2020/21 Season

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OSLO Behind the Scenes: The First Week of Rehearsal

This is the second in a series of posts taking a look behind the scenes of our winter Off-Mirvish production, Oslo, from the perspective of our RBC Emerging Director—and one of Oslo’s two Assistant Directors—Kerry Ann Doherty. Read the first post here.

It’s hard not to sound like a child with this post. Excitement brings out a lot of adjectives—and the first day of rehearsal is one of the most exciting days in the whole process. Truthfully, all of the firsts are exciting, but the first day carries an anticipation that something great is about to happen. It’s about meeting new people you haven’t worked with before and/or reuniting with colleagues you haven’t seen for a while. Some artists refer to it as the first day of school, because in some ways that’s what it feels like.

Generally first days start with a Director’s chat, design presentations, and the first read through of the play. For Oslo the Director, Joel Greenberg, made the decision to push those things to the second day. That way the first day could be spent getting to know the world of the play.

The history that I talked about in my first post was discussed and the vocal coach, Diane Pitblado, came in to work with the actors on their accents. Norwegian, Palestinian, and Israeli accents are the main ones required in this piece. This helped the actors get a foothold before the first read the next day. It was a day of great discussion and clarification—and now we all know how to pronounce all of the characters’ names correctly!

Entering the rehearsal hall on the second day was thrilling. From the design team, Cameron Davis (Projection Designer), Kimberly Purtell (Lighting Designer), and Ken MacKenzie (Set and Costume Designer) were present. The production team, which includes people from Studio 180 and Mirvish, were present along with some Studio 180 supporters. It was amazing to see the size of the team that is putting on this show (it’s huge). 50 people are on the contact list, and only 13 are cast members! Joel started by welcoming everyone, gave a small introduction and introduced Ken.

Ken’s design presentation (pictured) gave everyone a sense of what the space will look like. I’m not going to give too much away but Ken described his set as based on Gustavian Style. It’s spacious, bright, airy, and Nordic. It doesn’t prescribe the many locations in the play, but instead allows for the audience’s imagination, and puts the actors at the forefront. Then we heard the play for the first time. For the actors, having that size of audience (more than 30 people) for a first read was a new experience. It certainly added to the sense of occasion.

Above: reference photos for Ken MacKenzie’s design concept for Oslo.

After reading Oslo I thought it was a great play. Now after hearing it…well, I fell in love with the characters, and even though I know how it ends, I was on the edge of my seat for all of the second act.

There were a lot more laughs than I had heard in my head while reading it, and a lot more concern for those involved. The cast is fabulous. Their commitment and connection is already there. Joel definitely cast the absolute best people in the roles.

Now and for the next couple of weeks the actors get up on their feet and Joel starts staging it. Stay tuned for more on that.

Learn more about the production