It's coming on 9am on Saturday and I'm sitting having a coffee in a small coffee shop on E. 4th St. I'm supposed to be meeting Sarah Hughes of ERS at the New York Theater Workshop 4th St. Theater (E. 4th between 2nd Ave. & Bowery) but I'm 45 minutes early.
Today is day one of my internship.
This is my second coffee of the day. I grabbed one in Brooklyn just before getting on the subway. It cost a dollar. My coffee here on 4th St. cost $1.75. That's a 75 cent charge for crossing the river into Manhattan.
Reading National Geographic on the way into the city on the N train (one of my favourite things to do in the world) I came across something that made me sad. And it made me think of my friend Trish and my classmate Sinéad. This issue (April 2010) of National Geographic is a special issue all about water. In an article titled “The Burden of Thirst” by Tina Rosenberg, the writer talks about “the vicious circle of inequality” in much of the developing world and in particular how the vital and laborious work of finding water is almost always done by the women. The bit that really got me was:
Some women in Foro [S.E Ethiopia] came down to the river five times a day – with one or two trips devoted to getting water to make a beer-style home brew for their husbands. When I first came to Foro, some 60 men were sitting in the shade of a metal-roofed building, drinking and talking. It was midmorning. Women, says Binayo [a local woman and mother], “never get five seconds to sit down and rest.
That drives me nuts.
Life's synchronicity came into play as I read these articles about water shortage the world over. I was listening to the new album from Gorillaz on my headphones when, on the last track – Pirate Jet – Albarn sings:
It's all good news now
Because we left the taps
For a hundred years
So drink into the drink
A plastic cup of drink
Drink with a couple
The plastic creating people
To the moment
It's now 18:56 and on the train back out to my brother's house in Brooklyn.
I saw a lot today. What a lucky man I am. Sarah brought me into the rehearsal room and I was introduced to the director, John Collins and three male actors whose name currently escape me. I was made feel very welcome. I sat down and watched. Later I followed lines for the actors. After lunch, most of the rest of the cast arrived.
ERS are currently working on Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises or Fiesta. They seem to be adopting the script as they go along. It's exhilarating to watch. The book is dialogue-heavy so it lends well to what they are doing. One actor plays the narrator, Jake, the rest play a variety of characters. Narration is kept to a minimum. Music runs throughout. As do sound effects. There is a gorgeous, slightly zany feel to all this. The atmosphere in the rehearsal room is fun and relaxed. Collins and Hughes keep a loose hold on proceedings and the actors play off each other and everyone else (myself included).
I love the sound effects. They're used for background chatter and music in Parisian restaurants; the pouring of drinks (this happens a lot); clinking of glasses; cars; trains; fish jumping in a river. The music is loud and the actors sometimes struggle to be heard over the din. But the sound effects are never apologised for. I love it.
Some of the sound effects are plain daft. Everyone also uses the Sound Bar to augment the multitude of running in-jokes and gags amongst the ensemble so it is sometimes hard to tell if a sound cue is for the play or just for the crack.
And apparently (I don't have all this down yet) the sound technician who was absent today is an actor who also plays the character of Cohn. ERS are showing their Wooster Group roots here; they are bot so much showing us behind the curtain but ripping the curtain to bits.
There is great cultural plundering and mishmashing happening here. Some youTube clip (I assume that's what it was; I only heard the audio) of some wrestler called Nature Bit is a favourite of the ensemble. In particular his crazy whoops that crack everyone up (it is quite funny) and so are mimicked by the actors whenever they start some heavy drinking scenes.
Hemingway's book is set ion Europe in the 20's. ERS's play is set in no particular place and at no particular time. Neither are the people onstage necessarily the characters from the book. Who are they? Where are they? When is this? I ask Collins and he says, “that's what I'm finding out.”
The set consists of loads of chairs and four long tables. And two Sound Bars. I think this is how it'll be on the night.
I'm reading the book right now, had started it in Dublin Airport on Thursday. It all feels more alive to me now.
I have questions from today but I didn't feel quite secure enough yet to ask them. The big question was in relation to what I see to be a difference in how the actors are performing their roles.
The actor playing Jake for example often runs through his lines at a rate of knots. This may be just how he was treating today's rehearsal. Or it may be that this is what works for this type of theatre. And it does work. I don't for a moment imagine him as Jake. He's himself, playing the persona of Jake.
But then, the girl playing the character of Brett is playing her for keeps. I forget who she is and see only the character. And she does this very well – she is an excellent actress and then some. However, the two different approaches jar.
Like I said, I don't yet feel comfortable asking a question about this. Well, not yet.
So that was day 1.