Greetings from the GRACELAND backstage blog! My name is Jenny Mercein, and I am fortunate to be serving as Assistant Director on this show. I'll be posting blog entries every few days to give you all a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes at LCT3 rehearsals. We've had a wonderful first week around the table in the Ballet Room.
Don't let the name of the rehearsal room confuse you. GRACELAND is not a Twyla Tharp - esque dance/theater piece about life at Elvis's famed compound (although I'm sure that would be a cool show). Nor is there any ballet in the play, although there is some funky dancing in Joe's apartment in scene 2 (Marin and Brian have got serious moves!), but I am getting ahead of myself...GRACELAND does not refer to the King of Rock 'n' Roll (Elvis is already well-represented on the boards this season), but to the cemetery on the north side of Chicago.
We spent a very productive first week around the table. Marin Hinkle, who plays Sara in the show, just returned from a weekend in Chicago. She's the type of actor who clearly loves to do her research, so she made sure to visit Graceland cemetary while she was in the Windy City. She graciously brought back tons of brochures and maps, so her cast mates could get a strong sense of place for the play.
We were fortunate to have our delightful playwright Ellen Fairey in the room with us all week. Table work, as we say in the theater, consists of reading through the play many times, getting specific about details (i.e. the pictures of the real Graceland Cemetery) and asking lots of questions. To paraphrase Brian Kerwin, who plays Joe in the show, this is when actors get to work like detectives, probing the script for details and clues about their characters.
I've been astounded by the level of curiosity in this cast. No detail is left unprobed, so to speak. This work is obviously aided by having the playwright in the room, but Ellen is very careful to not answer every question the actors ask... She's a smart cookie, and she knows that sometimes it is more interesting for the actor to have to figure out the answer him or herself.
Henry Wishcamper, our fearless leader, is also a man who understands the value of letting the actors swim a bit... He acts as a guide, helping the actors work through the questions they have about why the character says or does a certain thing, but he is not the type of director who gives a lot of concrete answers early on in the process. He is willing to let questions hang in the air a bit at this early stage in the rehearsal. The atmosphere in the room is one of great curiosity and excitement. The actor/detectives will have to do some real investigating once they get up on their feet!
Jenny Mercein is the Assistant Director for Graceland.