A Rehearsal Project by Rising Phoenix Rep / by Declan Maloney Drummond

Rising Phoenix Rep are working on a rehearsal project in Southern California, directed by Daniel Talbott. We interviewed the actors involved about their experience and perspective on what looks to be a very exciting, unconventional and innovative way of working. Here's how Daniel describes the project:

"This is a site specific rehearsal project of Sarah Kane's CRAVE staged in the broken light, sand, trash and waves underneath a pier in Southern California. Starting in June five friends a week will be invited to watch our rehearsal and participate in the ever changing and shifting shape of the play. The location may shift, the cast will shift, and actors will possibly move from one role to another role as we dive in and attempt to explore Sarah Kane's brilliant play this summer with no pressure of time, performance, commerce, or publicity."

Here's the rotating cast (in alphabetical order):

Kenzie Caplan

David Garelik

Zack Kozlow

Cullen Kuch

Daniel Manning 

Charlotte Miller

And here's our interview with the actors!

What is the Crave rehearsal project all about?

CK: This rehearsal project is really about diving in to a great piece of theatrical work without any pressure to "do it right" or seek external success. It's a great environment where we can all play and take chances while exploring this piece by Sarah Kane.

ZK: Over the past 5 months, we have been meeting weekly for a sort-of acting class/workshop.  After awhile, it felt like the natural progression to invite an audience into our rehearsals.  A play like Crave provides us a lot of flexibility in terms of casting and space, while also allowing us to really dive deep into a rich, emotional, intense piece of theatre.  Throughout the summer, we plan to invite small audiences into our tiny rehearsal space under pier.  It’s a really unique and personal way to experience a play like Crave.

DG: This is one of the weirdest, coolest, most challenging things I’ve ever been a part of.  Once a week we meet under the Santa Monica pier, get really sandy and work on this play.  As the title suggests (and as Daniel frequently reminds us), this play is about CRAVING and because of that, you can’t half ass anything.  These characters needs are so deep and so urgent that this play is an absolutely constant grind of investment.  Each character is so desperate to be heard, and have their needs recognized.

To me, this is about gathering with a group of people that really, really care.  Care about theater, and the actual process of working and discovering, that want to work together to watch something that feels really meaningful come together.

KC: I think the project is about that yearning feeling in the pit of your stomach for the thing you just don't have enough of. And then getting to explore that through the words of Sarah Kane, the vision of Daniel Talbott, and the stage of the Santa Monica beach, which is a pretty awesome combination.

CM: We're rehearsing "Crave" once a week at the Santa Monica Pier. We're taking our time with it, we haven't necessarily nailed down dates for when we have to do it because the space is free, it's the beach. If we figure out that we need a year to dig in, then I think we could do that, but then the ocean is there and the noises of the pier and there's still urgency there.

How did you get involved?

CM: I've known Daniel for a long time, we met at Rattlestick in 2009, so 8 years. Goodness. We did a Sarah Kane project for one of his classes a few years ago and it was such a profound experience for me, so Daniel asked if I'd want to do this project and I said of course. And then I shit my pants.

KC: I worked with Daniel on Charlotte's show, "Ugly Little Sister" in New York, and we all ended up moving out to LA around the same time. When Daniel told me he wanted to get a group together to learn and work on some awesome material, kind of in a Cino Nights-style environment, I couldn't have been more excited. From there he got the idea to work on "Crave" as a longer project, and to perform it in front of people.

DG: I met Daniel about two years ago.  He was teaching a site-specific directing class out of Primary Stages.  One of the students in his class asked me to be one of the actors in her scene.  The first day of class, he found out that one of the other students had dropped out, or was unprepared or something or another.  I hope he’s cool with me saying this…but let’s just say that Daniel was unimpressed.  He essentially went off on how much theater and art means to him.  Daniel had so much passion for theater that it blew my fucking mind.  I think I Facebook messaged him that night to tell him how inspired I left that class. After that, it had honestly been kind of been a dream of mine to work on something with him.

Then, last summer I worked on a short play with Kenzie.  A couple of months later, I saw on Instagram that she was in a rehearsal group with Daniel.  I bumped into her randomly at a bar in Silverlake and asked her about it, and here we are ;)

ZK: I made the move from NYC to LA at the beginning of 2016, and spent the year bouncing from audition to audition and working on projects without ever really getting to dive in and examine the work I was doing.  I had just graduated from college, and was missing the discipline and exercise that daily acting classes provided.  

So when Daniel moved to Los Angeles and reached out about starting an acting group, I got on board immediately.  Daniel was a guest director/teacher when I was studying at NYU’s Strasberg program, and his class was one of the highlights of my time at NYU.   We began our class working on Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare, and now the Crave rehearsal project is the extension of those initial sessions.

CK: Daniel came to the Lee Strasberg Institute as a guest teacher while I was at NYU. His approach to the craft was so passionate and unique and I knew he was someone I wanted to stay in touch with. When I moved out to L.A. and heard that he was thinking of doing this, I reached out immediately and he was gracious enough to have me on board!

What are the personal and team goals for the project?

DG: This play feels so impulsive to me.  I think such a huge part of it is removing any and all limitations on expression and allowing yourself to really want something and pursue it no matter how pathetic it makes you look.  To me this play is such a self-exploration and about pursuing absolute human truth and rawness.  When I’m working on this, I want to be in a place where it feels like I’m not wearing skin.  Where I am viscerally pursuing my most basic human needs in a way that I wouldn’t necessarily allow myself to in my real life. 

KC: While some of us have worked together, others have just met. To jump into a project this vulnerable can be a little scary. So I think right now we're working to get to know one another and let down those barriers in order to do this play justice. Personally, the goal is similar. All of the ego and self-consciousness that tends to be present while working on a show just can't be there. I strive for that with everything I work on, but I think with this play it's particularly important.

CK: Personally I would like to stretch my theatrical muscles a bit more. I have been involved in the TV/film world for a while now and it's easy to forget certain things that my theater background taught me. I want to use this project to get back into my body and find new ways to use physicality while rehearsing. Running around the beach calling after one another certainly helps with this! It's such a great group of people too and we all have fun going through this story together. I want to stay conscious of listening to each other because we are a team in this and it'll be essential in approaching this play.

ZK: This project gives me a chance to do work that forces me to dig deep, take risks, and really challenge myself.  When I'm auditioning every day, it's easy to get lazy and avoid work that really challenges me.  But this text (and location) doesn’t allow anyone to fake it.  

As a team, we wanted to work on something that is always changing and growing; we never want this to feel like a presentation.  By always keeping this project in a rehearsal phase, we avoid having a “completed product” and are in a constant state of discovery.

CM: I'm not really an actor anymore. I stopped auditioning when I started writing, so I think one goal I have is to be able to have a conversation with Sarah Kane the way that only actors can. I think as a team we want to really dig in and tell the story and honor the fact that we're on the fucking beach doing Sarah Kane and let that be wild.

How is it different to working in a more traditional rehearsal room?

CM: I like it better. I was always in my head when I was an actor, there's so much going on with the wind and the birdpoop and the needles and hippies living in the rafters and water creeping up on you. There's no way to deny reality in that space. I find it oddly grounding.

CK: Daniel throws all traditional rehearsing methods out the door and really lets us go to town. We are literally under the Santa Monica Pier running through the sand and the water, feeling waves crash onto us as we scream at passing pigeons and carefully watch curious tourists. We get to really use the environment and create something that is usually just left up to imagination. This is all right there in front of us and we are free to explore it throughout the play.

ZK: A normal rehearsal room is designed for performing: the room is silent, the lights are focused on the stage, and everyone in the space is expecting to see a performance.  When we’re rehearsing under the pier, we can’t hide behind the safety of a traditional rehearsal space.  We’ve had waves knock us over, sand get in our clothes, confused people stop to watch us, and once even had a sleeping man accuse us of waking him up.  If our acting isn’t as real as the things around us, it will stick out like a sore thumb.

DG: You can’t ignore the sound of waves crashing, or that you are absolutely covered in sand.  There’s sand in our hair, and in our eyes and mouth.  We’ve become friends with the homeless people that live under the pier.  They make for a great audience and support system.  I don’t think you would get that in a traditional rehearsal room.  These elements that could serve as distractions instead become characters in themselves.

KC: Being outdoors at the beach adds a great deal of life and stimulation to the play. It's like another character that you're constantly embracing and also fighting against. It's fascinating to explore the juxtaposition of that. It adds a dose of reality, as well as surrealism to the show.

What from this process do you hope to apply to your work in the future?

CK: There is a very freeing nature that comes with working with Daniel and on this play. I want to remember this and keep his words of wisdom with me on future projects. He stresses listening and talking to one another truly just as we would in life. He doesn't try to make us put anything on or "act" the words. We are all just acquaintances, talking these lines of dialogue and exploring the relationships that they create for us.

KC: Using the environment motivate action on stage has been huge for me. Most stages will not be as giving this way as the one we're using for "Crave," but there's always a way to respond honestly to what's going on around you in addition to what's in front of you. 

The openness and giving nature of this group has been incredible, and I hope to do my part in creating that atmosphere for everything I work on after this.

DG: I love exploring a characters needs; what motivates their actions and make them do what they do.  This play seems like a heightened exploration of character needs, in what seems like a more psychologically analytical capacity.  I’m already noticing myself thinking about a character's visceral needs differently than I ever have, in a way that seems somehow truer.

CM: Bravery. Every week I feel like I'm gonna vomit right before rehearsal and then I do it and I don't vomit and part of that is showing up for a  team. Bravery isn't a fixed skill, it's a practice, but it's good to have moments to point to.

ZK: I hope to carry this sense of constant discovery, along with the reality and intensity that the location forces upon us, into my future work.