Rehearsals: Look, we are breathing

Posted on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 10:31 PM

By Mark Ulrich, Assistant Director

An open mind. A positive outlook. A thorough knowledge of your character's backstory. A willingness to learn new ideas and change preconceived notions and opinions. An ability to try anything and everything. And a willingness to fail. Yes, indeed. These are all essential things for the actor to bring with them to the rehearsal room.

But I'm here to tell you, there is something far more important for an artist to equip themselves with each and every day. Snacks. Good snacks. Snacks to eat alone.

And snacks to share. Snacks are a time-tested and indispensable tool in any serious artist's arsenal, and God help you if you pack them and then forget them on your kitchen counter when you leave your house. Don't. Don’t. Don't show up to rehearsal without snacks.

We agreed, as an ensemble at Rivendell, to produce Laura Jacqmin's, Look, we are breathing after reading it as a group a long time ago. Almost two years ago, was it? I can't remember. But I do remember that we loved it. It was great. It was already great, Laura. But damn. This playwright just keeps bringing it with the rewrites. It's amazing to watch it transform. To watch Laura go at it fearlessly with a machete and duct tape and many different colored pages.

Flax seed crackers and wheels of brie. Crescents of melon. Fresh berries and clusters of grapes. Sliced meats. Jumbo shrimp on ice. Smoked trout, and sturgeon roe. Braised duck. Spicy garlic beef. These are all perfectly reasonable rehearsal room snacks, and all of them should be encouraged.

And you know, there's this little theatre across town. They call themselves The Steppenwolf. Megan Shuchman, our illustrious and brilliant director on this project, is kind enough to lend them her talents in the hours in which she's not guiding us toward the finish line. Well, I hope they appreciate her over there. Because I think she might be bionic. Obviously, she has to be on mega-doses of folic acid, vitamin B-12, gingko biloba, omega 3 fatty acids, and acetyl-L-carnitine. How else to explain her tireless aspect and razor sharp mental acuity? I dunno. She's incredible.

And the cast of Look, we are breathing? (Or, as I like to call it, Look, we are on a five minute break, where are the snacks?) Well. OK. Most of the cast are all on this damned Paleo diet, which really and truly creates some complications at the snack table. I mean, bagels? If the cavemen didn't eat and couldn't digest a delicious fresh bagel and schmear, let us keep in mind—he lived in a damn cave. Is that how and where you want to live? And if in fact he invented the wheel, how could he then sneer so readily at such a lovely wheel-shaped baked good?

Anyhow, the cast of Look, we are breathing is brilliant. Lily Mojekwu. Need I say more? I needn't, but I will. The woman is tearing it up. She's playing a teacher who makes you wish you had been at that school for a variety of reasons. Tara Mallen. Where does she get her energy? What drug is she on? Raising a family (and yes, her husband Keith is being raised), putting together the Rivendell Salons, running nearly every aspect of the theatre, and rehearsing this show? It's superhuman. And then there's the fabulously talented twenty-something youngsters who are doing gorgeous work. Let me introduce you, if you haven't already met them.

Brendan Meyer plays Mike, our troubled young man in the show. This play is brand new. A world premiere. It's never been done. And yet, I swear he has done it before. Somehow he knows the cuts and rewrites as soon as we get them. I've never seen him with a page of the script in his hand. Ever. It's freakish.

And Brenann Stacker plays the quirky Caylee. Brenann asked me the other day, during a break at the snack table, "So, why are you here?" I said, "Me? I'm a Rivendell Ensemble member." She replied, "Yeah, why?" And I said, "Uh, well, even though it's a women's theatre company, they don't exclude men." Brenann answered, "No, I don't mean, 'Why a man,' I mean, what are you doing here? Aside from eating snacks, what do you actually do?"

Look, we are breathing.

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