Here at Theatre Northwest, we just wrapped up the final show of our season, which means it’s time to start rolling out summer plans.
The team of artistic associates (Anna Russell, Melissa Glover and me) have been putting our heads together all year to present new opportunities to engage with theatre here in Prince George and I'm excited to announce a new endeavour that involves bringing local actors into our space to work on a classical play with an extended and flexible rehearsal period.
We're currently calling it the 42nd street project. Inspired by Louis Malle’s legendary final film Vanya on 42nd street, which documents an A-list cast of actors in New York in 1989 who gathered to rehearse the Chekhov classic Uncle Vanya for three years whenever their schedules allowed. This was a chance to work on a rich piece of theatre without the distractions of big budgets or deadlines or filming schedules. Through various performance workshops they brought as much of themselves into their characters as possible and it shows, the film is brilliant.
Well, we intend to gather a group of interested local actors to work on a play for as long as we want and as often as we want, with as many different experimental or asinine rehearsal approaches as possible without the deadline of a specific performance date. We work on it until it’s ready, then we decide how to share it together.
This is new and strange for our company, but we’re so excited to start this project in Prince George because there are so few opportunities for actors living in communities that lack intensive post-secondary acting programs, to experience embodied processes and techniques - the parts of acting that can only be taught by doing. Actors can read endless tomes on the craft of acting, and we can even learn a lot from doing so, but really good acting happens in the body, it’s instinctive and it’s visceral, it’s physical emotion.
One of those tomes tells a story popular among acting coaches ‘Duse’s Blush’, an actor who genuinely blushes on stage at the end of a play. Some people can cry at will, but you can't fake blushing! It takes genuine presence, and your body reacts to imaginary circumstances and brings the character into reality. The purpose of this project is to explore the nature of creating a character and bringing them to life, as it can only be done with live theatre. No cuts, no edits, no after-effects, just real life - on stage.
We haven't chosen the play yet, because we want to pick it based on the actors who apply and get selected. We’re hoping to stay with Chekhov, but it will be important to choose the script based on the strengths and abilities of the actors and depending on the cast we’ll be open to suggestions. For local actors that might be interested don’t be shy, reach out! However, we have more workshop style programs to announce in the coming weeks to keep you busy over the summer months, so until then - stay tuned!
Bradley Charles is an artistic associate at Theatre NorthWest in Prince George.