The Critic Goes Backstage

Journalist Alisa Solomon brought her Columbia University graduate students to observe a rehearsal of the Theatre’s recent production of Measure for Measure. Student Katherine Clarke shared her impressions.

It is unusual for an arts journalist to be permitted entry to the sacred space of the rehearsal room. Traditionally, this space has been off limits to the critic who sees a production only in performance, once it has been perfected and groomed. The arts journalism students at Columbia University, however, were invited to observe the rehearsal process of Measure for Measure and found that there was a great deal to be learned.

Director Arin Arbus conducted her players with a sense of purpose and in a language that defied words. The cast played with alternative phrasing and intonation and explored new configurations in the space. Actors’ ideas mingled with and bounced off the vision of the director. Moments were re-imagined and characters redefined. Choices were made, questioned and reinforced. The identity of the production was molded in time and space.

We, as journalists, gained a huge insight into the mechanics of performance and how the perspective of an individual production is shaped by decisions made in the rehearsal room. The class left feeling energized by the work and more informed of the nuances of the text, looking forward to learning how the choices made before our eyes determine the impact of the overall show in performance.