"For the first hour: Bridget, Kat, Eric, Julia. As You Like It, down the hall. Scott, Kate, other Scott, and Chaz. Scandal here. Now, this is gonna get a little complicated because both shows need Chaz and Scott right now. Can you guys just move between them as you are needed? Oh, and Kate and Chaz can work their scene when Scandal is done since he isn't needed until the end. All good? Let's do it."
Believe it or not, this chaos is organized, methodical, and productive. If you pop in on a Pigeon Creek rehearsal right now, you would hear musicians picking at guitars, drummers practicing beats, up to three scene rehearsals going on at once, and a handful of people desperately running lines under their breath. As Pigeon Creek's company prepares for two of our upcoming summer shows (As You Like It and The School for Scandal), we are working together, without directors, to create two kick butt pieces of theatre.
Ensemble direction is an original practice that Pigeon Creek utilizes on a semi-regular basis. Where a traditional production would have a director that is responsible for the through line, tone, and overall shape of a piece, our ensemble watches one another's work and makes notes, critiques, and offers ideas and suggestions along the way to create a piece of theatre that is uniquely ours. I find so much delight in the fact that every single cast member contributes something unique, and together we build something that only this group of people, in this time period, in this location, in this stage of our lives and training and experience could create. In fact, because both shows are technically remounts of productions we have already worked on, just having a handful of new cast members to each show has changed our work dramatically.
Though original practice is normally used with early modern scripts to recreate the performance condition, this style of work lends itself very well to Sheridan. Though written shortly after the height of restoration comedy, Scandal is a classic "comedy of manners", in which the story satirizes the "plight" of the upper class.
Direct audience contact, for instance, is wonderful because of all the secrets that are going around. Actors utilize "allying" to let the audience in on secrets and plans that no one else on stage can know. Universal lighting ensures that the actors can see the audience, audience can see actors, and audience can experience the show together and see each other's reactions. Live music enriches the "comedy of manners" by helping us create the atmosphere of the upper class, simply by using sound.
What have I learned by rehearsing these two, hilarious, incredibly complex and well written comedies in conjunction with one another? Basically, though there is no "right" way to "do theatre", but original practices are effective. They make space for a unique theatrical experience that engages everyone in the room. They ask everyone to give something of themselves to make an evening of theatre that would not be the same without everyone there.