I took an early-morning walk along Stockbridge’s Main St. this morning, in search of a New York Times and a light breakfast. And what should I come across but the former site of Alice’s Restaurant! A Boomer landmark! It’s now a Mediterranean-style eatery called Theresa’s Stockbridge Café, but it bears signage proclaiming its former status. There isn’t a character in All Our Yesterdayswho wouldn’t be familiar with Arlo Guthrie’s song about a certain Thanksgiving celebrated there. And the damned thing has been running through my head all day.
Rehearsal today was preceded by a group interview of Keira, Jim, and me intended for inclusion in a brochure to be sent to benefactors and season subscribers of the Berkshire Theater Festival. I’ve read quite a few similar interviews in my life, in which collaborators share a few anodyne anecdotes and praise each other’s contributions. I always wondered what they feel like to the participants. Now I know. We sat around and told some anodyne anecdotes and praised each other’s contributions. I can attest to my own sincerity, and as for the others…well, one can only hope.
The rehearsal itself was splendid. Or rather, it led to a splendid conclusion. We focused on the fourth scene, which is far and away the longest and most harrowing of the five. The linchpin of the whole piece in some ways. The first time around, Jim flailed a little, and frequently had to ask for cues. We then discussed the scene not so much in terms of specific lines — although there was some of that too — but in terms of its overarching theme. And as we discussed it, I recognized for the first time what it’s really about. Several years after writing it! I suppose I ought to be embarrassed about that, but it didn’t feel embarrassing, it felt like an exciting outcome of the rehearsal process. Jim is much more comfortable with memorization when he can follow a logical structure rather than the words alone. And the architecture of his performance improves radically as well; because it is always heading somewhere, because every sentence and every paragraph and every extended beat has a goal in view, its rises and falls make long-term sense, are not merely local events. So we discussed the undergirding of this scene at some length, and Keira re-choreographed some of its mis-en-scene, and Jim’s second time through was first-rate, opening-night-worthy I’d say. Although I’m sure Keira wants even more energy. She’s a dynamo herself, and wants a mega-dynamic performance from her old man.