After several sessions of tablework reads, last night we actors were on our feet. Play time! Director Laura Roald had arranged some furniture in Alumnae Theatre’s second floor rehearsal space (there was a rental company performing Ramona Baillie’s play “A Little Happiness” on the Main Stage) to give us a fair idea of the set. Here a sofa, there a desk, there a doorway, there a bed. Plus stacked trunks and piles of imaginary books and liquor bottles – it’s supposed to be Jean Rhys’ cluttered bed-sit in Devon in 1957, where she’s working on her novel “Wide Sargasso Sea”. At least, that’s the “present”. The action of the play slips back and forward in time, according to Jean’s memories. Because of the fluid nature of Polly Teale’s script, where scenes flow into one another and characters pop in and out for such brief glimpses, we will be rehearsing in sequence, which is not often the case in theatre (or film, for that matter).
So last night we blocked the first 12 pages, and Laura was very pleased with the strong opening. Susan Q Wilson as Jean and Jessica Rose as Ella (young Jean) have some lovely moments. When Jean recalls her young self being beaten by her mother (Julie Burris), she says wonderingly, “I’m trying to remember… who I was when they still called me Ella.”
At that point, as Bertha (the mad Mrs. Rochester), I am lying curled up in front of the sofa. Bertha stirs and grunts in sleep when Jean’s estranged daughter (Laura Jabalee) knocks on the door, and Jean tries desperately to shush Bertha when she mumbles something that the daughter hears.
Assistant Director Taryn Jorgenson stood in for absent actor Keriece Harris, playing Ella’s childhood friend Tite as well as the family servant Meta. Ella and Tite will have a fun time scampering around the stage (which becomes the Dominican* rain forest), as well as a brief tussle.
Next rehearsal is on Saturday – Laura (the director – I’ll have to start referring to actor Laura Jabalee as Laura J from now on) promises “movement”!
*the Caribbean island of Dominica – pronounced “dom-i-nee-ca” – where Jean spent her childhood.