My trip to the Goodman Theatre -- rehearsal for Amy & The Orphans during the New Stages Festival last month.
I was recently invited to attend a rehearsal for one of the New Stages productions - Amy and The Orphans. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to catch a behind-the-scenes look.
Amy and the Orphans rehearsal at Goodman Theatre
New Stages - an incubator for up-and-coming plays
Founded in 2004, New Stages at the Goodman offers a first-look at fresh new plays. The festival celebrates discovery and encourages playwrights to take risks while developing new works. Audiences can see these works in a developmental production or staged reading - and it’s free! Many New Stages productions (like The Magic Play which opens November 1st) go on to become full productions at The Goodman and elsewhere.
Written by Lindsey Ferrentino and directed by Scott Ellis, Amy and The Orphans is a story about estranged siblings who reconnect after their father’s death. Emotional revelations uncover decisions made for Amy, a younger sister with down syndrome. The older siblings must face these harsh realities and make uncomfortable choices of their own.
Amy and the Orphans was portrayed by local actors, with the exception of “Amy”. Jamie Brewer (from American Horror Story) read the part of “Amy”. A treat for me - because I am an AHS fan.
Rehearsing a staged reading
The play was presented as a “staged reading”. What is a staged reading, you ask? Good question, I looked it up so you don’t have to...
Stage reading is a form of theatre without sets or full costumes. The actors, who read from scripts, may be seated, stand in fixed positions, or incorporate minimal stage movement. ... A narrator may read stage directions aloud.
The actors stood on one side of a brightly lit room, while the director, playwright and others were seated at a long table on the opposite side of the room. There was a lot of reading, taking of notes, direction, rehearsing and re-rehearsing of lines.
Director Scott Ellis & Playwright Lindsey Ferrentino
It was great to watch a rehearsal of a play in the very early stages of production. Sending a big thank you to the Goodman Theatre for the invitation and the experience.
The reading flowed well for the first 30 minutes of the rehearsal. We progressed from one scene to the next smoothly, until we hit a little roadblock.
I’m not sure why I’m including myself in the rehearsal - I had no part in the “we” -- it was more like “they" - and not at all "we"!
The roadblock appeared at what seemed to be a turning point in the story. The director pointed out a few wrinkles and asked the actors to consider the emotion behind that particular moment in time. They went on to discuss the feelings, insights and perspectives of the characters. Witnessing the collaboration between the actors, director and writer was highly interesting to me.
Random Tweet from the director -- Scott Ellis (@blahblahellis) October 7, 2016Later on during the rehearsal, a short debate sparked over a line in the script. A few quiet words were uttered between the actors and the director before the writer chimed in. I couldn’t hear what she said but I’m guessing she suggested a change to the line in question. The director let out a sigh of relief and said, “I didn’t want to say that in front of the writer”. Way better teamwork than one would imagine in such a situation. It was all business, no personal drama.
The actors rehearsing a scene from Amy and The OrphansStrong teamwork was not the only thing that surprised me. As revelations developed between characters, I found myself growing tense. I thought it unusual to experience tension in a naked room without any staging, lighting, or costumes - only actors. A testament to the abilities of all those involved.After an hour or more of rehearsal, my inquisitive mind could hardly rest! I didn't think there could ever be so much controversy around "Crab Rangoon" 😜. Luckily, I was able to sneak in a couple questions…I asked if it was hard to perform in front of the playwright
- Abby Pierce said “No” and went on to clarify that it was common practice to have the writer sitting in the room in Chicago
I asked how long they rehearse before getting to *this* point (the rehearsal)
- They had been rehearsing together for 3 days
- The rehearsals ramp up the day before, they were rehearsing later that same evening, as well as the following morning right up until the show