In the rehearsal room of Indian Ink: first run-through
In the second installment of weekly updates from the Indian Ink rehearsal room, Director Carey Perloff describes the first run-through in the rehearsal room and finding the "rasa" of the play.
On Sunday we did our first run-through in the studio, always a rather terrifying but also exhilarating day. We're in a relatively a small rehearsal room, so when we were all gathered to watch, we were a mob all on top of each other in little folding chairs. But it was worth it. Tom Stoppard's plays are often like jigsaw puzzles: if you find an interesting piece in one scene, it usually ends up fitting somewhere surprising later in the play. So it's important for the actors to hear where those clues are planted, so that they can begin to lift them-Tom calls this "looking after" the plot, meaning that if an actor makes sure to highlight something early in the play, it will immeasurably help the poor actor who has to tie up the thread much later on. Indian Ink is a play about lost paintings and the mysteries of unraveling who painted what about whom-so tracking how the paintings get made and what happens to them afterwards in their journey through history is part of the pleasure of the play.
Our "painter", Nirad Das, is actor Firdous Bamji, who prepared for this role by actually studying painting for six months before rehearsals. It's a bit frustrating for him that he gets to actually paint so little in the play, but he's making sure what he does do feels absolutely real. There are moments in the play where a painting is miraculously revealed, and a moment where a wet canvas is desperately fought over by two competing individuals. We've been pouring over books of Indian miniatures and images of pre-Raphaelite paintings to find the right images, and experimenting with how to visualize those images on stage. There is a moment in the second act in which the entire stage becomes the watercolor that is being viewed, so that (hopefully) the audience will have the same sense of discovery that the characters in the play have. So the first run through, as messy and chaotic as it was, was a chance to see that bigger picture in every sense of the word, to explore the larger arc of the play, to connect the dots and to see whether amidst the beautiful details of the play, we were telling the bigger stories of love and loss, of colonial collision and cultural confusion and discovery.
By Friday, it will be time to leave the cocoon of our rehearsal room and venture onto Neil Patel's cobalt blue set, where our lighting designer Robert Weirzel and sound designer Dan Moses Schreier will help us find the "rasa" of the play (its "juice") through lights and sound. Tom is re-joining our rehearsals on Friday, and I look forward to his notes; he has an extremely acute eye and a wonderful way of articulating the heartbeat of a scene, particularly when it comes to explaining puns and sex jokes. And he adores the tech process, watching all the different disciplines come together around a text. Onwards we go.