Friday, June 17, 2016

Hearing Voices Other Than Your Own: Literal or Figurative Madness

In most cases after a play has been cast, the actors meet with the director in a session referred to as a table reading, where the director informs his cast of his vision, and where blocking,one of the many important aspects of the production, is developed.  At its most simplistic reach, blocking is a design for where each character will be at every moment he or she is on the stage.

Depending on the time available for rehearsal, subsequent "run-through" readings may continue for a few sessions before the actors begin moving about, interacting with one another as the script and direction demands. 

At this point, the director and writer are watching to see if there are any instances of unanticipated chemistry between characters, instances where two or more characters seem to "get along" or the antithetical "not get along" in a tangible way. This chemistry may well cause shifts in the blocking and send the writer back to the laptop for exchanges of dialogue that add dimension to the story by enhancing the attraction or distaste among the actors.

The story, at this time, is beginning to come off the page and into a sense of dimensional reality. One example of such dynamic stuck in your mind over the years since the original mounting and rehearsal of the dramatic musical Westside Story. You'd read in at least two accounts of how members of the two rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, were getting into scuffles during breaks from the rehearsals, each group in a vivid sense embodying the fictional dislike for the other.

In subsequent years, you'd become aware of some directors asking prospective actors to improvise scenes, which would give the actors and the director an opportunity to see if that magic of chemistry was present.  

This had an immediate effect on the way you watched stage plays and filmed drama, causing you to look for such instances of chemistry, then see if you could define it on sight or by study.  Yes, this meant recorded versions of dramas were preferable, although you did learn from repeated watching of a live play, even if, in the long run, you did not like the play itself.

Looking at the way a drama is mounted as opposed to the way a story is written and then revised, you began to see the former as a way of reaching inside the narrative to get at its voice. From that, you began to see the latter as a way of using revision to remove from the narrative all but the ambient noises, and for a great certainty, any hint of the authorial presence.

The chemistry in both cases is the way a live, mobile narrative has a range of voices in which it wishes to speak; the director or the author has an option of choosing which of the potential voices to whom the actors or characters should listen. 

At the moment, you are at the midway point of a book you are eager to finish for the same reason you've been eager these last several years, to see where the project takes you in the voyage of learning. The current project, One Hundred Novels You Should Read before You Write Your Own, involves the principal of you listening to the voice you heard in one hundred formative novels you've read throughout your lifetime, all of them well more than once.

The project you have in mind next holds considerable fear for you; you've known the lead character since your teens, have even used him as a pseudonym on occasion, and have been aware of ways in which he resembles you and ways in which he has departed from you in order to become his own person.

The subtext of fear, underscoring your eagerness to get on with the novel, is the question of whether you will be able to hear his voice and distinguish it from your own.

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