Heidi Hunter on foregoing table work (gasp!)

One of the most surprisingly satisfying personal tools I’ve found during these rehearsals has been in the absence of traditional table work. Typically, the first few days of rehearsal for any production (especially Shakespeare) are spent sitting with the cast, reading and talking through the play, discussing language, motives, context, tactics, blocking, technical cues, etc. This is intended to give the cast an overall vision of the production, as well as to develop a complete arc for the narrative as a whole. Because of the accelerated rehearsal schedule for this production, traditional table work has been put aside in favor of a more visceral approach. We’ve done “walking read-throughs” of the vast majority of the script (minus a few major and complicated scenes), intended to get us on our feet, exploring impulses which thus far have lead to some very bold blocking choices, grounded in our physical bodies and instincts rather than born out of intellectual analysis.
As an actor who occasionally over-intellectualizes her roles and choices, I’ve found this to be extremely useful and refreshing. I’ve had to engage with the body first, the mind second. Often, ideas that sound great during table work don’t “feel right” in the body once you’ve begun blocking. An intellectual decision which doesn’t provide a strong enough impulse to support the blocking can be difficult to revise, for myself. This process has forced me to orient my characters in terms of relationships with others, rather than my relationship with the character I’m playing. During these rehearsals, if I don’t feel the impulse to cross stage left, I don’t. If I want to be closer to Gloucester (as is often the case), though, then I cross left with clear intent. It’s challenging, but extremely liberating.

 

Heidi Hunter (Ratcliffe, 2nd Murderer, Duke of York)

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