Hi there. My name is Ian Merrill Peakes and I’m playing “The Player” in this, the Folger’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. My job, over the next several weeks, is to give you a bit of an insider understanding of what we do, as actors, in our lives.
I want to start with the beginning. Not original, perhaps, but it’s how this business will work. The day to day, perhaps mundane, but, hopefully, mildly enlightening aspects of what we do. To be clear, our lives are those of gypsies, to a certain degree.
We go where the work happens to be at that moment. Some choose based on location, or economics, or because it is a job that they long to do. Every troop that comes together is like, forgive this old analogy, a snowflake. No two are the same. Which, by the way, is a major reason for my chosen profession: every day is different.
We come together with some prior knowledge of some of the cast, and none of others. On day one we meet, we see what the world is that we will play in (i.e., costumes, set, etc.), and we read the play. Reading the play on the first day with your new “family” is daunting, to say the least. You want to feel an acceptable part of the whole. You don’t want to let these people down. And you want to know fun is going to be part of the equation.
Suspense be damned: this is a great group. The reading was what the reading was, a necessary evil (much like a designer run-thru, which we will approach anon), but it was got through with energy, and support and love. Three of the most important things any company can have. We laughed and were wildly encouraged by what all were bringing to the table.
I have to be honest here. A lot of that comes down to casting. And Aaron Posner, our fearless director, has done a fine job with this one. He has put together a group, top to bottom, that is interested in telling the story, and finding as much in that journey as can be found. We are one week in, and I have heard from many folks that it has been as silly and fun a rehearsal process to date as can be remembered. Fun and silly equals passion at the end of the day.
Example: We were reading through a scene last week. One of the lines was “It’s like living in a public park.” The line was delivered, wonderfully on accident, as “I like living in a public park.” Which, as you may recognize, is a ridiculous and hilarious rendering of the line. Delivered with full gusto and commitment. There was a beat, and then hilarity ensued. But, to be clear, the joke was for everyone in the room, including the person who messed up. A silly mistake that this particular “snowflake” could laugh at and celebrate.
I can’t tell you how often that kind of mistake would have been something to fill us all with fear. This actor does not know this play, kind of fear. Rest assured, it was one of the greatest moments in a rehearsal situation I can remember.
Things to be said about that: Posner creates a room full of play and silliness and hard work, all at the same time. The Folger, which I consider a creative home, encourages that type of room. This cast of fools and buffoons honors mistakes as much as they do triumphs.
Two weeks almost done. I celebrate this family that I have become a part of. I rejoice in the upcoming journey. We are going to laugh and share and work and produce. This gypsy life works for me. Til next time, Ian