Journey through the Creation of Adapt! - Time and Space
An Actress's Notebook by Krista Apple
Blanka Zizka in rehearsal.
I have no idea what Blanka does when she goes home from rehearsal. But I’m pretty sure she doesn’t sleep. Every day she walks in with new ideas, with new solutions to old problems, with new questions it hadn’t even occurred to us to start asking yet.
Yesterday, she even arrived with new script pages. Lots of them. (Thankfully, none of them mine.) And I’m pretty sure Matt Saunders’ set inspired the changes. Here’s why:
Adapt! set model. Set design by Matt Saunders.
We’ve been looking at Matt’s set model for over a month. Set models are incredible: they’re these delicate works of art, and they come complete with tiny versions of your character, so you and the director can move tiny people and furniture around a tiny space. (Yup. Kinda like a doll house for grownups.)
But this week we moved onstage and actually walked onto the set for the first time. The set is truly another character in the play. There’s a massive door, a chariot, a bathtub. There’s also a huge wall covered in barbed wire, which is there to suggest all the things you might think A Wall might suggest in 2017 America. (This is, after all, a play about an immigrant.)
The cast of Adapt! go over the script.
We actors are all upside down now that we’re in a new space: out of the comfort of the rehearsal hall, and reminded that the audience is coming, the audience is coming! Like our main character Lenka, we’ve been displaced. We feel a bit like fish out of water. All the words sound the same as we speak them, but somehow the event is still completely different. The listening happens differently, as our composer Mariana might say.
But Blanka is right at home. The stage inspires her. She thinks in terms of space and time. For her, the medium is the message; form is content. She traffics not just in character and plot but in tempo, energy, rhythm. And so, she’s finally starting to see and hear the play. She can hear the pace it wants to live at. The scenes that we’ve been luxuriating and feeling our way through she’s now challenging us to drive forward with momentum. “Don’t think about it,” she’ll remind us. “And don’t impose an idea on top of the language. Let the language happen to you.”
She can also hear where the play is asking for changes. Hence, new script pages.
Now that we’re onstage, we’re also aware of the other characters we haven’t met yet: the costumes, lights, sound, and video projections. And until they arrive, we won’t be privy to what Blanka has been fully envisioning since Day One. Like Lenka, Blanka’s been straddling two different worlds. She’s been in the land of character and dialogue with us; she’s also been in countless production meetings with the designers. So she knows how spectacle is going to radically inform the story we’re telling. We finally get to understand all of that next week when we move into tech, right along with her.