Reading La Ronde

Ordinarily, a play’s first scheduled read-through with the cast would incorporate an actual read-through of the script, in its entirety, with the cast. However, on Wednesday evening of last week, this was not to be the case. We were warned: the creative process, unlike any other on the Sunshine Coast, would be “ever changing, unorthodox and sometimes chaotic.” We had each read the complete script. And we had all been informed that it was likely to change. For those of you who are wondering, being out of copyright allows Herr Director to make changes as he sees fit, in stark contrast to most productions, which come at a price and more often than not have strict standards or requirements attached to them, in terms of what one may or may not wreak havoc on. The complete script, as we had originally read it, no longer has a place in this production. Regardless, you can read it here.

Like all confident directors, set to challenge actors and audiences alike, Sam has read the script, been informed by the script, taken the best aspects of the script and re-shaped them to fit his vision…and then thrown the entire script out the window. Figuratively speaking, of course. La Ronde is already quite a green production. We think we will leave a relatively small environmental footprint on Noosa and its surrounds. As for the extent of our impact on people’s minds, hearts and relationships, well; that has the potential to be gargantuan! There will be cause for damage control!

So while the sun set and the North Coast air cooled (only marginally, mind you), the ten cast members assembled at the lovely Ivory Palms Resort in Noosaville. Wait. Make that nine, Meg having to make her way home from a work-related trip to Melbourne. Real life, you see, prevails; this is not a professional theatrical venture in terms of paying the artists involved…yet.

Sam clearly feels the need to soak up the spotlight at every opportunity in front of a large-ish crowd. One can understand this as he has, first and foremost, been a performer himself for over twenty years. Now, as a Director, Sam enjoys describing and drawing us into his world of his version of La Ronde. It’s just as well, really; it’s not at all like the original.

The original La Ronde, penned in 1900 by Arthur Schnitzler and performed for his friends, though not for the public until 1920 (when it was promptly defamed and banned), used a series of sexual encounters to scrutinise prominent attitudes towards sex and the transgression of sexual disease through all levels of society. In its original form, the play appealed to Sigmund Freud, who wrote to Schnitzler, “you have learned through intuition—though actually as a result of sensitive introspection—everything that I have had to unearth by laborious work on other persons.”

It would seem that the more literal interpretations have not been as well received as a re-conceptualised staging might be. Interesting to read the review of one theatre company’s re-examination of the script, which was entrusted entirely to just two actors, each playing ten roles!

“La Ronde probably worked better as a concept you can think about than as a play you actually watch. Eventually, of course, it was indeed performed on stage and subsequently made into a classic French film directed by Max Ophuls in 1950.” Now, don’t go and watch the film and think that THAT is what you’ll get either!

Have I mentioned anything more about the first read-through yet? No? I digress. As I so often do. You will get used to it.

In pairs (our first pairing) we settled on the floor, on chairs, at tables, on tables and read. Some of us read more than others. Sharon (The Socialite) and I (The Maid) read nothing aloud because, quite simply, nothing suited and Sam had already decided to can all dialogue between us and go instead, with the bidding and dressing of The Socialite by the Maid. I cannot tell you more than that. It would spoil it. Suffice to say, we will be rehearsing, not lines, but movement, looks, suggestion, seduction and adoration. Our script for the scene is now a list of stage directions. These ideas will continue to evolve and be adapted to suit the wardrobe. And the fragrance. That’s right. Sharon and I are very pleased about having to work so intimately…with scent and, more tangibly, various pieces of delicate lingerie and several layers of clothing. In fact, I think Sharon accepted the role on account of her character’s pivotal wardrobe pieces…The Shoes. You will see. Indeed, you will see much more than you bargained for!

From an actor’s perspective, the organic process we have immersed ourselves in from the outset, has been incredibly freeing and self-validating. Like, I am a creative person. My ideas and visions are valid and I am a useful human being with much to contribute to The Performing Arts World. I know. You’re typing it in your preferred font, printing it in colour and double-sided-sticky-taping it to your bathroom mirror right now, aren’t you? That’s okay. We’ll wait for you.

You’re back? Okay, because it’s important to realise that the Director does not necessarily have ALL the answers (it could be said, however, that there comes a time – usually about 72 hours into the tech run – that the Director needs to have ALL the answers)! Most importantly, it’s vital for the Director to recognise this possibility first and to reiterate it, often (but not too often) to the cast. Sam is a generous Dictator. I mean Director. He certainly usually, mostly, more often than not knows what he wants. And he wants his actors to discover it for themselves. It’s about interpretation, visualisation, negotiation and realisation. It’s about ownership. It’s…alright, alright; it’s the vibe, you know?!

So. Having “read” through one scene with one partner, we then swapped around, mixed it up a little and read our second scene with our other partner. There’s a metaphor too obvious even for me to mention right there. Process and show. Got it? Good. The energy at this point appeared to shift up a notch and I’m pretty sure we had some strong disagreements amongst cast members with regard to language, character and intent, outside of my own discussions with Shane (The Soldier). I shall divulge a little of that difference of opinion in another post. Clearly, including it here will only lead me to digress further, when what you expected to see was Reading La Ronde.

So. Well. In actual fact, this is the first show I have been involved in, in any capacity, which did not require a first read-through of the script by all cast members gathered together in one room. And it is better for it. After one evening, it feels like we are three weeks in.

3 Responses to “Reading La Ronde”

  1. October 23, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of
    it. I’ve got you book-marked to look at new things you post…

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