Walking into T201, someone may think they have entered a workout studio rather than a rehearsal space for “The Shape of Things.”
Actors Alex Garretson, a junior theatre arts and wildlife science double major, and Nate Jackson, a senior theatre arts and HNFE double major, hop, twirl, sashay and jump in circles on the hardwood floor as they spit lines from a script to one another.
For now, they ignore the brown Spike Tape that outlines how the stage will eventually be set up. All they care about is getting their lines right. As they slide and spin, they snap in and out of character.
“Moving your body stimulates your brain,” said Deborah Gur, a junior theatre arts major and assistant stage manager, from behind her laptop screen.
On Feb. 19, the cast will perform the lines they now rehearse. They have been working hard on “The Shape of Things,” directed by Susanna Rinehart and written by Neil LaBute, since November.
The cast could only fit in a handful of rehearsals before it packed up for winter break, but it took what time it had to become acquainted with its characters and the show.
With Rinehart, they analyzed the subtext of the script the way a student may analyze an allegory. Unlocking these subtexts enables them to represent their characters’ complexities as intended by the writer. Their own personal experiences and emotions, however, play a big role in their portrayal of each character.
“The writer kind of gives you the framework and all the specifics of your character, and then you fill in the rest,” Garretson said.
Getting a handle on the emotions of the characters helps with the next step in preparation: memorizing lines. During the initial stages of blocking, Garretson uses emotional context to help him conjure his next line.
“I remember like an emotional impulse, and then the words come back, as opposed to if I’m just remembering dialogue and straight words,” Garretson said.
However, the best method for memorization is repetition. The actors will spend hours repeating lines to anyone who will listen — whether to a close group of friends or to a mirror.
This has added an interesting dynamic to Kelsey Secules’ relationship with her roommates. Secules, a junior theatre arts major, can usually tell if her roommates are home by whether or not their keys are on the apartment’s key rack.
“There’s been a few times when my roommates forgot to put their keys up, and I think no one is home so I start doing an insane monologue in the middle of the kitchen,” Secules said. “But it’s fine. They understand.”
While the actors must repeat their lines incessantly in order to say them correctly on stage, they must also keep their reactions fresh. They must speak and act as if they are hearing each statement and witnessing each event in the play for the very first time.
In order to make each scene feel realistic, Rinehart instructs the actors to minimize the “dramatic pause.” This refers to the moment after something has happened when the actors on stage feel the urge to stop and think about what their character would do, rather than reacting immediately.
“Actors tend to like to take pauses — I know I do,” Garretson said. “In real life, there are not that many pauses in dialogue. Susanna is really trying to get us to push through the pauses and make choices based on impulse rather than thinking about them too much.”