Week 5: Questions, Selfies and Knives

From Jade O'Keeffe (Kristine)

Hello! Jade here! I play Kristine in our upcoming production of Miss Julie—and you will soon notice as you read on—I am also the QUEEN of exclamation marks!!!!!! So I apologize in advance. I just find everything exciting. Especially, this show so please come see!!! We open in just under two weeks—wow, how time flies when your having fun.

This rehearsal process has been a dream so far--thanks to Tim, our fearless leader (aka Director) and the amazing cast and crew! As we near the end of rehearsal and the commencement of shows I have always found it useful to reflect on the beginning of the process ...

As an actor I feel it does me a great service to look back at some of my earlier questions I had about the play and about my character specifically. It’s fun to see what ones have been answered, what ones are now irrelevant, and what ones still remain unknown/undiscovered. Below is an example of some of those questions I asked in my journal at the very beginning of the process:


OTHER QUESTIONS:

  • Who does she want/wish to be?

  • Does she accept her status?

  • What does “love” mean for Kristine?

  • Has it the same meaning for John?

  • Does she live in the moment or is she always thinking ahead?

  • Does she fear what the future holds?

  • Does she take pride in her job/role in the Miss Julie household?

  • Does she hide behind God as Miss Julie claims she does?

  • Does she actually believe in her faith?

  • Why isn’t she invited/attending the servants dance?

  • Is she the only one not attending?

  • What is Kristine’s idea of a holiday or a break?

  • Is John and Kristine’s love genuine?

  • Does she think of Miss Julie as a friend?

  • Is she comfortable in her role as the cook?

  • John and Julie seem to offer Kristine a lot of pity … How does Kristine feel about being pitied by those who claim to care about her -- well John at least.

  • Who is Clara? (Ha-Ha)

  • How long have John and Kristine been together?

  • John proves to be a good liar … I wonder how much he lies to Kristine?

WHO IS KRISTINE?

  • Soon to be mother

  • Friend

  • Lover

  • Worker

  • Servant

  • Daughte


Of course, there are many more—but this gives you a good idea of some of the things I was curious about at the start. Most of these questions have been answered throughout the rehearsal process so far, yet just like in my real life as Jade, some questions are harder to answer and need more time and exploration in order to find more clarity. Thank goodness we have one more solid week of rehearsal!!

There are just three characters in this play—Miss Julie, John and Kristine. I love this!! I think that is what makes this play so good. It gives you so much time as the audience to invest in each character and learn about their individual, personal story. Also, the relationship and differing dynamic struggle between three people is most fascinating to watch and develop as the actor! I want to give a huge shout out to my fellow acting partners—Rafi Lewis and Dan Mousseau for being so wonderful and fun to work with. You guys rock!!!

I took a lovely selfie of the three of us the other day in rehearsal ... Hehe.

AND I sneakily captured one of Dan (John) casually resting with a knife (not our scares prop, I warn you!) While listening to Tim (our Director) give notes. 

Keep updated with the latest and greatest of our upcoming production of Miss Julie! We are excited to share our work with you.  See you in two weeks at the Helen Gardiner Playhouse. 

Best wishes—and hope you are all enjoying this amazing weather!

Jade

Week 4: The anatomy of a play

From Dan Mousseau (John)

Miss Julie is as complex as she is beautiful, and the play isn’t bad either…

All dreadful jokes aside, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rafaela Lewis and Jade O’Keeffe on this monster of a play over the past month and it has been a blast. Under the direction of Tim Chisholm, we’ve been exploring the vast psychological playground that is encompassed in one sloppy summer night.

Neil LaBute gives an interesting new context with his 1920’s reimagining of the play, setting it right before the Great Depression. This gives the play a grandiose context as well, with these people sandwiched between these massive world events. They just went through the Great War, or World War I in retrospect, and are on the heels of the Great Depression as well as World War II. Why everything is so “Great” is beyond me, especially when we get a closer look into Miss Julie’s manor.

Through our weeks of table work, we as a team uncovered some pretty cool things about these characters but were left with even more questions. That may sound like incomplete work but with any good play, you always want to leave with questions. Just like in life, there is no real completion, the characters are complex and constantly contradicting themselves and their actions, and their motives aren’t apparent right off the bat. A play without questions is like a car with no engine.

We took a few weeks to do the table work; what we called the skeleton of the piece. What we think is the intellectual framework: how the logic works out and why the characters do what they do and react how they react. This work is as tedious as it is invigorating and is totally necessary for the actors and the director to fully understand what is being said and what the story is really about.

It was then that we moved on to blocking. Blocking a new play is sort of like teaching yourself how to walk again. You have to manage to read your lines while achieving whatever it is your character is doing in that moment. Whatever is being done can range from wiping off that stain on the counter to seducing your co-star. Both of these actions have to serve some intention, what the character wants, in that moment and some overall intention of what the character wants in life. In any one moment there is usually only one. The intention can change moment to moment but the over-arching intention rarely changes. If it does, that’s a pretty big shift!

Needless to say it is quite hard to juggle all these things at once and still make some sense out of the lines. That’s why it’s so nice to have the guidance of Tim to help keep us making sense and to guide our movements into a semblance of logic as well as a visually pleasing pattern.

Both of these phases, building the skeleton and the basic muscle, are totally necessary but when the scripts leave the hands, the gloves really come off. In this latest phase, we’ve challenged ourselves as much as possible to drop the scripts and to go for the jugular. Once all the words are in your head, through diligent memorization, and the pre-work is in place, we are free to really play with each other; to say the words with spontaneity and a sense of exploration and to really hear each other and react in that moment.  This is the phase in which the exploration really happens and its so much fun. This part is where the play begins, and its only just beginning for us.

Week 3: Away with the table!

From Rafaela Lewis (Artistic Director & Julie)

For many actors, myself included, the table represents a bit of a safety net.  There's something magical about having your freshly sharpened pencils, pens, notebook and cup of coffee (or in my case, Diet Coke) all set out nicely in front of you, as you truck along, dissecting the text, asking questions, some of which have been gestating for weeks, most occurring on the commute to rehearsal that day.  

For me, table = comfort, and this week has been all about getting uncomfortable -- in a very, very good way.  In fact, I'll go as far as to say, one of my main goals for this production is to never feel comfortable for more than 45 seconds.

So, this week has taken us onto our feet.  We are still a long ways away from locking in structured blocking, but we are now beginning to explore the space and how the three of us navigate the stage (and each other). The gift of our first two weeks at that oh so intoxicating table is that I have a rough idea of each section's progression and what Julie is in pursuit of.  Much like the blocking is just a rough outline, my analysis is in no ways locked in, and likely will be in a constant state of flux for the next couple of weeks.  But for now, as we rehearse our play, finally on its feet, it feels like we truly are playing!

One week down, Six to go!


From Rafaela Lewis
Artistic Director of Martha Rose and Miss Julie

This week, we embarked on our journey with this beautiful, challenging, monster of a play.  I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we were so excited to finally get into the rehearsal room! This week was a long time in the making, and I'd like to begin this first blog by giving you a glimpse into our process ...

The Trio: Rafaela Lewis, Dan Mousseau and Jade O'Keeffe


CASTING:
With Julie, we decided to break away from the tradition casting model of auditions/callbacks.  Our mindset was that this is a very intimate play, so reliant on chemistry within the cast, that a monologue, or cold read would not give us sufficient time with each actor.  Instead, we brainstormed performers who would be a good fit for John and Kristine, and then called them into participate in workshops of scenes from the play.  Through this process, Santa delivered us the incredible Dan and Jade, who were cast just before Christmas, 2014.

PHOTOSHOOT:
In preparation for rehearsals to begin, and to get a jumpstart on publicity, we had our official photoshoot (see lovely image above) in March.  This was my first opportunity to step into Julie's shoes (figuratively and literally).  The story told in this shoot, which was directed by our Co-Producer, Trevor and Costume Designer/Props Mistress, Daina, and shot by Douglas Hamilton, helped Dan, Jade and myself to begin exploring the John-Kristine-Julie dynamic.


PREPARATION:
I find that I am a more present, confident and adventurous actor when I am off-book.  I began working with the text in February, with the goal of being mostly memorized by this week.  To aid in this process, I also began to analyze the text using Practical Aesthetics, which is the pillar of the Atlantic Theatre Company's technique (where I trained from 2011 - 2013).  

I've begun making a playlist of music that Julie connects to, which in turn helps me connect to her on a visceral and emotional level.  I've also been researching the period. I've been watching a lot of film: the Ken Burns documentaries on Prohibition and JazzSinging in the Rain (sort of embarrassing to admit, but I'd never seen it before!), and The Roaring Twenties.  I've also been reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, which is a semi-fictional detailing of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's relationship, based on letters they wrote.

My physical preparation has included a lot of Pilates and Spin (shout out to Body Harmonics and Rocket Cycle), to get the 1920's silhouette and also develop the stamina to do this beast seven times in five days!


REHEARSALS:
We began our first rehearsal with a table read, which is exactly what it sounds like: Dan, Jade and I sat around the table with Tim, our director, and Deb, our stage manager, and read the play aloud for the first time.  As the show runs about 70 - 90 minutes, this left some time to begin discussing our characters and the play as a whole,

Our second and third rehearsals have consisted of us reading through and exploring the text, as broken up into units by Tim and Deb, chronologically.  We continue to ask and answer questions, and are beginning to find a structure and the trajectory of the piece.

This brings us to the end of Week One.  Our rehearsal blog will be updated every Sunday, so please stay tuned to find out what Week Two will bring!