The Antaeus Company partner (double) casts every role. There are 9 roles in Annie Baker’s adaptation of Chekhov’s UNCLE VANYA, so I had 18 actors. I worked this way on MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION at Antaeus a couple seasons ago, and find this unconventional way of working challenging, but rewarding.
During rehearsal if I was rehearsing a scene with Vanya and Yelena I had four actors in the room: two up on their feet, actively working, the other two actively watching, involved in the discovery and the conversation. Then at a given point I literally say “switch” and the actors who were watching get on the their feet to work.
There are essentially three people collaborating on a role, and that can be useful to the storyteller, and exciting to the process. Often I’ll think we’ve gone as far as possible in a given rehearsal, and then the second set of actors gets up and we push further, with the fresh ideas and instincts. And if the pairing is particularly collaborative, the discussion continues outside rehearsal, like how a study partner can make you want to study. This happened big time for Don and Arye partnering on Vanya, and Jeff and Andrew partnering on Astrov. The first part of rehearsal was always them tag teaming, reporting on their joint discoveries.
Just before tech I split the company into two casts. Everyone goes through tech together, but from dress rehearsals through previews to opening the casts are separate. This is when it gets most challenging for me. Any tweaks made during a preview with Cast A needs to communicated and rehearsed with Cast B the following day. We opened a few weeks ago, and I am still exhausted.
Why partner casting? This is what Antaeus has to say about it.
Antaeus productions are partner-cast, a process which offers actors an arena in which to collaborate and learn from one other, and offers audiences unique performances featuring ever-changing configurations of equally talented actors. Our audiences will never see an under-prepared understudy in performance.
Here are some of the partners in action in my Uncle Vanya.
Photography credit: Karianne Flaathen
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