JoAnne started staging today! The set-up of the stage is just 14 folding chairs staggered across the back half of the stage. Characters not in scenes come onstage sporadically and watch the action, which adds an interesting effect that I really like, as if every moment in the play is being shared with people who it is not intended for. I am unclear at the moment whether they are supposed to be actors or their characters, but I believe the idea is that they are simply actors.
I left for a while to listen to Leslie Lewis Sword (who is performing in Miracle in Rwanda this weekend) speak at noon, and in talking about being in Edinburgh with an average audience size of 3 she said that theatre only needs a single performer and a single audience member, because that is of course the essential theatrical relationship. Coming back to rehearsal, JoAnne makes use of this relationship constantly in a way very essential to the staging of the piece. First there is the unstaged relationship of actors and audience, which occurs by just putting actors onstage. Next there is the relationship of the characters to the audience, which happens through the telling of a story and asking the audience to feel certain ways about different characters. Both of these happen in every performance. In The Bacchae, there is also the relationship of the chorus to the characters, because they are onstage the entire time acting as a second audience that can comment on the action and even engage with the characters. As mentioned previously, there are the actors sitting onstage when they are not in the scene watching the action. Lastly, there are the staged relationships between the characters and the audience, where the actors break the fourth wall and include the audience in their scenes. In the prologue, Dionysus picks up a microphone and speaks to the audience, leaving the stage and walking around to engage each person watching. The chorus also leaves the stage in moments to ask the audience philosophical questions. In each of these moments, it feels like something is happening, that theatre has a life that other media cannot. I love those moments.