Sunday, December 30, 2012

Coming Together!

Solvay Conference, Belgium, 1933
(Bohr seated center-left, Heisenberg standing second from left)

We've been working crazy hard this weekend on Copenhagen.  Thursday night, Friday (morning and afternoon), Saturday afternoon and Sunday (morning and afternoon).  It's really come together over this intensive weekend of working, running again, and working.  We're getting comfortable with the real language of our characters.  We're listening.  We're collaborating.  We're living in the space.  It's starting to happen and I couldn't be more thrilled.

We're moving into Common Ground on the first day of the New Year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "Heisenberg"

Here it is, the new do that will soon be sweeping the nation, the "Heisenberg."

For comparison:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crunch Time

This week is our last full week of rehearsals for Copenhagen.  We will get a few rehearsals in between Christmas and New Year's Day, and 3 days of Tech/Dress (yes, including New Year's Day) but this week is the last full week we'll have to prepare our play.

Friday, December 14, 2012


We did it!  You did it!

Copenhagen reached it's funding goal on Kickstarter!  We raised almost $800 for the show.  That will cover our royalties and printing costs for the programs and posters!  Wow.  HUGE thank you to everyone who participated.

We will be posting our thank you list of donors who pledged above and beyond the ticket price here on the website and in our program as soon as we confirm how people wish to be credited.  If you will be getting a ticket with your pledge you should receive a confirmation email from us asking you which performance you plan to attend.

Thank you again from everyone working on Copenhagen!  There's a word for theatre without an audience.  It's called "rehearsal."  It's only called "a play" when you participate too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Visit with Dr. Merzbacher

John and I had a visit with Dr. Eugen Merzbacher and his wife Ann Merzbacher today.  To say Dr. Merzbacher is the man who wrote the book on Quantum Mechanics isn't hyperbole.

Eugen and Ann were very generous with their time.  Eugen shared many documents concerning the play.  He has a file on the play and participated with the colloquium which coincided with the New York premier   He and Ann also shared their personal experiences from their trip to Copenhagen and Bohr's Institute for Theoretical Physics during Eugen's first sabbatical in 1951.  It was a real treat to meet and speak with someone who knew and worked with Neils Bohr and Margrethe Bohr.

When performing a historical drama such as Copenhagen, it is important to be mindful that one is playing a character in a play.  The goal is not necessarily to look or act like the historical person.  It is, rather, to present an interpretation of the dramatic character which is informed by the historical facts of the character's life.  That said, the more you learn about your subjects, the more richness and intelligence you can bring to a performance.  Often even the smallest word or story might give you an interesting idea.  It was really exciting to get to talk to Dr. Merzbacher and Ann Merzbacher.  Our deepest gratitude to them for their help, insight, stories and hospitality. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Valley of Confusion

Anyone who has taken the BAR/BRI course for the bar exam has probably heard this.  One of the lecturers (I think it's the Criminal Law guy but I forget) used a metaphor that has stuck with me ever afterwards.

Learning, he said, comes in stages.  At first you learn the basics, you rise up into the foothills and reach a peak of "glib understanding."  You've mastered the basics.  Everything is clear and easy and straight forward.  You can apply these tools to solve a variety of problems (sadly this seems to be the level of competence in economic thinking that qualifies one to be on TV, but that's an entirely different topic).  You understand.

As you continue to learn, however, a terrible thing happens.  What you knew, or thought you knew starts to break down, because everything doesn't fit as easily as you would like.  There is corner case after corner case, things don't line up with each other.  All the knowledge you previously gained seems to be melting into a stew of contradiction.  This, as he called it, is "the Valley of Confusion."

If you persevere through the valley, if you keep fighting your way through the thickets, you will start to rise up the slope on the other side, and eventually you will achieve "deep understanding."  But only by struggling with the brambles of confusion will you get there.

His point in the course, was that the bar exam was a general legal knowledge test, and that one should not venture into the valley of confusion in preparation for it.  The foothills of glib understanding were enough to pass.  But I often think about the metaphor, because it seems to apply to so many things.

This is quite true of almost every rehearsal process I've been a part of.  You read a show.  Usually several times, and come into the first read with confidence.  You understand what you're saying and to whom.  You understand why you're there and what you want.  Maybe you've even got some lines memorized.  You know.

Rehearsal proceeds into blocking and ... and things start breaking down.  Not that your initial impulses are wrong, but you find new things, and yes, sometimes you discover you WERE wrong.  You give a line to a new person and sometimes it changes the whole meaning.  Meanwhile you get to the phase where you want to put your script down, but you can't quite do it.  That point where you're both ready and not ready at once. You want to work on meaning, but to complete the work you need to stop listening to yourself repeating and repeating your next line and start listening to your fellow actors.

Eventually (hopefully!) you get through this thicket.  You get to the point where what you WANT to say is what you SHOULD say.  Your lines feel natural, how else would you respond?  Believe it or not this happens with Shakespeare too.  You start connecting the feelings with the words.  At first this can actually be startling, even distracting.  Especially when you finally put down the script and look into someone's eyes. A new emotion can make you feel like perhaps you've made a mistake or cause you to be lost.  But eventually you're there, listening, reacting (well most of the time... no performance I've ever given is completely described this way I think, but this is what we strive towards).

Anyway, I was thinking about where we were in the rehearsal process and this is what came to mind.  After our last rehearsal I think we're deep in the valley, but we're working our way through and I think we may be starting to climb up the other side.  I can just start to feel the slope under my feet.  My breath is coming heavier.  When one is in the valley, sometimes the despair creeps in, the doubt that you will ever look through a break in the trees and see anything below.  But we're getting there.  Despite the detours and track backs the clear vision is coming.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Trailer for Copenhagen!

South Stream is proud to release this video trailer for our production of Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, opening one month from today!

Show dates: 
Common Ground in Durham, Jan. 4 & 5 @ 7:30, Jan 6 @ 7:00
The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, Jan 11 & 12 @ 7:30, Jan 13 @ 7:00

There's ten more days to participate in our Kickstarter!  You can get tickets through our kickstarter or on the links at the top of this blog.  

We're deeply grateful to Patrick Campbell, Jason Bailey, and Altercation Pictures for putting this amazing trailer together.

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