I have a migraine. My vision is blurry. My head is pounding. My heart is thumping—hard. But I smile. I slide across the ‘front seat’ of a small, old Buick (at least it’s a Buick to me) and I turn the imaginary key that rests in the ignition. The first act draws to a close and the audience is none the wiser. They can only see the transition of the scenes. They cannot begin to palpate the internal, emotional transition that must take place for the show to remain utterly seamless. Performance is exhausting. But if we actors have done our job correctly, the audience will never know.
We don’t always want to invite you into our rehearsal space. That space is sacred. Intimate. Holy. This is doubly true when working on a show like Turtles—a place where humanity, absurdity, and divinity collide. But for this brief moment, I invite you to enter our Holy of Holies. Be quiet. Be still. Listen. Learn.
Mounting an original work is challenging. It’s a bit like being the new kid mid-school year. You want to prove your intelligence. You want to make friends and impress professors. You want to have the right answer. Then you realize that the ‘right answer’ is a construct. You find that you’ve entered a Socratic classroom. The right answers are floating in the ether. They are intangible. Yet you must strive for something. You push through the fog. You make a choice. You try. You fail. You try again.
Enter Plato –in the form of Jeff Mosser, the director. Jeff does a great job of asking questions. He assumes that we have done the work of thinking about character. He asks, “What are you saying specifically with that bark?” My character, Finn, is a selectively mute nine-year-old boy. When he is not speaking in words (which is most of the time), he is communicating through sound and movement. “I’d rather not say”, I reply. “I think this is the place where Jesus and Finn disconnect. I don’t think he is saying what Jesus thinks he is saying.”
“You think Jesus and Finn disconnect?” Socrates speaks. John Greiner-Ferris (or Socrates in this analogy) stands, and walks across our rehearsal space. “Really?” I will stand my ground and face-off with the playwright. “I do”, I say. “I don’t think Finn is talking about something as trivial as a prairie dog. He is a perceptive child. He is listening to his mother’s conversation. He is giving his opinion and he is completely misunderstood.” Socrates is quiet. We stand motionless for a moment. “Huh”. He grunts, walks back to his seat at the table, and the conversation has ended. Did I triumph? I guess we will find out opening night.
This process is completely collaborative. Everyone in the room has a voice…and boy, do we speak loudly. We laugh, we joke, we waste time, we speak in very strange accents, we disagree, we irritate one another, and we forge ahead. We have made edits to the script based on things we have discovered in the rehearsal room. This play is a new creature for all of the pieces that have been cut, spliced, and changed. Some of those changes are Socrates. Some are Plato. And some are just lines that we forget to say.
Though the road is hard but the journey is worth it when we finally take the stage. That is the moment we discover if our journey has been in vain. We don’t know if our calculated risks will pay off. We rely on you for the answer. Join us starting October 24th. See if you can identify our amendments. Tell us through your experience if we have succeeded at our task. Just as you will be watching us, we will be watching you.
Tickets for Turtles can be bought at Boston Theatre Scene.