One afternoon this week, in Lincoln Center Theater's large rehearsal room, there was a meet-and-greet session between the cast and creative team ofDividing the Estate and the staff of LCT. The show's thirteen actors, as well as director and designers, were graciously welcomed by Bernard Gersten, LCT's executive producer, who mentioned that the theater "is especially lively at the moment, given a little thing called South Pacific,", and by Andre Bishop, LCT's artistic director, who made light of the "Beirut-like" conditions around the theater, owing to the renovation of the Lincoln Center campus.
The rush of good feeling in the room made the day feel exceptional, but it was unusual for another reason. Unlike the regular LCT meet-and-greet, which represents the first time that the creative team and the LCT staff come together in full, this event was hardly an inaugural for the actors. They have already done Dividing the Estate, last year, at New York's Primary Stages -- whose artistic director, Andrew Leynse, also offered a rehearsal-room welcoming -- so for them this week was a kind of homecoming.
This family reunion in a rehearsal room mirrors the story of the play, which concerns a family assembling at its house in a small Texas town to determine their financial and emotional fate. And, just as in a real biological family, this group's members reflected roles assigned by talent and destiny. For example, the director, Michael Wilson, spoke of the work ahead like a proud parent. And one of the designers, Jeff Cowie, unveiled the beautifully detailed model of the show's set like an uncle whose gifts are both artistic and technical.
To complete the LCT afternoon, the cast of thirteen sat down to read through the script, which had been sharpened this summer by Wilson and playwright Horton Foote, whose role in the room was not only that of a presiding patriarch but also that of one of America's very best playwrights.
The read-through of the play occurred around a large table: that ultimate symbol of family. As the actors rediscovered their characters, I thought of how this was almost the last time they would have the luxury of being closed-in around a table, speaking to each other in a way that mirrors the intimacy of a true clan. Subsequent rehearsals will have them up on their feet, and before we know it there will be a real audience present, on Broadway, at the Booth.
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com