Back to rehearsing. Core business. It makes me feel alive in a way nothing else does: to find the emotion, the thought, the gesture, the shape of a story, to go behind the mask, to be the other and therefore more oneself, the interaction past daily chat and routine, to tell the truth or at least endeavour to do so. And it is innocent, for it leaves no mark on the planet.
It takes me back to directing my first play at university and thinking, I can do this. For some reason I know how to do this.
And all those places where I’ve rehearsed, often odd places, for rehearsal space can be an expensive issue so it’s a matter of seeking spaces that are under-used. For years, it was the Kelburn Scout Hall, nicely situated in the Wellington Botanical Gardens near the top of the Cable Car. It was only used one evening a week and otherwise free. A couple of memorable incidents. Once, during the voice exercises there was a knock on the door and a Japanese man bowed and gestured that he wished to enter. He did so, sat and watched for a while then got up and performed his own voice exercises (he was probably a Kabuki actor). Afterward, he bowed and left. On another occasion, policemen with a dog burst in the door, it having been reported that someone was in distress.
The Scout Hall became unavailable so we moved to the derelict NZ Players Building in Newtown with its multitude of memories for NZ theatre. Then it was bought for apartment development and for a period we had a space in a short-lived artist’s co-op which rented an old woolstore with lovely lanolin floors from the sheep wool. Then we started slumming it, using the abandoned Mataraunga School in Aro Street, an old factory in Dixon Street, before finally acquiring a studio, the gracious ballroom of the old Working Men’s Club in Petone. Each place had its stories and its ghosts. Each place was marginal. One rehearses on the margins.
In England we found a Girl Guides Hut in Haslemere, Surrey. Once again the police turned up, this time a Bobby on his bicycle. And then there was the time Karlite Rangihau took us to Ruatahuna to rehearse – a life changing experience. Twice I’ve had the privilege of working on a play at Tapu Te Ranga. Now, in Mawhera, we have the luxury of a big school room without desks. It has a heat pump for winter, is generally available for evenings and weekends and is on a koha basis – there is less pressure on space in the regions. Last night there were a couple of young people there, learning to improvise, slightly startled by their seasoned elders still capable of erupting into emotion. We seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and the process.
As I said, Core Business.