| Lady Bleeds II; The sisters III; Death of the Duffling - 12/17/07
Did some experimenting for Lady Macbeth in my hotel bathroom sink this morning. I was able to clean
the sink pretty well afterwards, but left the washcloth pretty red. So on my way out of the hotel,
I stopped by the front desk to tell them not to worry if the maids report a murder in Room 200. * * *
Then on to the theater, to the women’s dressing room in the basement. Worked at the sink for a while
to get one of Lady M.’s handwashing blood appearances under control. Soon my buddy Angie arrived
and I sent her out to find a ketchup bottle (a good tool for filling blood containers) and a cup of tea.
I’d been told that Kate was ill. So I decided to go easy on her, not to work too long, not to get her
covered with blood.
Kate was 20 minutes early and was bubbling with some Internet research she’d done on somnambulism.
Sometimes somnambulists just stand still and doze off for a while. That seems cool and useful.
They are often trying to escape, which can be problematic when they escape by jumping out of windows.
But now Kate has more of sense of what is in these people’s eyes when they walk.
I mentioned to her the idea that Lady M. should stay beautiful, and create hand-washing gestures
that express her inner turmoil without getting nervous or jagged, but staying beautiful and sexy.
Then we went through the scene, choosing the moments of blood gushes so that they will hit long syllables
in the poetry; this will let her ride the language into the gesture. We also tried to anticipate where
the audience might expect the next surprise to come from and play on those expectations.
The hardest trick for Lady Macbeth is the moment where blood visibly appears and cascades from her hands.
So we spent about an hour choreographing Kate’s hands to hide the secret stuff in a way that’s expressive
Then we worked through the scene, beginning to end, dry (without blood), from outside to in and from inside
to out. What I mean is that sometimes we let the ideas in the lines guide the placement of the magic and
sometimes we let the magic inspire interpretations for the lines. All the while we tried to keep a
strong and clear vision of what Lady Macbeth is seeing in her guilty nightmare; and to stay aware of
the direct, sensual impact on a spectator of a beautiful woman bathing eerily in blood. We placed
nightmare sound effects where they provided motivation, and helped to time and punctuate the conjuring.
By this time both Kate and I had forgotten she was ill. So we did a final run, full out, wet.
It was breathtaking. If she had to go onstage with this routine tonight, even with none of the
improvements we are contemplating, I think she would be devastating. We worked almost three solid hours
and there wasn’t an instant in which I sensed Kate was at all ill. Either she’s the ultimate trooper,
or creative work is a magic cure.
After a little work on the dagger apparition – Duane the master carpenter is still finessing the
bloody part of the trick – I went for a workout at the local gym, stopped for a grilled chicken
sandwich, and drove to the rehearsal hall. Tomorrow and Wednesday “All Things Considered” is recording
interviews and rehearsal, and we shuffled the rehearsal material a little to make sure they’d get good stuff.
* * *
Our three Weird Sisters and Kenny now performed their piece for Aaron, and I got to watch what a good
director can do. First Aaron demanded absolute clarity of very word. Next, he asked Kenny to
reconceive the percussion as quieter and more strange and ominous, and let it build gradually.
The scene just about doubled in impact, getting creepier, funnier, and more insane and scary.
I simply sat, in awe of how much a great director can make the ideas in a scene explode in your mind.
* * *
I guess this is Aaron Appreciation Evening.
He next worked on the scene in which Lady Macduff and her son are assassinated. The Duffling, as we dub
the kid, is being played by two different boys (both coincidentally named) on different nights,
and Aaron needed to help both kids create the character.
Aaron is incredible with the kids. He talks in their vocabulary, but with absolute respect, and demands
everything from them he would ask from an adult. One of the Jakes was a little curt in his lines
with Mom Macduff, and Aaron stopped him to explain that the Duffling is not being mean, but trying
to be tough and manly so his mother won’t worry.
The Jake understood instantly and did a perfect reading. Aaron, assisted by Dale, went on to stage
the murders. As always, I mustn’t spoil the surprise, but when the scene was finished,
one of the Jakes grinned fiendlishly and said to me, “Hey, that’s some bedtime story!”
And Kate the stage manager said, “Well, that should finish off most of the women in the audience.”
And Aaron did it all so gently.