“An Improbable Fiction” Reflection on Third Henderson Act 1 Rehearsal

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” – Fabian (Act III, Scene IV, Lines 116-117)

I’m not going to lie, at this point in the rehearsal process I was expecting the Thing to have happened already.

What is the Thing you ask?

Well, the Thing is that roadblock/curve-ball that no matter how hard you try you just can’t manage to anticipate before you’re already standing in the chaos it’s left in its wake.

Dramatic? Oh for sure, but this is the theater after all, so one could argue I’m just tailoring my natural anxiety to be more thematically relevant.

That being said, our third rehearsal went by pretty much without any hitches.

We got everyone into the room and through our ice breakers without any dramatic displays of disinterest, and Sarah even managed to convince our costume mistress student to have a part as well.

While we were technically missing our Olivia, we had one student volunteer to read the lines for her, and worse case scenario, it would be easy to sub the “understudy” in as the real thing should our regular Olivia be a consistent no-show.

The biggest pre-rehearsal anxiety on my part at least was how were our students going to react to the actual script?

This was the first time they were able to look at it for an extended amount of time after-all, and I freely admit I was expecting a reaction ranging from shock to a full on troupe mutiny.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about though. While our Duke Orsino did rightfully point out how “weird” the language was, they all stuck with it, and frankly did an amazing job.

Our Orsino has the most trouble, but mostly just with unfamiliar words, and our Viola is really something.

We’re actually a little short cast-wise, even when everyone is present, so all three of us Jepson students will take a part.

As someone who’s always seen themselves as more of a director than an actress, I fully expect to be upstaged by our remarkable students, but I actually think it’s better for our troupe to see us not only directly involved with the acting, but also stumble our own way over the occasional Shakespearean turn-of-phrase.

Probably the funniest part of the read through was us realizing that middle-schoolers are still very much aware of the modern context of the word “ho.”

Although in the context of the play it wasn’t anything even remotely sexual, it still caused a pause, gasp, and giggle out of the bulk of our troupe.

If anything, it was a good reminder that even when editing through a script it’s easy to miss things you personally wouldn’t expect other people to catch or understand, and to our troupe’s credit they all voted to just cut the line completely from the show.

I think the overall lesson of this rehearsal, at least for myself, was that it’s easy to go into a new space and assume things, the troupe won’t be able to read well, they won’t catch these bits of the dialog, etc.

While in a perfect world it would be possible to walk into a new situation without assumptions, I think an equally important (and possibly more realistic) process would be to at the very least be willing to toss or alter those assumptions the moment they are challenged.

As far as tonight’s rehearsal goes, we’re going to finish up our read through and start talking prop ideas.

I’ve really enjoyed planning and running rehearsals alongside reading the “Hamilton” book since it’s comforting and pretty cool to see the similarities in rehearsals and problems that can be shared by any type of production, whether it’s destined for Broadway or for a local community stage.

Does this mean I’m going to start doing my hair in a Lin Manuel Miranda styled ponytail?

Not at all. But at the very least it’ll give me a reason to keep Hamilton songs playing on repeat in my head, even when we’re focusing on Shakespeare.