by Kristen van Ginhoven (Two Men of Florence - Assistant director)
Watching this production come to life has been inspiring on many levels. Firstly, it was fascinating observing the playwright, Richard Goodwin, and the director, Edward Hall, as they continued to work hard to crystallize the script. Second, it was magical seeing the text come to life during the various stages of rehearsal; first in the rehearsal room, then in the theatre for tech and dress rehearsals, and finally during the first few previews with an audience. Lastly, assisting Edward Hall is an experience I consider myself extremely lucky to have received.
As a budding director, who is currently a graduate student at Emerson College, who comes to Boston from working as a professional actress in Canada and a theatre arts educator in Europe, I landed one of those ‘being in the right place at the right time’ opportunities. I think of Edward as one of the most influential directors of my generation, so I certainly didn’t have to think long and hard about that one! It has indeed been a wonderful learning experience.
In the beginning, I observed Edward and Richard having tête-à-têtes about adapting areas of the script to make the arguments clearer. They continued to make changes until previews began to achieve better clarity for the audience. Seeing how passionate they both are about the ideas this play presents and how long they have been working on it reminded me that a play is much, much more than the timeline it gets during a production at a theatre. This play has had a long life so far and will hopefully continue to do so.
Being able to observe a rehearsal room that was filled with not only these two men, but also Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jay O Sanders, Edward Herrmann, and the rest of the talented cast and crew has been surreal at times. Especially on the day Doris came straight to the rehearsal room from being at the White House!
It was wonderful to receive a welcoming hello each morning from the ‘Two Men’, Jay and Ed, and to hear stories of working at the National Theatre in London from Dermot Crowley or putting together ‘The Laramie Project’ from Andy Paris, of working on Broadway from production stage manager Gail Luna, as well as hearing stories from the successful actors who live and work in Boston, like Molly Schreiber and Jerry Kissel. In particular, I was inspired by Diego Arcienegas’s ability to successfully build a career as an actor, director, and educator as I have similar goals. Overall, I was impressed and pleased with how he and the other members of the company were so welcoming.
Lastly, I was continually amazed by the knowledge Edward had about every aspect of this play. I was impressed with his ability to keep a calm and positive demeanor while at the helm of such a big production. By knowing everyone’s first name, keeping a positive energy in the rehearsal room, continually being open to questions, always treating everyone with humanity, and working hard to thank everyone for their work, no matter their job on the production, Edward has reinforced to me the importance of humility in a director. He is a monumental international director and I count myself lucky to have been able to spend five weeks seeing him in action.
For me, this experience has served as a master class in directing and an introduction to Boston’s vibrant theatre scene. I hope everyone enjoys the show as much as I enjoyed being a part of it!
Thanks to Kristen for guest blogging about her experiences here at the Huntington! I have to agree with her on many points - this was a production I'll remember too.
We'll soon be bringing you behind the scenes of The Miracle at Naples with guest blogger Chris Carcione.
The Huntington Theatre Company's production of Two Men of Florence, by Richard Goodwin, playing March 6 through April 5, 2009 at the Huntington's mainstage, the B.U. Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA. Buy tickets online or call our Box Office at 617 266-0800. Photos by T. Charles Erickson