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Table Work

Zach Kaufer shares his thoughts regarding the early rehearsal process of a show. logo

Rob Ashford -- He doesn't do read-throughs (© Tristan Fuge)

Table work is such an interesting beast. It's the rehearsal time before everyone's fully digested the play and figured out the things that we bring to working on our feet. We're sifting through things and teasing out certain aspects that we may not have thought about before. The characters are coming to life as we flesh out some of the more vague elements of the story and begin to orchestrate the score. Actually, it's just me rambling on about nothing while the cast pretends to listen and agree when I say something out of sheer lunacy. Whatever, I don't really know. I just fake it well.

Tonight was our first rehearsal for Speech and Debate. This summer, I listened to the "SDC Masters of the Stage" podcast and there was an interview with Michael Grandage and Rob Ashford. In regards to table work and read-throughs, Ashford says he never does the latter because everyone is at a different level of investigation with their characters and it does more harm than good. I guess he knows something, so I figure I'd give it a shot. Everyone's read the play on their own and so why are we wasting valuable rehearsal time reading it together and not working through it? Kumbaya and all that rot, I get it. There's nothing I love more than ensemble building, but why don't we do it with creative expansion based on the scene we're working on, which is exactly what happened tonight.

The biggest thing that stood out to me tonight in our work was not the overwhelming personalities of my cast but rather the intense differences in dynamic that showed up when I split the cast into smaller groups. Based on the work I did with Gregg Daniel last fall on Wedding Band, I decided that I would split table work into groups of scenes with the same people and we would work out of order and focus on specific scenes. I was shocked when we got into the rehearsal room and the dynamics unfolded naturally. The working method I used with one group was absolutely not the same as another, and it truly depended on the ensemble that was working in the room at the time.

Hold on, am I screwing it up? Is there something I'm missing with this huge paradigm shift in the rehearsal? No, it's the fact that I'm surrendering control and allowing the cast the freedom to expand on their thoughts and bring up more opinions and thoughts that all tell the same story. It's up to the cast to offer their own insights that I can take, refine, and tease through for the golden nuggets. I try to offer up some nuggets of my own, but mostly I'm just making it up. When the room is safe for exploration and expansion, you never know what will come up.

Be open and available to new thoughts and emotions. Preconceived notions lead to disappointment. I had an idea of how I wanted rehearsal to run tonight, and I really don't know if it would have been as productive if I had stuck to my original plan. We stuck to the schedule pretty well in terms of the scenes, but the structure always remained loose. There were groups that needed prodding to speak their minds; others were more than happy to ramble on and on, allowing me to pick up the pieces and sift. Just be open and let what happens happen.


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