In the house this evening, as our special guest artist, was the outstanding Film, Television and Stage veteran Roberto De Felice. His energy, positive nature and highly developed craft were a treat for the project participants throughout warm-ups and into the main event of the night. A gifted actor and a great guy – the bar was raised really high this night and everyone responded beautifully.
The scene work by the project was the first encounter between Riff and Tony in West Side Story. Tony has moved on from the gang and Riff is determined to change that. The scene starts, before any dialogue kicks in, with the all-important stage direction: Riff is haranguing him. Riff’s objective in the scene. Since we had talked about objectives in past sessions - everyone was all over it immediately!
Harangue. A lengthy aggressive speech.
This huge word, activated as haranguing, was a new word for most everyone, and flexing it for all it was worth, became the key to the success of the work accomplished by the members of the project. A phrase wall was created to expand upon the definition. Project members came up with similar phrases like:
Baking him until well done.
Up in his grill.
In his face.
Trying him like a judge and jury.
Breaking him down.
Mixing him up.
Messing with his mind.
Bitch slapping him.
Pounding on him.
Pummeling his brain.
Very full and rich. Every phrase on the wall became a palette of “actable” words to apply to what Riff’s objective was in the scene. Actable words, the members of the project learned, are the words that fortify an actor with the right vocal, physical and emotional choices for accomplishing their objective in the scene. Swapping out different phrases to inform the actors changed the way the scene played each time they did it. Until they found what they felt worked best in order to ignite the conflict between Riff and Tony.
With this information, the actors attempting the scene were constantly searching for the right way for Riff to: “talk him into it” and for Tony to “deflect every attempt”. The entire session quickly morphed into stories about peer pressure, gang initiation and a sense of embracing the code, and how strong that is to young people looking to belong somewhere in the world. Stories about how difficult it is to make the right choice when someone is haranguing you, and trying to make you feel guilty about not sticking with the gang.
Riff: Womb to Tomb.
Tony: Sperm to Worm.
- Tommy Demenkoff, PossibleArts