“Before every first performance, my heart used to pound so hard I thought it would leave my body,” said Richard Burton, looking back at his triumphant stage performance as Henry V. None of the actors I spoke with after the first preview this week of Oslo ratcheted up the rhetoric to Burtonian levels. They were relieved to have that first performance accomplished. They were grateful at last to have audience feedback – to start gaining a sense of which lines got the laughs, which lines could use another beat, and which should be speeded up.
At the post-show supper at P.J. Clarke’s, across from Lincoln Center, there was a lot of talk about furniture. Oslo features many beautiful tables and chairs on its playing area. Some of them, set designer Michael Yeargan told me, “were found online by our props genius Faye.” (Officially speaking: Props Supervisor Faye Armon-Troncosco.) In a play as rich and complex as Oslo – it has dozens of fast-moving scenes – the getting of tables and chairs on and off the stage is a vital aspect of the actors’ work. As actor after actor spoke to me at supper about this process, I thought of another thing Richard Burton once said. He was asked what was the hardest part of acting onstage. “The transitions,” he replied.
You can bet the Oslo transitions will get a thorough workout as cast and creative team rehearse during previews.
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com.