Fresh Eyes on The Understudy, 2nd Installment

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Fresh Eyes on The Understudy (L to R): Katrin Kasper, Bonnie Keling, Alan Scott Holley and Trish Garner

Our band* of Fresh Eyes volunteers sat in on another Understudy rehearsal on Sunday, August 23. The show is not quite halfway through the rehearsal process, and although we’d originally planned for Fresh Eyes to see a run through, Sunday’s rehearsal needed to focus on scene work instead.

My first thought was, “No run through? That’s too bad – they’ll be disappointed” but the evening turned out to be much more informative than expected! Instead of the wobbly exercise of a mid-process run through, they got to watch the sausage getting made, in all its detailed, repetitive, exhausting and exhilarating glory! Director Michael Mendelson, and actors Ayanna Berkshire, Gavin Hoffman, and Jared Q Miller were brave and generous enough to invite our observers in as they wrestled with the play without any pants. (Okay, they kept their pants on, but I’m sure they felt naked some of the time!)

Here are just a few of the Fresh Eyes comments, but you can read the full edition here.

With just over two weeks until first preview, however, the time for tables filled with snacks and friendly chitchat has long passed. Upon entering the rehearsal room, I immediately noticed how the vibe among the cast and crew had shifted since the [first] read-through, and rightfully so. It’s time to get to work, the clock is ticking, and every second is precious. – Alan Scott Holley

It surprises me every time how detailed and planned blocking is when it still looks natural and also how written text becomes alive. – Katrin Kasper

[We watched several] scenes, apparently previously rehearsed, gone over with the director suggesting variations in speech inflection, speed, body language, stage movement, facial expression & so forth. Found myself getting tense with the repetitions & corrections, realizing that proof of professionalism was being played out before my eyes. There is very little room for expressing frustration or impatience: this is the process and as director Michael said, this beginning work is "tender." Perhaps that explains my discomfort, feeling almost a voyeur, watching private vulnerable acts, not yet 'ready for prime time.' – Bonnie Keling

I also notice an interesting difference between the way Michael communicated among the actors. An intriguing physicality, a sense of pulling taffy with Harry, a more direct approach with Jake and a very quiet, more intimate tone with Roxanne. He clearly appreciates the actors’ dilemmas, but doesn’t hit them over the head with it. Joins in, but also makes clear he is the director. Seems masterful to me. – Trish Garner

Next up for our Fresh Eyes team will be watching the play move out of the rehearsal hall and onto the stage. Stay tuned!

* I love collective nouns, those perfectly succinct descriptive names for particular groups: a murder of crows, a shiver of sharks, an exaltation of larks, a confusion of architects, a congress of baboons (really!). So I’m trying to come up with the right word for our group of observers. How about a muse of Fresh Eyes? Or a glance of Fresh Eyes? A scribble of Fresh Eyes? If you have ideas, please share!

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