What happens when you get six actors in a room to rehearse a play about a rehearsal process? In addition to the hysterical and ironic moments that came with rehearsing with a heightened level of meta-theatricality, it also presented a challenge to the artistic team: how do you enter each rehearsal allowing it to feel like a process that is actually a performance? For the Company One Theatre / ArtsEmerson co-production, a sense of playfulness was needed to encourage spontaneity, freshness and, ultimately, unpredictability.
The cast began running the show in full early on, allowing blocking to be fluid for moments in “Process” and more rigid for those in “Presentation” as the performance began to take shape. And, just as the characters in the play move in and out of the “Process” of rehearsing their presentation and the “Presentation” itself, the layers of “reality” in We Are Proud to Present a Presentation… become extra blurry as the actors drift from their personal selves into actors in rehearsal and performers in the presentation. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying for everyone involved—not only the actors, but also the creative team and now the audience. The fictive arguments over who decides what is included in our collective history that occur in the play have become in-depth conversations and stimulating debates as everyone working on the show has been forced to re-evaluate and negotiate personal worldviews and possibly even unacknowledged prejudices.
This is a show where no single performance is going to come close to being an identical twin to another—everything is constantly in flux, and that’s one of the most fascinating, eerie parts about it. The energy that the audience brings into the room makes a world of difference for how the performance goes because this is not a traditional audience experience. In fact, the runs of the play weren’t complete until new faces began sitting in the crowd. Each person becomes a guilty voyeur in moments of Process or an appropriately acknowledge presence in the room during the Presentation. But, as the lines that clearly divide the two break down for the performers, so too do they for those watching the show. Suddenly, the limbo space created isn’t exactly a performance, and it’s not exactly a rehearsal either. It’s something closer to reality than we’d like to admit, which is off-putting, unsettling and hopefully a spark for change.
Daniel Jones is an Assistant Director for this production of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation… and is the External Affairs Assistant at ArtsEmerson: The World on Stage.
We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia Formerly Known as Southwest Africa from the German Sudwestafrika Between the Years 1884-1915 will play at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box at the Paramount Center from January 10-February 1, 2014. For more information and tickets, visit our website here.