Every wanted to be a fly on the wall in a Richard Foreman rehearsal? Well thanks to Time Out's Helen Shaw, you are there!
Go read her moment to moment diary of her two hours watching Foreman and Willem DaFoe work on the upcoming Idiot Savant at the Public Theater.
Amidst all the funny incidentals, take note of the basic fact that Foreman rehearses his actors in costume, and on the set.
Foreman does not see a big difference between “rehearsal” and “tech rehearsal”—from Day One, he has had full costume, sets, lights and the sounds of buzzes and crashes cuing servant-actors to bustle in with weird pictures of fruit. This has the odd effect of making things seem far more finished than they are. While I watched, nearly every line came in for a tweak (whenever there’s a moment, the stage manager calls a “Stop and Write” so everyone can mark scripts).A great example of someone breaking those "rules" that don't have to be rules.
We're led to believe rehearsals must be conducted in street clothes for 3-4 weeks and then just a few days in "tech" and in the space--which are the actual performance conditions. It's strictly budget planning that has brought this to be. Yet when you stand back, it sure does seem to privilege spoken dialogue and blocking over all other production elements, as if they're not as essential--or at least nothing that can't be thrown together in a few days before first preview.
A true gesamtkunskwerk-auteur like Foreman could have it no other way. Which is why he is rarely engaged by theatres other than his own little Ontological Hysteric in the East Village where he can build his own sets and have total control from day one. But most directors--no matter how visual and integrated their vision--have to follow the standard playbook of design meetings months in advance, followed by rehearsal with actors separate from design elements, and then throw it all together at the end.
Some directors complain of having to make crucial design decisions before they've had a chance to organically develop the performance in rehearsal. But how ironic that the design process is forced upon the creative team too early, but they still don't get to work with it until the last minute.
No wonder so many productions seem so inharmonious.
More goodies on Idiot Savant, by the way, on the Public's own You Tube channel. (How about that!)