Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rehearsal communities

In re: Community of Learning-- I recently attended a lecture by Michael Fentiman, the director of a new performance of Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare's first plays. It's generally not considered among his best, shall we say, and the director talked a lot about how different his own vision was. In his mind, this was a play like King Lear, about the loss of certainty and the descent into madness.

He acknowledged the difficulty of conveying this to the actors who had absorbed a great deal of scorn for the play. He drew upon his own training with two directors who had nothing in common except "their love for collaboration." Like them, Fentiman used the rehearsal time as what I now know to call "a community of learning," where the entire crew and cast explored the play, brainstorming various approaches and options. It was, he said, one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life, as each confessed what would drive them to madness and murder, what combination of love and fury would unseat their reason. From that, he was able both to develop and convey his own understanding of the play, what it meant, and how it could be presented to an audience.

A community of learning... and yet, in the end, there was still a play, and still a director: Something to be learned, and someone to decide how it was to be taught.

This is a different, more purpose-driven sort of community than the critique group Coddington (1997) analyzes, where the need to maintain the commonality of goodwill was paramount. In that, there was no text, and there was no teacher-- just a group of learners. Did it matter that they were mostly all at about the same level? That there could be no "teacher" because none of them in isolation knew more than the others?

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