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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Cast Responds...

We asked the cast of 8 (plus director Jonathan Walters) to answer some questions about the rehearsal process of The Left Hand of Darkness thus far.

What are you most intrigued by (in working on LHoD)?

Jonathan (Director)*: The Left Hand of Darkness supposes a world remarkably similar to ours, except with two or three major, impossible, details changed.  Most important is that in the world of the novel, and the play, all the people have the same gender.  This change of one impossible fact, allows our imagination to be set free, we can suspend disbelief and enter an imaginary world, and see ourselves, and how we view and treat each other here in America, in a brand new light.  By using our imagination on stage, somehow, by flexing that muscle in our mind, we really can view men and women in a completely different way.
Damian (Genly): The language. It's almost classical at times, filled with intriguing rhetoric and beautiful poetry.
Allison (Estraven): The epic-ness.
Jason (Ensemble): I am very intrigued by telling such an epic story, through the lens of 8 actors. Playing a variety of roles is nothing new, but having multiple characters within many scenes is proving to be very exciting.
Lorraine (Ensemble): the impossibility of putting so huge a story on the stage.
Liz (Ensemble)*: I am intrigued to wonder if we can pull it off; really making the world of the book believable on stage.  And I’m intrigued with taking a director's dream outside of others dreams and supporting that fact...not believing at times but being inspired because there is a sole vision of just love for this book.

What are you most scared of?

Damian: Having to create a world that is unlike my own. It's exciting because of the numerous possibilities, but scary at the same time because of the numerous possibilities, haha.
Allison: The epic-ness.
Jason: Not scared, but wanting to present the honest essence of Ursula’s novel and yet give it the life it needs on stage is daunting.
Lorraine:  Putting so huge a story on the stage. (Who do we think we are??!)  As an actor, I'm most scared of how committed to each strange moment you, we, I must be… this is a completely different planet, okay! :) It's fun and it's scary, a little chaotic, and gaining a depth of feeling with every chaotically passing day. I'm having fun. I remain curious.
Liz*: I am most scared of nothing...it will be what it is. (and memorizing lines that I would never say in a normal context, so my brain is having faulty wiring!)

What are you most challenged by? 

Damian: Memorizing parts of the text. Being able to own these foreign words and make then role off the tongue.
Allison: The epic-ness.
Jason: De-gendering is big challenge. Doing it honestly and without a wink or camp is something that is, for me, the biggest challenge.
Matthew: Most challenging part of working on LHoD is losing my sexuality. Trying to find a way to be a neither this nor that. If I tried to just walk and talk like a woman, that would miss the point. I'm trying to find a way to blend the two, alternating between masculine/feminine, within a single scene. The voice is another difficult thing, mostly because I have a darker, deeper voice, so I'm experimenting with ways to lighten it, give it more breath, bring the pitch up without making it sound forced. I'm hoping some of the costume design can help me with getting me closer to the female end of the sexual spectrum. 

Collaboration: How is it different working with Hand2Mouth if you're used to traditional rehearsal schedules (like Portland Playhouse) or vice-versa? 

Damian: There is a lot more of a devised aspect to the rehearsal process. I find that the actor gets more of an input in regards to the final vision of the piece. At the same time, it requires the actor to do more text-based preparation in order to give the adequate time needed for ensemble work.
Jason: The emphasis on movement and strict choreography is a change. The idea that when character work arrives, the actor is the lead with choice from which Jonathan will direct is both flattering and nerve-wracking. He really expects you to have bold and firm choices. He gives you freedom to explore and then partners with you on that journey.
Liz*: This is what I have loved the most! It is really important to have new energy as a human being and as an artist.  New energy brings new relationships and new love...and quite frankly new self esteem.

How do you think the devised method works in LHoD's favor when telling this story? 

Damian: Because the ensemble plays such a key role in communicating the story, the devise method is beneficial because it focuses more on building that strong connection that is needed for an ensemble to be an ensemble.
Allison: Ursula LeGuin said: "It is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception and compassion and hope.” And, therefore, we need all the imaginations we can get! I think working in a collaborative way is the only option to transform this epic tale into a live theatre piece...it requires a collective to become fully realized. 
Liz*: I cannot answer... that is for me to answer after the show, but I have loved meeting everyone and believe that this is always the future of theatre. Ursula has brought great minds together and it is a big endeavor...If it will succeed, that is up to the audience and the writer that made it happen. I am very humble at this point.

*Hand2Mouth Company Member

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