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The Folger Spotlight

Peakes, Ian Merrill 2010Actor Ian Merrill Peakes (“The Player”) continues sharing his thoughts on the Folger Theatre production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead opening tonight! 

Learn more about Ian at the Folger and read his previous posts

So tech. Tech. Such a wonderful adventure. You spend three or four weeks trying to figure out a show and then you put it on stage. And add lights and costumes and sound…oh my! Some of you may remember that we had the luxury of being on stage right away.

But let’s put that aside, as it is almost as rare as seeing a unicorn in the forest. Or on Pennsylvania Avenue. The magic, slow magic as it is, of a show fleshing out during tech is astounding and thrilling. Seeing the final touches on the set, costumes, sound and lighting layered on top of one another is intoxicating. For me, anyway. I have spent my life in the theater and it is the most exciting time. I get giddy for tech.

The fruits of tech. Photo by Teresa Wood.

The fruits of tech. Photo by Teresa Wood.

This particular tech has been no exception. I wasn’t ready for the beauty and starkness that is our world. This play is incredibly human, but exists in an abstract place. Or rather in abstract places. Or rather a specific place. Or wait, maybe they are specific places. Ouch. My brain just leaked.

My rambling point is that there are numerous ways to achieve success in creating the world of this play. And the attack we have had from the team of designers we have has been collaborative and mesmerizing. That team includes Thom Weaver on lights, Eric Shimelonis on sound, Paige Hathaway on sets, Helen Q. Huang on costumes and Lauren Chilton on props. Feeling supported by technical aspects is always the hope. To be lifted and caressed by them is the dream. And we are, as I write, living that dream.

It is a scary and wonderful thing to have your first crowd. It is when we learn what parts of our story are clear and what parts need to be more clearly defined. After all, we do this crazy thing to show people. We tell stories. Naturally, we want that story to be clear so it can be as strong as it can possibly be.

Last week we dove into previews and tonight we open. Having a week of previews is a luxury. During preview week we continue rehearsals during the day to hone and fine tune our story. Our director Aaron Posner is at his best at this time of the work. Often, during a preview performance, he will watch the audience as much as the show to see how it is landing on them.

R&G Director Aaron Posner. Photo by Teresa Wood.

R&G Director Aaron Posner. Photo by Teresa Wood.

There are artists out there who aren’t concerned with what the audience thinks. They do their thing and let the chips fall where they may. And I have a certain respect for that. But we are not working in a bubble or a vacuum.

Aaron, and I as well, have all the interest in what our audience gets from our show. And our audiences last week helped us understand where we were succeeding and where we were failing. No need to pander. No need to water it down. Just a need for clarity and good, challenging story telling. Yep. Just that. Wish us luck tonight! Cheers.