Sunday, March 21, 2010

Starting a Visual-Emotional Palette

I don’t think I asked a single one of the questions from my first post during the read-thru rehearsal. Just goes to show how useful my prep was. To be fair, we did cover all of those questions in the second rehearsal. After the first read, we talked for quite a while about the origins of Ashes to Ashes. It’s one of the few plays that Pinter actually attributes source material: he wrote it after reading Sereny’s biography on Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer. Perhaps he felt safe in revealing his source because the play has nothing to do with Speer on the surface. But that’s just the surface. Albert Speer was a part Hitler’s inner circle; he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years. He is the only one of Hitler’s inner circle who claimed that what the Nazi’s did was a horrific crime, and they should be held responsible. He also claims—and there is some reason to believe it—that he was unaware of most of those crimes. He was deeply moved by the testimony of victims at the trial, deeply repentant for their wrongs, and adamant that despite his contacts and duties he had no knowledge. Sereny was fascinated by how the mechanism of denial could keep Speer truly in the dark, what subconscious monsters must have been nibbling at the edge of his thoughts, and how truth and penitence came hand in hand to Speer. In that respect, Ashes to Ashes can been seen as the inner dialogue between these elemental forces in Speer’s head. If so, then the common interpretation that Rebecca’s mind “decomposes” at the end is incorrect. Lisa-Marie and I agree that there is something else at happening, and she had an idea what it was; to find out what you’ll just have to come see the show.

We’ve had three rehearsals so far, but before I get into that, I wanted to talk about one aspect of the director’s prep—specifically the visual/emotional palette. I think it’s especially important with Pinter because he deals so thoroughly in the subconscious. Before meeting with designers and actors, I spend time trying to find images that connect on some level with the play. Pinter said that Rebecca is like a woman drowning, so I immediately gravitated towards water images. I look for matches in tone, color, and subject. Saying: “The play is like…” is a good starting point, and then free-associating through image connections. These become helpful in talking with the designers and communicating the feel of the world to the actors. As a result, are walls are going to be fabric, reminiscent of a sail. The color palette for the set and the costumes is built from this standpoint. And the sounds of water, being underwater, will become part of the sound design. I’ve put together a short montage of some of those images. The second half of the short video are some shots of our read-thru and a few exercises.

For those interested in another aspect of the production, you can see the step-by-step development of the postcard for Ashes to Ashes on the 2nd Wind Website here:

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