be settled before the first four hundred people--Radcliffe seniors dress rehearsal. They are badly ham- in cap and gown give programs to pered because during the day the room all entering. There are no reserved is in almost constant use for lectures or places, and consequently the floor is various student interests, and the stage usually filled within fifteen minutes after force is not allowed to keep the building the door is opened. Therefore, unless open after eleven P.M.
one is early, one may have to go to the gallery, where there are very few good sum they wish. The amounts, ranging seats. Unfortunately, the auditorium from one dollar to three hundred and was built for lectures, and out of four fifty,--the cost of any entire performhundred places, only a little over two ance,-pay for all the performances, the hundred have a view of the whole stage. office expenses, and an occasional lecThat is why the Workshop confines its ture. audience to four hundred members, A Workshop audience on a first night providing for some two hundred each is unusual in this respect: no critic night, and restricting guests to the num- there is burdened by the sense that, in ber of tickets returned each time by making his criticisms, he must so phrase members who cannot use them. The them as to entertain or at least interest audience is of all ages and in all kinds of his readers. Everybody has come to dress, for an effort to make "no evening see the trying out of a play guaranteed dress” the rule has not been wholly suc- by the director to be interesting in cessful. Scraps of overheard conversa- itself and to contain problems which tion will show one that this is not a only production can solve. Just what homogeneous group.
Here are mem- those are only the small part of the bers of the faculty and, of course, audience also in the courses knows. students from both colleges, but here This gathering is well aware, too, that also are professional musicians, artists, comments written to be clever at the writers, architects, and a fair representa- expense of the dramatist the director tion of the general public. Now and reserves the right to throw into his again one will recognize some play- waste-basket. It knows it must give placer or manager watching a play its reasons for its likes and dislikes, and which may become available. There is that all comments, except of the selfno orchestra, but conversation is as exploiting kind, will be read both by the general as if ere were.
director and, when the names have been At first the Workshop welcomed any removed, by the author. That the dione willing to watch the trying out of rector knows who writes each criticism plays admittedly not yet ready for the produces responsibility. That each professional stage. As a gain in the comment is for the author anonymous quality of its plays and their presenta- promotes honesty of statement. Comtion increased requests to see the per- ment is asked for not merely on the formances, it carefully developed meth- play itself, but on any part of the proods by which people coming irregularly duction-lighting, setting, stage-manor not complying with the rules of agement, the acting, or the producer's membership are removed from the own work. This audience meets, then, audience. Membership now comes as not idly to be entertained, but to do its in a club, on proposal and seconding by part in making the subsequent perpersons already in the audience. First formance of the play produce on the chance is given people practising one of outside public the emotional effect the the arts which, in the broadest use, are author desires. applicable to the theater. All members It is eight o'clock. The director must agree to attend regularly, and comes to a place just in front of the within a week after each performance to stage, and for a few minutes reports to send to the Workshop office written the audience, as to a large committee, on comment on the production. To each the developments in the Workshop since member is sent annually a card detailing the last production and on any matters the ways in which he may coöperate. of special interest concerning the play to This he is to return with a check against be performed. As he retires, a few latethe ways he will aid, if called on. He comers enter. Chimes sound, and the may do something as little laborious as house is darkened. As the curtain lending properties, or may share actively draws aside, a very small stage is rein any of a dozen or more kinds of vealed, but its extremely cramped concoöperation. Though no membership ditions have been skilfully disguised by fee is charged, as many of the audience the designers of scenery. Originally as care to contribute may send in any a recessed lecture platform, twenty feet wide by eight feet deep, and not as No flowers are sent over the footlights. broad at the back as at the front, it is If kind friends cannot be restrained, the shut in on both sides by steel-girdered flowers are sent to the dressing-room. walls, with one door on each side, down The Workshop gives no opportunities stage, close to the proscenium. There for uncomfortable comparisons of the is no room between the scenery and the number of flowers sent one member of walls for storing scenery between the the cast rather than another. Applause acts, not even, indeed, for an actor to may accompany an exit if it is sponpass. Overhead the iron-girdered floor of taneous recognition of notable acting, an upper story comes nearly to the top but every effort is made to hold apof the curtains; consequently, nothing plause till the end of an act. Even may be rolled up out of sight. Between then there is no parading before the scenes everything must be taken off curtain. stage. To carry a piece of scenery to a Waits are usually short,-- from five to room near by necessitates six turnings. ten minutes--except for a pause which Nothing could be more cramped, more usually comes before the last act, but is laborious, more unrepresentative of sometimes shifted earlier to cover some ordinary stage conditions. It is neces- time-consuming change of scenery. In sary to emphasize all this, because the this twenty minutes as many of the director has frequently been blamed for audience as wish go into a large room his critical and uncomplimentary atti- just across the corridor for coffee. Here tude toward a stage which seems to a special committee looks after new many who have not examined it to do members, guests of the organization, or whatever is needed. Is it not clear, any one who may wish to meet officers of however, that a stage which does not the Workshop not busy behind the provide and cannot be made to provide scenes. When the chimes sound, this representative or even adequate light- coffee-room group drifts slowly back ing conditions, where all scenery must into the auditorium. be specially designed, constructed, and After the last act the audience frankly painted for it, where all scene-shifting shows its immediate response to the is far more complicated and time-con- play, applauding warmly and long, callsuming than it would be on the stages of ing for the cast and even for the author; high schools or club buildings, where merely calling the cast; or only applaudstage positions cannot be freely handled, ing perfunctorily; or going out puzzled, but become largely a question of avoid- dissatisfied, without applause. Someing the furniture, is not a just place on times there is even the hum of querying which to ask any one to train people protest. either as playwrights or producers? The director watches every play from How to meet the problems of production his place at the back of the auditorium. on a normally equipped stage should be Immediately after the final curtain he the question, not the performance of joins the cast in the coffee-room, critiacrobatic feats in adjustment not likely cizing, making appointments for speto be called for anywhere else in the cial rehearsals, and trying to convey his country.
impression of the play from the front of The play is on. Unquestionably the the house. When he finishes, there folmajority of the pieces are realistic, for lows the one period of relaxation in the students are encouraged to write of evening.
evening. Author, working force, acwhat they know; but satire, fantasy, tors, and director interchange comment and romance are also seen. In the and comparison. acting well defined characterization and Within a week the written comments sincerity are offered instead of finished are in, over ninety per cent. of them and technic. No playing to the audience sometimes a clear one hundred being is allowed. Applause for an actor on helpful. The director considers carehis first appearance is deprecated as fully to what extent they justify or unfair to new-comers or persons en
negative questions which class-room, trusted with parts likely to become rehearsing, and production have raised unsympathetic as the play develops. in his mind. Of course there are many