Bendetti and Berry

Theatrelab 2003 provided a different form of experiential learning for both the participants and observers. Bob Bendetti, Cicily Berry and Tony MacNamara joined forces to form the nucleus of a production team to demonstrate the flow of a rehearsal process from start to finish with “The John Wayne Principle” as the performance text.

Each one brought with them a genuine love of their work and a desire to facilitate whether they were working with the actors, selected participants or with the high school students who attended. Cicely again provided the gift of the simplicity of her process based on her acute observation and understanding of what was required at just the right time to help the actors get out of their own way, to open up to the musicality of the script and refine that musicality in practical ways which added depth to characterisation and emotional flow. By using the words of Shakespeare she showed how relevant his word-play is today and how working with Shakespeare can add to even the most contemporary of Australian works.

Tony provided the dramaturgy on his own script and explored the realms of Mamet to free up ‘the text’ so the actors could feed this new understanding back into the delivery of his own work without infringing on the direction of the performance.
Bob’s organic and eclectic approach to the rehearsal and his quiet perseverance showed how delicate a task directing is – a task that he deftly handled as he melded the different personalities of the participants and the expertise of Cicely and Tony with the demands of bringing a text to performance over a three week period. With a focus on the relationships on stage, the heightening of the energy and the exploration of the choices (and the implication of the choice not taken) and Grotowski’s artistry of transformation Bob provided the environment which took the actors from their comfort zones and allowed them to grow through their roles.

Although this masterclass did not take the direction I had anticipated it did provide ample opportunity to learn, to gain encouragement, to find new ideas and reinforce existing ones, and to a limited extent network and discuss the process with others. Overall the three weeks provided a rare opportunity for students, teachers, and theatre practitioners to see the organic nature of the process which did not seek to hide the constraints of venue, experience, expectations, selection process or the artificiality created by the open rehearsal format which necessitated that certain points of focus were met on target rather than when necessarily required.

What was taken away after three weeks? From Bob it was the certainty of his catch cry “no knowledge or technique before need” and that the process is organic and needs to be fed from need not from the pre-ordained and imposed rigidity of a schedule and that problems are sometimes a gift not situations to be avoided; from Cicely it was the selfless beauty and love of the word in action as uttered freely without fear; from Tony it was the writer is important, but not more important than the finished performance and that practitioners should not limit their understanding or their interpretation to what the writer was thinking during the process of writing, but should feel free to explore the text and make it their own for that particular production. Perhaps the most valuable lessons that were learnt were not spoken but simply there – hanging in the air.

Frances Crum

(Sometimes actor, writer, dramaturge, director, voice person, teacher and student).

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