Richard Maxwell Plays Piano

The director played the rehearsal like he played the piano. From behind an upright he watched the actors work, each holding a script and wearing at least one costume piece over street clothes. Regardless of setting, it was clear that the costume design borrowed heavily from the austere world of 18th Century Colonial America. The rehearsal space was large, practically an acreage. A far wall was floor-to-ceiling windows that revealed a late afternoon, sunny and cool. By way of sets, there wasn’t much: folding chairs, tables, and piles of either plastic or real vegetables. Props included a large rifle. The chairs were made of wood, painted black and shiny. They were expensive-looking, meant more for a museum than a rented hall. And indeed, they were museum chairs, housed just where they fit: in a building dedicated to modern and contemporary art. And the director continued from the keyboard.
In past productions, the director had written lyrics and score, he’d been the composer of original music. It is safe to assume the same applied to that museum rehearsal, for the sheets he referenced weren’t from a published score. Instead, they were handwritten sheets, mere indicators on lined paper.
The director, at this public rehearsal, was the one to watch.
The actors had their heads down and their frowns fixed. Their concentration was not yet geared to performance. This is as it should be. So I watched the director, whose hands were on the keys and whose eyes saw design, story, and the endgame. The director held and shaped multiple tones, each reverberating through unfinished space. His energy and determination was the necessary fuel that carried the company over mechanical tedium. Watch the director, at this point in the game, and you too will see the show.
April 28, 2012, 3-4pm.


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