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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Raw and Honest

Kenard Jackson (top) and Alex Pollock (bottom)
The first time I read a draft of The River was Whiskey, I realized that it was a gift—it was so rich and full of opportunities even at the early stages of working with the text.  Even the very first stage directions are compelling and immediately brings you into the world of the play. Will has created a story where the language is rich and incisive but even the moments of silence are heavy and telling. The play brings to light a small piece of American history that connects us all to the larger, more complicated idea of the South and dramaturgically experienced, is enhanced by the Americana music that Will amazingly composed. The background of this play and his creation process are extraordinary. His influences, drawn from many details of his life and Southern American cultural history, combine into a work that translates on stage into something challenging, raw and honest.

The rehearsal process was such a learning experience as an actor. Working with Will and our director Jim, the play became a ‘rolling stone’ that constantly gathered greater meaning. I was honestly terrified during the time leading up into the first days of rehearsal. But Will has invested so much personally into the show that he created a common ground that enabled me to work on this project fearlessly—that’s what’s beneficial about working so closely with a playwright in the rehearsal process.

This experience has also been a gift because it enabled us to explore storytelling through body and movement. Anne Bogart says: “When in doubt, listen to the body. The body constantly receives myriad impressions from multifarious sources, from temperature, visual stimulus, sound, ideas, suggestions, people, odors, colors and so on.” Jim’s direction and the design team created a world where we could explore and connect the movement with the text.  Finding that energy within the movement was something that we explored from the first day and as more elements were constantly added in the building process—from the sand bags to the rain water on stage.

Even though the show has opened and Will has taken a step back, he’s created a character that enables me to continually discover and learn things. And in that way, each performance for me is different—there are more layers and different routes to go down when inside each moment in a scene. I hope that this play translates to the audience what Will, Jim, Ark and my cast mates have worked to communicate: that human beings, even in their darkest forms, are the basic subject of art. The material  is so provocative and invigorating that it can be rightfully disturbing for some people—but that shouldn’t be a reason to shy away from the play. We’re in our last week of our run and I’m still finding cuts and scratches that will no doubt serve as memorabilia. When I initially question where they could’ve come from, my thoughts quickly go to “The Whiskey.”

- Kenard Jackson

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