On Saturday, I sat on the train in Toronto, heading back to Ottawa, with my director for Little Martyrs, Christopher Bedford. I had been in town for an audition and he had spent the past two weeks studying Bouffon with Philippe Gaulier.
Along with directing the show and being Artistic Director for Evolution Theatre, Chris is also a very dear friend. Who after two intensive weeks of training just wanted to sleep before we got back to Ottawa for our first rehearsal that night. I, on the other hand, felt that it would be a much more productive use of my time to bombard my director with all my questions & neuroses about the play. You know, since he couldn’t get away.
Before we had even left the station, I had already let it be known that I found the first scene to be hard. I always find the first scene of a play difficult and especially hate having the first line of dialogue. If you have the second line, you can play off whatever the other actor has fed you, but the first line? Fuggeddaboutit.
Chris kindly held his sighing to a minimum and indulged me: “What do you find so hard about it?”
“Well, why am I back in town? After all this time, why did my character choose now? It can’t just be because of x, y & z. There has to be more than that and I just don’t know what it is!”
He smiled and related a story that Gaulier had said to his group during the intensive.
*For full effect, please picture a scruffy young guy doing an impression of a scruffy old guy with a bad French accent.
**To be clear, the old guy doesn’t have a bad French accent. I am certain that his accent is quite legitimate.
Chris picked up an imaginary phone and started speaking into his finger: “Hello?… Stani? (pause) Stani? (longer pause) Lavski? … Stani? … Oooooooh. Stani? Stani? … (long pause) Lavski? … Ooooooh. He’s not well. (longer pause) Stani? (long pause) Stani? … Lavski? … (pause) Oooooooh. Five minutes? … Stani? … Lavski? (pause) Stani? … Ooooooh. He’s sick.”
OK, picture this going on for about another five minutes. And it’s funny. And the longer it goes it stops being funny. And then it keeps going. And it becomes funny all over again. Like that Family Guy video where Peter hurts his knee.
Anyway, the whole thing ends with Chris hanging up the phone-finger and telling me quite sombrely: “He’s dead.”
Which, if you are not familiar with the dead man or his practices, basically means that the answer to my questions is a very simple “Who cares?”
What’s going on in the scene? There’s a knock at the door. Do you or don’t you want to answer it. End of story.
I laughed. Because if you are a theatre nerd this is one of those “it’s funny because it’s true” moments.
Satisfied, Chris put his headphones in, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to ask any more stupid questions. At least, not during this trip.
And just like that, my trust level in my director skyrocketed, my actor doubts disappeared and I just knew, in my gut now, that we were going to have a great show on our hands.