INTO THE VORTEX: 4
Posted on Mon 28 Jan 2013 by Stephen Unwin
During the rehearsal process of Noël Coward's The Vortex we will be publishing a guest blog from Raker Wilson. Raker Wilson is a Classical Theatre MA student at Kingston University and will be in the rehearsal room everyday recording the development of the play. Raker grew up in the beautiful Missoula, Montana, USA where he earned his BFA in Theatre at The University of Montana before hopping the pond.
The Foxtrot and the charleston
It's the third week and all stops have been removed: actors have memorized their lines, a mountain of props have arrived, and people are dancing, laughing, crying and arguing at one another - in character, of course!
Each actor has found his or her own way to remove the script from their hands, some more easily than others; but to them, being off-book is an accepted inevitability. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to attend talkbacks with audiences following a show, the question is always asked: “How did you memorize all of those lines?” The funny thing is that, to an actor, it's a completely mundane facet of their job. There are many methods of memorizing lines, but all of them include reading and speaking the words in order, over and over again, both in and out of rehearsal. For some it's difficult and for others it comes without a second thought, but for the majority of actors they can only truly begin to perform once the script is out of their hands. Once the lines are in your head, it opens up your hands and body to do whatever they want.
There are multiple stages in the process of memorization: one stage where you have to think constantly about what you're about to say, another where the occasional line gives you difficulty, and a final stage where the lines flow freely from your brain to your mouth. It's in this final stage where most actors feel they can finally do their job.
The Vortex features a handful of dance sequences in the context of the action – it’s the 1920s after all! Our choreographer arrived this week to teach such period steps as the foxtrot and the Charleston. Over the course of the play, the actors need to dance to music while delivering lines and making it all look effortless. Like all things on stage, the most effortless actions inevitably receive the most rehearsal.
The choreographer gathered everyone on the rehearsal set into a circle and began with a warm up. The process was unconventional and its climax resulted in everyone yelling juicy obscenities about the space while loosening hips, legs, and arms in order to get emotions bubbling; suffice it to say, it worked. The actors then began to learn the steps as the choreographer moved with alarming speed from move to move. Actors tend to be quick studies and ours picked up the steps in no time at all. Soon, the music was playing and all of the actors were moving as if honest-to-goodness sophisticates of the 1920s.
Usually I think choreography sets every step to every note of music, but that wasn't the case here. Once the actors knew the basic steps to the Foxtrot and the Charleston, the choreographer then left them to decide how to use what they'd learned and, with guidance, came to find their movements largely by themselves.
As for the crying I mentioned above, make no mistake: this Noël Coward show isn't all cocktails and cigarettes. It floats wonderfully on the surface for sure, but underneath the sheen there's a gripping drama that plays with our deepest fears and most private of problems. The actors in The Vortex experience soaring highs and shattering lows, and they’re finding their ways with fascinating individual speeds. It takes technique, talent, and emotional fearlessness to confront the places the play takes us, but every actor is committed to bringing it all to you!