AGPA 2014 Update: Discovering the dramatic core of ‘Pan’

We have completed our three months of pre-rehearsal exploration of the play, The Great God Pan. The group now begins rehearsals to prepare their assigned roles for performance.
These past few months have given us an invaluable head start in developing a shared perspective on the play.  I, as the director, understand the play in surprising new ways and I personally have a deeper appreciation for the complexities of the person-as-actor-in-character situation that play reading creates. I also continue to be impressed by the depth of clinical insight, theatrical sensibility and personal courage the ensemble members bring to our project.
A unique aspect of play reading is the experience of the play ‘getting inside us’. As an ensemble, we start feeling, thinking and even behaving in ways that reflect the heart and soul of the play.  The Great God Pan has a potent victim-perpetrator-rescuer dynamic built in, reflective of its trauma-related circumstances.
I am determined to be vigilant in my efforts to track this dynamic, knowing it will eventually emerge from within our ensemble and potentially reeking havoc.  I got a glimpse of this process at the end of the first reading, when we turned our attention to the actor’s debriefing/discussion segment.  Some of the actors later reported feeling intruded upon—not quite violated—by our very direct inquiry of their experience.  I came to understand that the boundary crossing we might normally feel free to make in asking exploratory questions felt more like a boundary violation, signaling to me that the parallel process of victim-perpetrator-rescuer had begun to emerge. 
By openly discussing this with the actors, we all agree that a more free associative, non-directive approach to the debriefing segment would better respect the vulnerable nature of the actors’ task of getting in touch with, and revealing their subjective experience. Allowing the actors more control over the pace and degree to which they shared their experience of the play has been one of the early adjustments we’ve made in our work thus far, with good effect.

Good fortune seems to follow our project.  I received an email in December from Tom Teasley, a professional musician, composer and sound healer with an international following.  We had the good fortune to collaborate with Tom during our presentation of Off the Map at AGPA in 2008. Tom’s interpretive style of creating and using music for both theatrical and healing purposes is ready made for our projects. So when Tom reached out in hopes of collaborating again, it felt as if the gods themselves had intervened on our behalf.  Tom will join our rehearsals and accompany our play reading of The Great God Pan with an original musical interpretation in Boston.You can hear a sampling of Tom’s musical genius, by clicking here

Rob Williams did some web-based researching and found two interviews with the playwright, Amy Herzog, discussing her approach to writing The Great God Pan.  I found her keen interest in the nature of remembering clinically very relevant.  The neuroscientists understand the normative processes of encoding and retrieving memories of past experience, the disruptive impact of trauma on that process, and the vicissitudes of memory in the aging brain.  Herzog has translated those sensibilities with such skill and artistry into her characters of Pan. We’re fortunate to be working with a play—and playwright—that has such exquisite clinical attunement.
You can experience the interviews with Ms. Herzog at:
http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/trailers/amy-herzog-great-god-pan/ 
http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/trailers/tim-sanford-and-amy-herzog/
Part of the actor assignment is to narratively track their rehearsal experience that will eventually be posted as blog accounts for all to read, after our first performance date has come and gone (AGPA, March 8).  The actors’ unique vantage point will make very interesting reading. Look for their blog postings after March 8.
In the meantime, I will continue to post some of my directorial process.  This will both help me in gaining clarity as I move through the final decision making process for a number of artistic and process related decisions, and hopefully will be of interest to both the actors and prospective audience members!
One directorial decision that has arrived is the choice of an image for the program cover.  This is the image we have selected:
 

Food for thought…I’m looking forward with confidence to the formal rehearsal process that begins January 12.

Bob Schulte