One of the coolest elements of this rehearsal process has been the relationship between Henry, our director, and Ellen, our playwright. Having the playwright in the room can be complicated, but Henry and Ellen have a wonderfully fluid working relationship. You would think that they've been collaborating for years, but this is their first time working together (though I suspect not the last!). I have the fortune of sitting next to them during rehearsals. Throughout the day, they lean over to each other and discuss shifting lines, or cutting passages that seem unnecessary. What is incredible is that it is a constant back and forth. Ellen asks Henry about a line, Henry asks Ellen... there is no sense that one is trying to exert influence over the other. They are truly collaborators trying to shape the clearest, most exciting piece of theater.
Ellen is also very open to the suggestions of the actors. She will stand her ground when she needs to, but she is also confident enough to listen to the actors' opinions... And what a smart group of actors we have in this room!!! If I've learned one lesson from assisting Henry Wishcamper, it is to cast smart, curious, fearless actors and then stay out of their way. These folks know what they are doing. And they are not content to rely on easy answers. They will challenge Ellen and Henry, but always in the spirit of discovery and the desire for honesty and authenticity on stage. Oh, and by the way, we also have a lot of laughs in the rehearsal room. If you see me in the lobby of the show, ask about the Dugout research!
Jenny Mercein is the Assistant Director for Graceland.