Our rehearsals are progressing nicely. For the first two weeks we did script work, where the cast, director, and stage manager sat around a table and read through the play. These rehearsals allowed the cast to become familiarized with their lines before getting up on stage. We made initial attempts to understand who each character is, and what each character wants, or, in stage talk, “what is their action.” Characters in plays try to achieve an objective. The missionaries in our play work to Christianize the Natives of Hawaii. Ka’ahumanu rules and leads her people at a very difficult time in Hawaiian history and gradually comes to embrace the Christian faith. Pali and Hannah serve in Ka’ahumanu’s inner circle and both become involved with their own conversion journeys. One of the focuses for our script work was locating each character’s individual conversions. Although the play's central conversion is Ka‘ahumanu’s decision to become Christian, each character has their own moments of conversion or change.
Last week we finished our script work and started blocking. For these rehearsals the actresses are still "on-book," meaning they have their scripts with them on stage. The goals for blocking rehearsals are for the actresses to get a feel for the stage and add movements to their lines, and for the production crew to work out entrances and exits, as well as the overall look of the scenes. The scene designer provided a working ground (or floor) plan that indicates to the director and actresses where Ka’ahumanu’s home is on stage, as well as where the missionaries house is located. Traffic patterns between these spaces as well as movements that happen when a character speaks directly to the audience are mapped out. Part of blocking is simply character traffic control!
The actresses are expected to have their lines memorized for Act I by April 21st and for Act II by April 27th at which time rehearsals will take place on stage, with no script; this phase of the rehearsal process is often called, “work-throughs.” Work-throughs are an opportunity for cast members to feel comfortable with their movement, character, actions, lines memorized, and the establishing of clear relationships among them as well as clear actions that are being portrayed to the audience yet to come. The “audience” during rehearsal is the director as well as the production staff. It is the director’s job to tell the playwright’s story clearly and to do the play justice – meaning that the playwright’s words, characters, story, and style of theatricality make sense so that the audience becomes engaged and believes what is happening on stage. Work-throughs are the first attempts at making this mighty task occur. It’s always important for us in our rehearsals to recall that we are not representing actual Hawaiian history, but Ms. Nalani Knuebuhl’s vision of a story composed of characters drawn from actual Hawaiian history.