Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Alessandro Costantini

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Alessandro Costantini is training in directing with Caleb Marshall at Sudbury Theatre Centre

(April 20, 2016) There was a very exciting feeling in the room on day 1. The company gathered, each of us introduced ourselves, and AD Caleb Marshall had everyone in the room share a memory or story about moment with their best friend. It set the stage for the exploration we were about to undertake. For Life tells the story of two young women navigating their way through their lives as friends and the forces that may test that relationship.

The traditional process of rehearsing a musical took place. Starting with learning music. It was quite wonderful to see the composer hearing his music sung by actors for the first time. The score is beautiful. Michael Doherty, who composed the music, explained to me his process. It took him about a year to write. He writes mostly in busy places, not at home. Many of the really strong melodies came to him while traveling. Strong motifs and character themes are a starting point for him. He tries to find the characters sound before launching into writing their pieces. Where does that character sit musically? Learning the music took two rehearsal days. Seeing a composer rehearse a score for the first time has given me a new respect for the specificity in vocal detail. Things that I would have thought to not be totally important to story, like certain vocal cut offs or holds, which character is on which harmony etc… are actually little clues to important information. It is a gold mine for knowledge about the piece.
In rehearsal for For Life: Michael Doherty (Composer)
Naomi Costain, Daniel Abrahamson, Chelsey Duplak

On the third day in the hall we began staging the piece. Chipping away slowly. Just getting a rough shape of each scene. Caleb has a very physical approach to directing. His training in the Russian theatre had led him to develop that need for physicality. In observing the process I’ve found that it is a very successful way in staging and developing a piece. He focuses on ensuring that the actors movement is motivated by text and state of being.

He and I have been finding time on breaks to discuss the process. On questioning him about this directing style he stated that through the years he has tried to remove the terms “good or bad choices”. There are only clear, or less clear choices, and that it is the job of the director to constantly look for the ways that story, character and circumstances can be clarified. He creates a environment for the actors to explore and encourages them to follow impulses before offering choices of his own.

I’ve also been witnessing all the work happening outside the rehearsal hall. Caleb is also the Artistic Director of the company and this comes with a long list of responsibilities outside of the rehearsal hall. In the first week of rehearsals the STC launched its 45th anniversary season. It was a fairly stressful week for all. A pile of responsibilities, meetings with sponsors, production team while finding focus and clarity in the rehearsal hall. It has been very useful for me to observe how he juggles these responsibilities.

We are currently finishing the first pass of the show and will be heading into our second, more detailed pass through by end of day. Then heading into tech on the weekend. There has been production meeting periodically through the rehearsal process. The tech team at STC is very good at their jobs. The set and technical requirements for this piece are quite extravagant and it’s been wonderful to examine how they troubleshoot situations and delegate the work. Delegation is something I need to work on. To have a template or example moving forward will be very helpful to me. 

In the next chapter of the mentorship Caleb and I will be having more detailed conversations about his physical approach, casting, artistic directorship and artistic programming.

Related Reading

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 3, 2016.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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