Two o’clock in the morning. I had just finished a third reading of Blood Wedding and was suddenly scared that I had picked the wrong play to direct. It is a simple enough story: beautiful country girl in Spain is betrothed to a hard working young man who would give her a good life. But the wrinkle is that she may feel a desire for in her past who perhaps lingers outside her window at night occasionally. This man is the only character in the play that has a name, Leonardo. He is married, has a child, and his wife is pregnant with another child. He is irresponsible, neglects his wife, and rides his horse , a rare possession for these folks, constantly off into the night. After the wedding ceremony at the celebration dance the bride runs away with Leonardo. The bridegroom goes after them. In the woods, the bride tells Leonardo to leave her, He hears the bridegroom coming, they meet and fight to the death. The mother of the bride, the bride, and Leonardo’s wife meet at what may be a church. The mother possibly cuts the bride’s throat. It is a constant rage of passion, filled with poetry, a large cast, and mysterious characters in the woods and I loved it. But it is so powerful that I wondered, even doubted that I could give it the full production it deserved. I supposed that almost every director has doubts while preparing for a play and I have certainly experienced it, but this was different. There were no precedents for the play because our production at the Civic Theatre may be the first in the States.
The playwright, Federico Garcia Lorca, was known here primarily as a poet, but his plays were important in Spain. After the first couple of readings, I thought I saw the whole piece in my mind, and began to block it on paper, but it didn’t feel right. In the past, I had been able to block out a play in several late night sessions, go to rehearsal, and put it up on stage. This play needed music, dance, several sets, and terrific lighting and costumes...so my collaborators must be more special than I had ever worked with before. This was the first time that I studied the directing process of so many directors and artistic directors of past work and their ideas. My brother’s girl friend had suggested books she had studied while getting a degree in art history. They were primarily about Art Logic, that is all art works from general to specific. Paintings start with drawings and slowly go o a finished canvas. Dance with a collection of movements that move to a final production. And theatre with general movement and script interpretation to precise blocking and then to a set interpretation of the play. The owner of the bookstore where I work during the day found some writings of Russian of directors who founded a completely new philosophy of shaping plays. New to me was a former protégé of Stanislavsky’s named Vachtangov. His ideas of a more free form directing began to change my way of approaching this inspiring and difficult play. Of course, Stanislavsky’s list of new ways from the third book began to take on new meanings. The last two plays I directed I knew I had been directing by the numbers; I had lost a passion I had felt before. Well, Blood Wedding had better bring back the passion.
Tomorrow night is the casting rehearsal after two weeks of exhausting auditions with a break for the Arts Fair. I believe my pages of notes will help make my decisions good. I’m going to try something very new.
I had been working my way through Somerset Maugham for several I decided to read before considering getting up, eating, and working on Blood Wedding. months and was about to finish Cakes and Ale. After a while, I put away the Maugham and reread Blood Wedding. I remembered a book I had about a Russian director named Vachtangov and some strange things he did with a production of Turandot. I ended up reading much more than about that production. His wild imagination is evidently, what set him apart from the Moscow Arts Theatre where he started. I also went back and read the appendix of Stanislavsky’s second book. It’s of steps to think about in production. The Vaktangov book gave me an idea for a set. I got to the bookstore early and talked to my boss about doing some study during the workday. He said it was fine if I could stop when customers came in. I certainly had no problems with that. I had a little desk near the front of the store where I could I could work and see anyone who came in. Graciously it was a quiet morning and I was able to read the play in a new light. I had decided earlier not to spend hours moving Jeordie’s little lead soldiers around on a tentative ground plan looking for a blocking scheme, but to give the actors much more freedom in developing the movement for their characters. I would set up zones rather than strict blocking patterns and shape the piece as it developed in rehearsal.
After working with about five customers, I ate the lunch that my mother had prepared, a meat loaf sandwich and a Dr. Pepper. Just as I was finishing my brother’s lady friend, Marilee, came in. She apologized for the interruption but she had some news. She had gotten a letter from a friend in New York. They were moving to Los Angeles and their daughter had accepted Marilee’s invitation to visit with her for a while before joining her family in L.A. The father was a Petroleum Design Engineer who Marilee had commissioned for several projects. She had first met them in France where they were originally from but since then they had moved to London and then to New York. The daughter had become very close to Marilee during her several visits with them. What had started out, as business became a good friendship.
I was rather taken aback by the suggestion that I meet her, but Marilee assured me that I would enjoy it.
“Timmy, I know this comes when you’re starting in rehearsal, but she is charming in a very sophisticated way and a striking presence. Her name is Claire Levant; she is twenty-two, and petite in a very different way. She should be in later this week. I will take a couple of days to show her around Dallas and get acclimated to the Texan south. No pressure, but please plan to come over next weekend. I’ll call you later this week.
“Marilee, of course, but of all the eligible men you know in Dallas, why me? Compared to a sophisticated girl from Europe I’ll be an uneducated innocent. Are you sure I’m the right one to meet her.”
“Well, I told her there was someone special I wanted her to meet. That’s you, Timmy. Sophisticated does not mean pretentious in Claire’s case, she is very down to earth and enjoys the arts more than anything. She studied Art History and just finished her Masters. I had advised them to get out of Europe last year. Her father can work anywhere and I hope for me eventually. He’s the very best in his field. Fifteen years ago, he got his engineering doctorate at A&M, so he’s no stranger to the U.S., but he’s always worked internationally out of Paris. Very few men in the world can go into a difficult field and set up drilling rigs as well as he. He solved some problems for Grant in Java that saved at least a year of set up time for drilling. And don’t have doubts like that about yourself; you are a special man and a fine artist.”
“Thanks, Marilee. How long is she going to be here?”
“Actually as long as she wishes. Nothing is set for her going to L.A. so it really depends on her. She’s very good company and welcome to stay as long as she likes. Daniel met her in New York and feels the same way.” “I feel like the chosen one, and that’s alright, besides I surely need to meet someone new. Next weekend is fine, just let me know.” “Great, Timmy. I’ll call you here or at home.” She hugged me and dashed off. I wondered what petite in a different way meant; being short that was at least a confidence builder. It was good to look forward to weekends alone again. It will be also good to be spending more time with Daniel and Marilee. I hadn’t expected this sort of distraction from working on Blood Wedding.
I went back to Vaktangov and his production of Turandot. He had actors come out in special costumes and change the set. They became a part of the production and he called them ‘Zanies’. There were several different locations in the play and scene change transitions were going to be difficult. Perhaps with Spanish music and Gypsy Zanies?! I’ll see what my designer says later today. Five weeks is long for rehearsals but not for set design and building and especially with all volunteer help. The designer was being paid but certainly not by professional standards. The Dallas Little Theatre was really all there was here and as close to professional as anything in Texas, or even the Southwest. Nowhere in the country would I have the opportunity to direct like here. But then I’ve been at the theatre for ten years. I had started working backstage when I was fourteen and was directing children’s plays at sixteen. North Dallas High School had mostly dominated my life.
It turned out to be a busy afternoon at the bookstore, but I felt good about the preparation and study I had done in the morning. I made a special effort at thanking my boss about letting me do some theatre work there.
Dinner at home was more of a family affair than I expected. My younger brother, Jeordie, had actually sold one of his sculptures at the festival. Lots of questions about Blood Wedding. Both parents and Jeordie volunteered to help, Dad to build and Mom to paint sets. I got to the theatre an hour and a half before the callbacks were to start. I asked my volunteer stage manager, Ginger, who had come in early also, to gather as many scripts of the play as possible. My ideas about trying new things also included a new way for me to cast the show. She seemed very excited about the coming rehearsals and would take notes for me in my conference with the designer. As she left to get the scripts, the scene designer walked into the lobby. I had actually known her for a year because she worked occasionally for my father at his shop as a carpenter. He had doubts about a female carpenter but gave her a chance on a couple of commissions and liked her work. She had mentioned to me that she had studied theatre but never told me in what area. It was brother Daniel’s suggestion to seek her out. We went to my little office in the back of the storage room. It was only a small desk and a couple of chairs, but it was great to have it. Our main problem was the many set needs of the play. I told her about my idea of the Vaktangov ‘Zanies’. We brainstormed about the idea of flying the sets, but I remembered an idea I had this morning that wasn’t quite complete yet. Could she design a pop up set that would be like a children’s book. They could be on roller platforms that could go into the wings as they became no longer a part of the play and a painted backdrop could end the play in the woods. The upper part of the backdrop would be sky and mountains with the forest below. The Zanies could move the platforms around in half-light with Spanish music playing and raise up the settings for the Bridegroom house, Leonardo’s house, the Bride’s house, and the church with bridal dance area. She thought, and I agreed, that the different sets could be not realistic but more suggestive or abstract with bright colors growing darker as the play got darker with red under tones of light for the last scene. I wanted to stage the fight to the death, which was an offstage part of Lorca’s concept.
“How about something like Javanese shadow puppets?”
I wasn’t quite sure how that would work, but it sounded interesting.
“With the actors being the puppets.” She said.“If we could work it out with some sort of projection device even a Fresnel mounted on the floor and having their shadows appear on the scrim?
”She thought we had the time to figure it out and then we talked some about costumes, which I wanted to be simple Spanish peasant, but with a romantic flair. She immediately solved that by showing me some drawing she done. Scarves, shawls, boots, and hats were her answer and they looked terrific. Hopefully we weren’t going way beyond our production possibilities and said so.“Tim, I love this play so much that I’ve been dreaming about it every night. It’s passionate, happy, sad, mysterious, and almost shocking. I’ve moved back in with my parents so that I can work full time on it. Let’s go all the way with it.”
“Good, I feel the same way about it. I’ll talk to Barney again about the budget, and if we need more, I guess we can talk to some of the patrons. I’ve never done that before, but as you said, ‘Let’s go all the way with it!’ She laughed and clapped her hands. We talked a few more minutes about schedules and deadlines. I told her that if possible I would like a definitive floor plan by the end of the week. We agreed to meet in the middle of the week and she left.
Ginger came in and said the scripts were on stage at my table and that the actors were here and ready.
I walked into the theatre from backstage which came off as kind of dramatic but unintended. The actors were sitting in the theatre seats all over the room. I asked them to come up on stage and take chairs that were stacked off right backstage then form a large crescent or semi-circle upstage. Ginger brought out two chairs and a small worktable for us. I got a stool from backstage that I liked to use when giving notes after rehearsals. I set myself up in the center of their crescent and began to describe the process I was going to use for the final casting and beginning rehearsals.
“Since the last time we were together I hope most off you have had the chance to come in and read the play if you hadn’t before the first round of casting.”
This started an unexpected discussion of enthusiasm about the play. All of them had read most of the play, or all of it, either here at the theatre or the two copies at the bookstore that had been set-aside for actors and potential audience to study.
“That’s a good start for any casting, much less the beginning of rehearsals. Obviously, I love the play and see directing it as an extremely challenging process, and that’s why we have six weeks rather than the usual four weeks. Already you can see that things are different. Everything changes now. I’m not going to look at new audition pieces, we’re going to do the play tonight with you moving in and out of the process, and we will walk through it. Now you know why I asked that anyone called back must be willing to spend the whole evening here.”
Ginger handed out scripts for everyone. I took this time to look at the group as a first real study for the evening. They were very different from any group of actors I had called back before. I wanted a European-Spanish look for the cast. I know several blond ingénues and dashing leading men who were very disappointed by the call. I had worked with several of them before but there was a new group of Mexican and Latin American actors who rarely felt there was a part for them here. I had put a special add in both the Morning News and the Times Herald about the auditions and that it was a “new” English translation of a famous Spanish play that needed new actors from the community. Everyone in this group had been very impressive in the first auditions. From the original sixty or seventy I now had twenty-five. All of them were strong looking from older characters, to characters, younger looking actresses, to the leading players for the Bride, the Groom, and Leonardo. I wanted them all in the cast and made an instant decision. They all had their scripts and were looking at me intently, ready to start.
“I want all of you in the play. I wasn’t sure of that until I saw you all together. There are, as you know, three scenes that can have a large group of people onstage. I hope you are interested enough to consider that. There will be leads cast, of course, but I think we need to develop a real ensemble for this show that is a part of the play almost all the time in production. The cast will change the set as we progress through the show. The set will be very different from anything I’ve worked with before. A backstage crew could do it but I think it would be much more exciting if the ensemble does it in costume as if we’re creating a total vision of the community portraying a passionate and tragic folk tale they have actually lived through. Not done as a pageant but a collective dream that haunts them. At times the play will be very loud and even raucous and then soft with a constant musical underplay that will be almost cinematic. The set changing will be like a dance that will hopefully enhance the continuity. The costumes will be from rough peasant garb to a just short of elegant gypsy flamenco performing group. All of the colors will progress through the show, lighting, set, and costumes. Sun bleached and washed out to bright with reds raging through its complete spectrum. Deep blues with heavy grays and browns. There will be special effects I’m adding to the play in the last scene. It won’t be anything too strange or elaborate, just some sort of projection from behind for the fight to the death scene between Armando and the husband. Of course, as you know this isn’t a part of the written script, but I think it will add to the desperate passion of the ending.”
Immediately everyone wanted to ask questions.
“When will you do the final casting?” was the first asked almost simultaneously by about three actors.
“After tonight’s work. How do you all feel about including everyone in the ensemble…first, before you answer; yes, it does expand the play in a different way with a kind of epic quality that will make it more exciting. Remember, this the first American production with no precedents. This will be like a laboratory workshop from the first rehearsal on. Every time I read or study the piece new ideas form in a way that seemingly demand a new style of acting; almost presentational in some scenes, not quite what Brecht describes as epic, but something new for all of us.”
Carolyn Carothers responded to the question about the large ensemble, “Yes, I want to do the play, just being involved sounds like something much more exciting than the usual production. Can you tell us more about your vision, which is terrific so far?”
“No, not really. I think that will happen in rehearsal. I think the passion of the play is the guide. In the past week, my directing plans have changed drastically. There won’t be any blocking rehearsals in the first couple of weeks or maybe not at all. I want to shape the play giving you more freedom to explore the characters working in zones rather than specific marks.”
Carlos Allende, an older Hispanic actor who was new to the theatre and came in with a terrific audition asked, “That doesn’t mean you‘re going to leave us confused about blocking up to the end, does it?”
”No, no, everything will be set well before the last couple of weeks just more exploration in the beginning weeks. You’re playing the characters and I want your imaginations not to be limited.”
“Will ensemble actors without major parts have to attend all of the rehearsals?” Was the next question by a young actor who I had called back because he was also a dancer.
“In the beginning, yes, to get the overall feeling and sound, but the second week will concentrate on major characters and scenes. Is there anyone who wants to not be considered for a major role but as a member of the ensemble?”
Several of the actors starting laughing saying, “Carry on and let’s see what happens.”
One of the really strong young actresses stood up saying, “I want to do this show, no matter how you cast.”
All of a sudden, the rest of them began to stand and agree to join the effort.
I thought that maybe I had sold the production after all with my spur of the moment idea of the large ensemble.
“Well, let’s start. I want to read the play all the way through moving people in and out. I have my ideas about the parts, but who would like to read for what parts?”
The stage manager took the notes, I chose the first group, and we proceeded through the scenes. The older actors grabbed rather quickly onto the parts. The potential leads started experimenting from the beginning. I wanted the wife and the bride to both be beautiful striking presences but different. Both needed to be capable of extreme passion but in distinctive manners. The husband should have a romantic gentleness about him and a self-assured quality that would make him attractive to the bride no matter what her doubts are, the promise of a good life and all that, but her overwhelming desire for Leonardo rules her good intentions. Leonardo needs to be charismatic and dangerous. His betrayal of a good wife is driven by his restless desire to posses the bride, no matter what the cost, which doesn’t appear to frighten or deter him. As the rehearsal progressed, I became excited and stopped frequently to shape a scene and go over it with different actors. The actors appeared to be as excited as I was, sitting on the edge of their chairs wanting to step into the scenes. At times, I was almost frightened by the passion of the play. Even in the innocence of this first broad staging, I felt an emotional surge from almost tears to an anger about what the characters were experiencing in their rage towards tragedy.
I staged the last two scenes several times as a self-inspiring action for new scenic ideas and casting. We had taken two short breaks so the “cast” could get away for a few minutes and I could talk to Ginger. I had never seen a group get back so quickly or such active conversations going on. As I went to my stool, they scurried to their chairs ready to continue. After the fourth time on the final scene, I stopped and asked what time it was, almost midnight. All of us were exhausted all of a sudden; the past five hours had gone by as if it were only an hour or so.
“I will see you all tomorrow here and announce the cast and we’ll discuss more concept and characterization. I am very excited, I hope you are.”
A mature Mexican actor laughed and said, “Por seguro, jefe!” They begin to leave, but all approached me giving handshakes and hugs, some just back-pats and nods. I had never ended a rehearsal with such rampant emotions. Ginger had taken over ten pages of notes about my directing and different stagings. She assured me they would all be typed up several hours before tomorrow’s rehearsal for my perusal.
When I finally got home, I went into the house and had a sandwich glad that no one was up. In my room, I sat in my soft chair after pouring a glass of the Spanish brandy, a gift from Marilee, knowing I couldn’t sleep. After a few a moments, I realized I was shaking and crying.
I woke up the next morning later than I should have and confused about the emotions I experienced last night. I remembered my reactions to my first reading of the play. I was amazed by the theatrical passions in it and wondered if it would be too much for a Dallas audience and thinking about if it would be too much of a challenge for me. At this point it didn’t make any difference if it was a bit much for Dallas because we were in process and it was a part of the season. I had already dived into the challenge and it was changing my entire approach to directing and commitment to a new way of thinking. Perhaps last night was just plain fear and excitement in a mix I had never experienced before.
I was at the bookstore by ten, which was late, but the owner was more interested in how the auditions went. I explained that it became a rehearsal with everyone called back a part of the show.
His reaction was, “Well, Tim, are those Russian books changing your style?”
“Yes, to some extent, but I think it’s more the play, and wonderfully enough, conversations with Marilee. I’m not sure if it’s a catharsis yet, but it’s sure something.
“ He laughed and said, “Maybe Daniel is experiencing something similar because his painting at the festival is certainly a new approach. I liked it very much. I’ve known Marilee for years but I didn’t know she was a muse.”
“Yes, she could be. She sure spurred me towards some new ways of thinking. I was beginning to feel some doubts about the way I had directed in the past and wanted to head in new directions with Blood Wedding. She hasn’t read the play, which I believe was good, so it wasn’t subject specific just kind of a way to get new ideas. It worked, and she has also given me some new books to read. There’s no doubt she’s a special lady. Daniel is one lucky man.” “You know I believe in your work, both at the theatre and here at the store. Tim, don’t downplay the influence of your family. They’re a special group of artists. Hey, I heard that Jeordie sold a piece of sculpture; that completes the circle. Maybe you should consider keeping a journal about your new ideas as the rehearsals progress.”
“I may have already started.” remembering Ginger’s notes last night and the page I wrote before I went to sleep.
A customer came in, which ended our talk and started my workday. It was busy all morning and slow in the afternoon, which gave me the time write at my desk. I started to write out a cast list that I thought became fairly obvious for the leads as the rehearsal had progressed, but the smaller roles were still in doubt. I decided not to rush that casting.
My stage manager, Ginger, and I met an hour and a half early at the theatre. I first went to see Barney in his office and let him know what was happening so far with the auditions.
He said, “Spain is in the news every day; why not shake up Dallas with something this new. It’s certainly not a political play. We haven’t really lost money on any show this season, so why not take a chance. Tim, you convinced me several months ago that it’s an important new play, and we still will be the first U.S. production for a community theatre. I don’t think a college show counts.
“Good, Barney, I didn’t have any doubts about your support. My ideas about the set and costumes may push the budget some. My designer will give me her shop estimates later this week. And I really do want to use live music during the show. Would it be possible to pay a guitarist a nominal fee for the run?”
“Perhaps, but only a small nominal. Any chance of getting a volunteer player?”
“Possibly, but the person recommended is very special and would have to sacrifice working on the weekends. You know I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was an important element”
“Okay, Tim, but go for low nominal. I don’t want to set any precedents that will upset the volunteer spirit here.”
“Of course, you know I agree with that. Oh! By the way, my whole family has volunteered to help. And I’ll be glad do to any fund raising if needed.
“The program will sound like Sart family promotion. But, that’s good.” At that point his phone rang, so I waved myself out of his office and read Ginger’s notes from last night as she posted the major’s cast list. Her notes were excellent, more than a good record, but a basis or back up for my journal. Ginger wasn’t surprised about my casting, thinking also it was a rather obvious choice. Her notes gave me confidence about my idea of shaping the piece through rehearsal. I knew it wasn’t a truly original idea, but inspired, perhaps, by the reading I had done in the past days, and especially the book Marilee had given me about art logic. In the past shows I directed I changed blocking several times when either actors or I had a better idea on movement and or interpretation. Perhaps starting like this from the beginning will create better collaboration between the cast, and me even though I’m sure it will be frustrating for them at times. I think working in my set up zones will help that if I can continue to have ideas or try things that will lead to good ideas.
The rehearsal went even better than the night before. I started out with a discussion about the characters and the beginnings of interpretation and a bit more on show concept, which I told them, would grow as the rehearsals progressed. Part of the concept was that I wanted to work in complete run-throughs of the play for the first couple of weeks so we could get a solid feeling of continuity; then go to act and scene work. This surprised the actors, but they seemed to be ready for almost anything.
The work through went well and a couple of the minor parts fell into place. I didn’t force the four and a half hour marathon of the night before and we ended in applause for the night.
I didn’t cry or shake when I got home, just a sandwich and a little brandy then falling asleep reading the play again.
The next morning at the bookstore the guitarist I had talked to, Eddie Flournoy, came to see me about the play. He was an American who had studied in Spain with the best gypsy flamenco troupes. He had even done some bullfighting. He left Spain when the civil war started, came back to Dallas, and was teaching at S.M.U. Being a great fan of Lorca’s work he was interested in being a part of the first production here. I liked him from the moment we met.
My concept of a constant underscoring of music excited him from my first description. He had heard of Blood Wedding, but had not scene it in Madrid. He said he would like to do the show, to my delight, and asked if he could be a part of rehearsals to get a feeling for the production and the way I worked. I immediately told him I was trying a new approach in my directing style so things will be different from the usual rehearsal process. His reaction to that was he had never done theatre before so he wouldn’t know the difference. We talked about an hour; luckily, no customers came in. I gave him a tentative rehearsal schedule and two scripts, both English and Spanish. His last words were for us not to even talk about money and he would arrange his schedule so he could be available for rehearsals and the production dates. We shook hands and he was gone. I immediately called Barney at the theatre and told him about there being no nominal fee for the guitarist. That added a pinch more to the budget. I called Ginger about this new layer added to the concept. I told her before that it was a long shot getting live music for the whole show so this was a real coup. She had been worried about finding enough recorded music that fit all of the situations so it was a relief for her also.
I had forgotten that Marilee wanted to know how the auditions went so she also got a call. She and Daniel were having a late breakfast or early lunch.
She laughed at my excitement, “Timmy, that’s great. Now I really want to sneak into your rehearsals…Oh! The friend I mentioned has arrived, so don’t forget about this weekend.”
“No problem there, Marilee. By the end of the week I’ll be so stirred up by Blood Wedding I’ll try not to be a ‘theatre babble’ bore.”
“I don’t think that’s possible, Timmy. I’ll tell Daniel about the guitarist. This weekend or ‘sooner’.”
That night I started the practice of notes before rehearsal in reaction to the night before. Eddie Flournoy joined us and I explained what he would be doing with the show.
He introduced himself individually to the cast, speaking Spanish to some saying that he would watch and listen primarily, but occasionally would play softly if I gave the okay.
The actors were now wearing rehearsal clothes; the women in long skirts, the men in boots and hats. There was a surprising amount of line work for such an early phase, which was a good omen for commitment. I told them not to get too set with line readings, but to keep trying new things all the time unless I put a momentary set on a scene. Putting a play up on its feet this soon was more confusing at first, but I started working with them pointing out zones and stepping back to see the stage picture. I had never been up on stage with the actors all the time before, usually I was out in the house giving directions and critique. There was nothing passive about this and I liked it, no directorial voice out from the darkness.
About three quarters through the first two acts, I did notice that two women were sitting close to the back of the house watching.
This wasn’t out of the ordinary because I didn’t usually have closed rehearsals until the last two weeks. Then I realized it was Marilee and I guessed her visitor she wanted me to meet. I waved signaling that we would be having a break soon.
We finished the second act and Ginger called the break. I walked back to greet Marilee and friend. In the half dark all I could tell about Claire Levant as we shook hands was that she had very pale skin, long almost curly reddish hair, spoke softly in an incredibly beautiful accent, was petite, and beautiful. I could tell nothing about her figure except that she wasn’t thin.
They had been there long enough to hear Eddie play during a scene we ran through for the third time. Marilee loved it. Claire nodded. I went back onstage to talk to Ginger almost ready to start again and work a bit before with Eddie and several actors.
I turned as the actors gathered; I saw our viewers were gone.
The rehearsals progressed slowly. I had never worked so hard. Each evening late and part of the afternoons I spent studying the play, Ginger’s notes, and writing my journal. The journal turned out to be much more valuable than I thought it would. I seemed to stimulate new ideas about possible blocking, scene transitions, and character interpretations. Some of the actors were more used to learning lines as they were blocked, so this more free way of working was a new challenge for them. It was a collaboration they hadn’t expected, but were finding that they were having more freedom to use their own imaginations, not just the director’s. For the ones who could not quite adapt all the way I gave them directions that were more specific. It was turning into a good balance. I felt as if I were a cast member sometimes, more than the director, because I spent almost all of my time with them on stage shaping and giving individual directions. Sometimes I would walk beside them guiding to new positions. Other times I would direct movement and interpretation speaking softly beside them as they moved saying not to stop but to act as if I was in their heads giving ideas. At moments where the lines needed more truth or character contact I stopped everything and had the actors face off and talk the lines to each other. Though all of this was disorienting at first, it looked and felt like it was working.
On Friday I met with the set and costume designer and approved of the floor plans, the set rendering, and costume sketches. They were better than I had hoped they would be. She had taken my concept and gone even further and better. She promised to spike the stage and finish the elevations over the weekend. I met with Ginger for an hour planning the evening’s work and headed into a rough run through with the cast. Eddy improvised and played through every scene except the marriage celebration. Most were holding scripts, but some were off book on the shorter scenes. It actually was beginning to look like a play, but I knew the hardest work was ahead. My notes and critique were fairly short and I told them we would work on the first half Monday and Tuesday, the second Thursday and Friday, and the choreographer would work on the wedding party Wednesday when we would also try to set the staging for it.
The old Hispanic character hugged me and said, “Gracias, El Audazito.”
It was a Spanish word I didn’t know, but I took it as a compliment. Ginger brought me a note from Marilee. She had called while Ginger had gone to the office. She asked me to come by for drinks if it’s not later than ten thirty or so. They’ll be sitting around the pool. It was ten fifteen.
I pulled up to their house at ten twenty five. I wished that I had had time to go home, shower, and change clothes; but I was in fairly good shape. I went through the unlocked front door and walked through the house to the back. Daniel, Marilee, and their guest, Claire, were sitting around a table almost in complete darkness. I greeted them and Marilee came to me with a prepared glass of the brandy.
“Ginger said you were almost finished so I knew, or hoped you would be here. I’ll light some candles.”
Daniel and I shook hands hugged and I turned to Claire Levant. Marilee had lighted about ten candles very quickly. As each one added one more light, Claire became more visible. She stood to greet me and I was speechless, and stammered a kind of “Hi…!”
She gave me a sideways European handshake and said, “Hallo, Ti-mo-thy.” She made my name three complete syllables in the most beautiful accent. All I could do was smile in a silly grin. I had never seen anyone like her. In the candlelight she seemed to glow. Her hair was a true auburn, long and curly. Her skin was also auburn or perhaps amber shaded and so light that I thought a touch would bruise her. Her face reminded me of my Dad’s favorite movie star, Louise Brooks, but more pixie like. Her smile was very shy. She was tiny except full figured, almost hidden by her flowing light dress. She was a true apparition like a cherubic fairy. We spent the evening discussing Blood Wedding and Claire’s trip to Dallas by train. Marilee brought out some great snacks, which I attacked with an embarrassing hunger. Claire laughed at my trying to eat and talk at the same time. Her laugh was almost as uninhibited as Marilee’s was. She seemed interested in my new approach to my directing style, and I told her of Marilee’s contribution to my new way of thinking.
Both of them had studied art history reading some of the same books. She knew the Art Logic book well and said it was an important influence on her writings at school. Claire loved Daniel’s paintings and wanted to see the new one at the museum. I quickly volunteered to take her. As midnight approached, I began to fade but wanted to talk with her all night. Daniel and Marilee watched us with an amused attitude of pulling back to listen to our talking and laughing. I gave in at twelve thirty saying I must leave. My boss at the bookstore had given me three weekends off, then for the last three weeks free during rehearsal.
I asked Claire if she would like to go to the museum Sunday. She literally clapped her hand saying she would. Marilee asked if we could make it a foursome. Claire shyly said that would be wonderful. Daniel even agreed quickly saying he would like to get out of the studio for a couple days. Marilee said to be here around noon for a light lunch. The evening would be free for a cook out, swimming and guests.
Before I left I asked Claire what “audazito” meant.
“It means little brave one. “ She said. “Why?”
“One of my cast members called me that” “Oh, my word!” and laughed softly.
That night I dreamed of her face and laughter. An innocent night of filmy visions. Somehow Claire became a part of my dreams of Blood Wedding, not as a character; just there, perhaps watching me. I woke up softly and slowly tried to reach back into my dreams for something to hang on to, but I couldn’t. I had never had a morning experience like that. I ate quickly in the house, but had time to tell my parents about the week so far of rehearsals and the evening at Daniel and Marilee’s. They were surprised about my different sort of enthusiasm in the play. They both said they had never seen me this excited and committed. I said that I was also scared hoping it wasn’t more of a challenge than I had bargained for.
They both laughed, and Dad said, “Well, now you’re into it. Every project that’s worthwhile is frightening. I almost didn’t send my new chair to the contest in New York last month. Don’t stop having doubts about your play. Maybe your talent for directing has made all of your other productions too easy.”
Thinking back, I didn’t think any of them were easy, but they were nothing like this production. I had done all of them like the directing texts said to, and now I was stepping into a whole new realm of process with no real complete precedents, just tid-bits of ideas and examples, almost all in the abstract. Mom hugged me and went into her studio room. Dad headed off to his Deep Ellum shop.
Two more days of rehearsal before the week end.
My curiosity about Claire was an exciting portent.
My thoughts turned to one of the real challenges of the production.
All of the actors knew I wanted them to sing or chant several parts of the play where the writing was in expansive poetry, lullabies, and descriptive lyrical passages. One of the hardest I thought would be the awakening of the bride. It includes individual actors and small choruses, some of them off stage. Most of the actors said it wouldn’t be a problem and Eddy said he could help with it. He is proving to be a very valuable collaborator. He has no desire to interpret the text, just be a part of the musically artistic process. I told him not to hesitate if he had ideas about interpretation. He watches and listens carefully, and especially to my notes. He says he trusts my concept and knows it will develop and change as rehearsal progresses.
The next two days went very well. More members of the cast were off book for the first act and some into the second though we were just beginning with the shaping of it.
Friday’s rehearsal went on to almost midnight, and all left very excited about the weekend off and what we had achieved in a week of new approaches to the rehearsal process.
I slept late on Saturday morning. After coffee and a quick breakfast with the family, I spent a full hour on my journal, and at the same time began to write out Monday’s opening notes and critique. I worked all afternoon and early evening.
Sunday morning I woke up rested and tried to dress as sharp as I could without over doing it. It had never seemed that important before, but there was no doubt why. I had no visions of anything special happening with Claire, but I had never met anyone like her. Her sophistication and worldliness was intimidating, but that didn‘t seem to come from her, just me.
I drove up to their door and went in for the light lunch Marilee had prepared. Daniel, already sitting at the table, waved gesturing for me to join him.
Marilee came in with a pitcher of ice tea saying, “Welcome, Timmy, have a seat, Claire’s on her way down.”
“I am here”, Claire said as she entered the dining room. She took both of my hands and again said, “Hallo, Ti-mo-thee!”
I laughed, charmed by her greeting, and said, “Hi, Miss Claire.” She was so beautiful in the daylight I was shocked. I realized I was staring at her unable to say anything more. She smiled and turned to sit.
The sandwiches were excellent, a selection of Salmon and Lamb, plus a sweet Greek salad.
After we finished eating Marilee pulled the new Packard around front and put the top down. Claire and I jumped into the back seat, Daniel got behind the wheel as Marilee moved over beside him, and we were off.
On the way, Daniel drove up Swiss Avenue to show Claire the beautiful houses. Marilee told Claire this was just one of the parts of Dallas with magnificent homes, Lakewood was just as nice as was Kessler Park in Oak Cliff across the river.
“I pictured Dallas having just one enclave of big homes, like where you live, Marilee. This is certainly more than I expected. I hope I have enough time to see everything. Perhaps I was too much influenced by visions of the wild west.”
Daniel laughed saying, “The wild west really begins at the next town to the west, Fort Worth.”
Daniel circled around back to Haskell Avenue and on to Fair Park.
I told Claire a little the history of the fair grounds. I described the big Centennial Exposition two years ago and how Mother and Daniel had helped paint the murals, Dad designed the furniture for the Art Museum and the Hall of state, and about the show I did in a tent behind the Hall Of State. Daniel drove around Fair Park to show Claire what it looked like. She liked the Hall of State best, especially the Indian statue. She asked if there were any Indians around Dallas.
“I don’t know of any, but Marilee says there are a lot in Oklahoma.” “My company has offices in Tulsa and Bartlesville, both are close to reservations. It would be fun to drive up there some time, or even take the