First Read-Through

October 10th

Today was the first read through. This day is very important because it is the first time we shall hear our play read aloud. It’s also important to establish rules today – quiet when another person is speaking, turn cell phones off, no gum. Half the students have already been through one play and know these rules, so I think they will act as the leaders. But it is important to lay down the lay from day one. Georgian teenagers can be so chatty sometimes!

Getting printed scripts was very difficult for two reasons. First, finding a Xerox office in Batumi, and second, cutting down on the price of printing so much paper. I ran around this morning looking for a Xerox office, but one was closed and another only had a scanner. Chuck came up with a solution, and asked a colleague to print ten scripts and 25 release forms. These release forms would also be important, as they would give us the right to take pictures, videos, and allow news crews to enter our rehearsals.

I picked up the scripts and forms at school No.2, then made my way to the theater. It was locked, as usual, and I had to ask students to go find keys. I found the TLGs and sent them up to the theater while I waited for extra students. We’ve been trying to expand our pool of student actors beyond those at school No.2, and Chuck sent me a message this morning that students from schools Nos. 1 and 25 may come. Not having any idea how to spot them, I waited outside the door anyway.

We formed a circle. There are about 25 students involved in the production, plus Chuck, Sarah, Jordan, Keti, and myself. It’s a lot.

Ten minutes past 2pm and still about half the students were missing. This is normal for Georgia, but not good for our production. As we waited, I handed out small candies to the students. Sweets are ways to keep their spirit up, and a subtle way to ask them to keep coming.

The first order of business was the release forms. Then we had to discuss rehearsal days. We originally set Sundays and Wednesdays, but that was after speaking to three students. Now with all 25 actors (all speaking at the same time) I wanted to see if there were alternative days. We spoke, yelled, shushed, and argued for about ten minutes before I could see what a waste of time this all was. Georgian students don’t have many after school activities, but they do have an enormous amount of private lessons, and it’s very difficult to get around the schedules of 25 teenagers. After ten minutes we ended back where we started, re-agreed to Sundays and Wednesdays, and started the read through.

During the read-through I noticed a few things. This play is very big. There are many characters and many short scenes one after another, often changing to different locations. This play is very heavy on language and I’m worried the students (and audience) will tune out.

Now comes my job as director. As the director, I am the brain of the operation; I have to know everything going on. In the next few days, I need to re-read the script many time, section it into pieces, make notes, and begin to plan basic blocking and how we will use the stage efficiently. I like to make drawings on separate pieces of paper so I can see what I’m doing.

I have to think about the themes of the play. This play could send a real message, it's the most serious play I've directed (Murtazi and Juliet was all about love, love, love) and I have to make sure that this message is consistent throughout the play. In directing, we call this the spine of the play – what is the main through line that relates to every scene and character? What is the central question explored in the play?

The stories of Robin Hood and Arsena Marabdeli have obvious political overturns – redistribution of wealth, poor rising up against the rich, fighting an external enemy. But with our production we want to focus on positive solutions to problems existing in all countries – this is play is about a meeting of two cultures, Georgian and American - and something the ordinary person can do. Despite what anyone else thinks, one person (a Robin Hood or Arsena) can have the courage to bring change. And at the end of our play, change is simple—picking up garbage, feeding stray kittens, and planting small trees. Anyone can do this and help make our planet a better place. A civil society starts from a few people working at the bottom. 

I have to finalize the music used during the play, how it will be used, and where. We want to get Zura involved as a singer and musician. If the music comes from the students themselves, it makes the production that much tighter and valuable.

And I need to think about the characters. This is a big play, the largest I’ve ever directed. Like the plays of Bertolt Brecht, there are many, many small roles, labeled not with specific names, but titles (Governor, Guard, Merchant, etc). The audience (and actors) should be able to easily identify each character as they come and go, so physicality, voice, and costuming will be very important.

Also in the plannings are a group hike up a mountain somewhere in Adjara and a movie night where we watch a Robin Hood film. 

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