Who will you be to me?
September 17, 2012
Day 1. Drinking my cup of tea, staring into the Styrofoam cup and wondering why it tasted so good. Why my mouth was locked in a semi-permanent grin.
That funny first day of school feeling that actors know so well is usually accompanied by various other nuisances… uncontrolled sweating, fidgets, and repeated journeys from one corner of the room to another staring at the pictures on the wall… anything not to look lost.
But day one at the RSC has you doing all that with a smile on your face. Weird.
The company files in one by one. Handshakes to unfamiliar faces, hugs to ones we know. The director has walked in. Exciting. The box with the model of the set is ushered to a back table. We stare as it passes as if it were a movie star.
We're here for day one of rehearsals for Gregory Doran's The Orphan of Zhao, but most of us, myself included, will be in the other two plays of the season as well - Boris Godunov directed by Michael Boyd, and A Life of Galileo directed by Roxanna Silbert.
Michael's play is due to start rehearsing in two weeks' time. Roxanna begins rehearsing in December. It's the RSC's system of priority scheduling. On one day, one director will be given priority on what they'd like to rehearse, and the other director will rehearse what they can with the actors that are available. Then the next day, priority will shift to the other director.
This is my second season with the RSC. I was in the last Swan winter season doing Written on the Heart, Measure for Measure, and The Heresy of Love. I know how intense the process is, how much work is involved, and how close you become to all the people that are in the room on day one.
On the first day you 'don't know who these people are.' By the time the job is over, we will all know each other better than most people in the world.
I find myself looking around and wondering who we will all become by the end of the 7-9 months. Trying to foresee what kind of bond we will all have by the end. 'Who will you be to me?' I keep wondering.
It's bittersweet of course. Last year's company feels like family to me now. Can I go from one family to another just like that? Shouldn't I be feeling a bit guilty or something?
After initial introductions with everyone in the group, I'm delighted to find myself thinking 'What a lovely bunch.' There are cracking actors in this year's season, and more importantly, they are all genuinely lovely people. It's going to be a pleasure getting to know everyone.
This is the very tangible consensus in the room as Greg gathers us all into a circle to begin introducing ourselves. I find myself shifting weight from foot to foot very quickly… I'm not the only one. Flicks of fingers, and rolls of necks, deep breaths, and lots of smiling. Here we go…
by Youssef Kerkour
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