While reading Angels in America by Kushner, I couldn’t help but relate to my experience when acting in the play inspired by Moby Dick, written by H. Melville.
Although that experience was very unique, I realised that both Kushner and the director of Moby Dick (Dan Safer) had somewhat similar staging directions.
“The play benefits from a pared-down style of presentation, with minimal scenery and scene shifts done rapidly (no blackouts!), employing the cast as well as stagehands — which makes for an actor-driven event, as this must be. The moments of magic […] are to be fully realised, as bits of wonderful theatrical illusion — which means it’s OK if the wires show, and maybe it’s good that they do…”
These “Playwright’s Notes” definitely aren’t like any stage directions that would exist in a regular play, where the magic happens behind the scenes, the stage hands are never seen and blackouts are one of the most popular tools to transit from scene to scene.
In this play, the author wanted everything to be seen, to be natural. The magic is there, but it’s real life magic, with uncovered wires and all the other imperfections that come with it.
This reminds me of myself acting in Moby Dick. “Stop trying hard. Don’t straighten your back like that. Walk like you usually walk. Don’t make this very important, because when you don’t make it important, that’s when it looks good, real”, the director would tell us.
And it did look more real, when we didn’t “try hard”. When we were fully ourselves, with our ways of walking, our own ways of speaking.
The uncovered wires of Angels in America remind me of the fake beard in the Moby Dick play. Right in front of the audience, a person would put on a fake beard and, all of a sudden, turn into Captain Ahab. The magic was there, but just like in Angels in America, it was real life magic with its’ imperfections.
Why would Tony Kushner and Dan Safer have these kind of stage directions?
We can only guess.
What I can say from my experience is that, thanks to exactly these stage directions, the action on stage was more real, more genuine than it could ever have been. The fact that the magic wasn’t hidden destroyed the wall between the audience and the actors. There were no secrets, there were only our real selves driving an event called Moby Dick.
Here is a scene from Moby Dick where, hopefully, you will recognise what I was talking about.
Your crazy actor Victoria