Friday, March 07, 2008

City of Roses

It's very difficult to write about Portland and the surrounding countryside without the aid of pictures. I choke on the thousand-word replacements I'm supposed to make here. I hope to have a camera by the weekend, but by then the Northwest gray and rain is supposed to roll in. We've been spoiled, the locals say, by the past forty-eight hours of blue sky. Yesterday, I walked a few blocks to the Willamette River to catch a view of Mount Hood.

Two other things keep me from posting: first, I gouged two of my fingers on an aluminum air handling vent on the first day of rehearsal. As it happens, my character is a twisty, verbose east coaster who comes to Oregon to help out with dangerous work. In the original novel, my half-brother loses two of his fingers and forgets to mention this fact to his wife who suddenly wonders one evening why he's wearing his work gloves at the dinner table. So I don't feel like I can complain much. But it does make for some comically slow typing here.

The third reason. This story. Sometimes a Great Notion was Ken Kesey's followup to One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. The book has no fewer than five different narrative voices threaded throughout its 700+ pages and Aaron Posner's stage adaptation isolates three or four of them in three acts. There's a chorus of union loggers, direct address from my character Leland, his half-brother Hank, and Hank's wife, Vivian. It's a big production -- big characters, big emotions, big fights, big cast. And thanks to the genius of Tony Cisek, I get to work on another big, beautiful set ...

And Posner doesn't do the usual table-work, blocking, working, tech sequence of rehearsal. He does it all at once and that's exactly what this story needs -- up on your feet, grab your script, learn quick, get moving, here's some live music we're playing with, and lets start choreographing that Act Three fight. Each day sends me back to the hotel with the most satisfying exhaustion I've felt in a long time. And the whole cast (11 men, 1 woman) seems to know the contours of their parts the way you get to know a favorite pair of jeans. Because the story digs into raw mannish conflicts about sex, territory, family, pride, domination, the frontier, nature, and revenge, our work is both straightforward and limitless.


AVANT-GARDE. said...

Wow, Oregon is preeety. I must confess, I am very much your typical city girl, who does not like to leave NYC very often, and as a result, has not seen much else of the country. Except for maybe Mississippi a few times (various cousins' weddings), and Graceland once, I think (I was three years old and really have no recollection of this whatsoever). So,yeah -- Oregon is preeeettty. MORE PIX PLZ.

As for your poor digits: at least you have the nice blue bandages to look at? Sorry, that wasn't very consolatory, was it? Is consolatory even a word? I don't know. 'Kay I'll stop now.


P.S. That set looks awesome.

al-urdun said...

I was going to note that you're at least as far as I am in the novel, but then I realize you (ought to) have already read the script and already know the climax(es?), which would add to a difference in reading experience.

Wish I had more time to read this tome...


Anonymous said...

A request from a friend who loves to garden..PLEASE take time to "smell the roses"..literally....visit some of the rose gardens while you are there and post pics...also, I understand there are some beautiful Japanese gardens as well. I'm "green" with envy!