Thursday, May 1, 2014

When life is most real, we think its unreal-Adams' Apples at 555

I don't know a better way to say it. Monday night at around 1:30am we finished the first four days of filming Adams' Apples at 555, a feature film about a group of actors making a film of the play I wrote several years ago, Adams' Apples, that the Accidental Repertory Theater performed in 2011. I also directed and acted in it, and the dream was to make it into a film. I raised enough money to begin. And, hopefully, I will have enough to finish it.

Even when I decided to create the Accidental Rep, I wanted to make films, do live streaming of workshops, works in progress. Find a way to reach a public without always having to do the conventional methods for finding an audience to come to the theater. The low budget, showcase productions Actors Equity allows, while better than nothing, certainly are not ideal situations. One spends about the same amount of money that we will spend on the film, for a production or two, each one lasting sixteen performances, in the hopes that, at best, a few people will see it. And, one has to be around for years before the audience knows you, and begins to become a regular. A film lasts, and can reach a larger public. And, I hope that it will help bring people to our theater. Certainly, movie stars who do theater bring audiences to the theater. Maybe, our work will get noticed, too.

But, this is not the point of the blog. The point is that I have just lived through a dream coming true. The actors who had done the play before (three years ago), or those who hadn't, had no rehearsal. What I believed, and was betting on, was the fact that most of us have worked together for years, most have studied with me, and we share a philosophy of committing ourselves to do the kind of deeply personal, intimate work that defines realistic acting. As you may know, I believe that National theaters are founded by the playwrights who write about the culture they live in. American theater is founded by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams. Any actor who wants to believe that they are respresentative of what wonderful American acting is, knows that he or she must be able to be deeply personal. Meaning, for instance, that Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey Into Night, is so personal, that he forbid it to be published or performed until after his entire family had died. You can't get more personal than that. I hoped that knowing one another would bond us together, in a situation without any rehearsal, not really knowing whether we knew our lines. (I kept telling myself that because I am the writer, if I didn't remember what I'd written, I could always claim that I was rewriting). What I know, is that I didn't want to focus my fear on whether or not I knew the lines. Somewhere, I knew we knew the play well enough. And, the fact that the film is about a group of actors making a film, I knew I had a way of dealing with problems that might arise, and synthesize them into the structure. And, I wanted life, not the kind of casual behavior, or absence of feeling that often passes for reality, that I call naturalism. It may be real, but its real boring. I wanted life. And, life is spontaneous. I committed us to that. We wouldn't have any other choice. Except panic, or theatrical conventions. And, I wouldn't accept that. At any rate, there are moments in many acting classes when actors can't remember their lines that something real happens. It seems very interesting until you realize that the actor is trying to remember what they say. Here, I hoped that it would feel spontaneous, as though we were thinking about what we wanted to say. And, during the filming, I was continually surprised by what we were doing, in the positive sense of the word.

The photographer, Gary Nolton, whom I didn't know, was willing to do the entire filming handheld, which I wanted because I think that the camera was an active participant, and the movement helped to make the audience aware of the fact that, while the characters appear not to be able to react to what is happening to them, like people in life, there was inner movement all the time.

Hopefully, we will complete the filming during the final week of July, in the country, so that we have scenes on location to use to intercut with the scenes we filmed in my Studio at 555 8th Avenue.

So, sometimes, life is not only a dream, as Calderon de la Barca said, but a dream come true.