By JOHN LITHGOW JULY 7, 2014 9:38 AM | ArtsBeat/The New York Times
John Lithgow, a Tony-winning actor and writer, will be regularly blogging on ArtsBeat as he rehearses “King Lear” for Shakespeare in the Park.
Rehearsing, it turns out, is only part of the process. Lunch is big too.
“King Lear” is full of high-pitched, raw emotion. From day one, I’ve been tracking Lear’s journey into madness. It’s a journey fueled by humiliation, anger, regret and sorrow. His interaction with every character he confronts – notably Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, Kent, Oswald, the Fool, Gloucester, Edgar, Cornwall, and Albany — is scaldingly intense. I’ve found it impossible to rehearse the role dispassionately. Try as I may to restrain myself, the emotions simply run away with me.
But just think! I’m acting out all of these stage relationships with a company made up almost entirely of actors that I met for the first time on our first day of rehearsal. Within hours I was raging at, pleading with, and sobbing over people I barely knew. True, we actors are accustomed to this, and the bonds that connect us begin to form the moment we meet. But how much richer this experience would be, I thought, and how much better the work if we all got to know each other a little better.
This is where lunch comes in. At 2 p.m. each work day we have a one-hour break. This week I decided to propose a lunch date, on successive days, with each actor I have a particularly strong relationship with in the play. I didn’t regard this midday social calendar as coldly calculated or programmatic. These are all wonderful people and I really did want to get to know them. But I sensed that the lunches would pay dividends, putting us on the same wavelength and building our mutual onstage trust.
On Wednesday, my lunch companion was Jessica Collins, my daughter in the play, our delicate and tough Cordelia; Thursday was Steven Boyer, our boyish, bantam Fool with whom I share Central Ohio roots; Friday was Chris Innvar, who is giving fascinating dimension to Albany, so often a pallid and thankless role; and Saturday was Annette Bening, our Goneril. Annette and I were friends before our lunch but much closer friends afterwards. We bemoaned the fact that we were actors and not novelists, since both of us could fill books with the stories we traded in the course of a single hour.
Four lovely lunches, and I’m not done yet.
To my delight, this little scheme of mine has already produced results. I’ve discovered that, just like me, all of these splendid actors connect with “King Lear” in ways that are deeply personal to them. We all sense that this may be our most heartfelt and fulfilling experience with a Shakespeare play. And is it just my imagination, or have our scenes together begun to take on a depth they didn’t have before? Who knows? But there is no question that we grow more relaxed and courageous by the day, and that the play grows stronger and stronger.
And best of all, I’ve discovered some terrific places to eat within blocks of the Public Theater.
Reference: ArtsBeat/The New York Times By JOHN LITHGOW JULY 7, 2014 9:38 AM