Ch-ch-ch-changesBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
We have completed our second week of rehearsals for the play “Allegiance”—it’s about 70 pages of text and music that we’ve gone through, not to mention a fair amount of choreography. And yes, as I’ve said before, everything, every single thing, is in flux.
My brain is a funny thing. Perhaps due to the kind of unique memory work it’s had to do over the years, it’s able to absorb what’s going on in a particular situation that I’m in.
Lines seem to just enter my head as we keep repeating staging moves, discuss the truths of the characters, or figure out how to execute a scene to have it make the most sense.
Marc Acito, one of our book writers, is in the room with us. We ask him about line reads, his intention on why a line is written a certain way, and if we can say something differently or move things around.
Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione are out of town on other duties (both “Allegiance”-related and otherwise) but they are kept abreast of developments in San Diego. Jay is also due to write a new song for my character, Kei, which I’m going to learn this coming week.
Choreography has also been going through transformations as well as text, and it’s been fun learning three versions of movement for one song.
Formations will change, or bars will be added, which means that more dancing will be included.
Poses change, personnel changes. I’ve now found myself in a number that I wasn’t in before.
Relying on instinct
In the morning, we’ll learn one version. Then, only a few minutes later, after the rest of the creative team has seen it and given notes, we’ll learn another one.
Andrew Palermo and his assistant, Jenny, have been troupers at this, patiently teaching us all. It’s funny; because of Andrew’s long hair and beard, it’s like we’re being choreographed by Jesus.
When a bunch of us are called in to stage a scene, what’s on the page isn’t always what ends up getting done.
As actors, we have to rely on our instincts to see where one thing leads to, emotionally. What might seem right on paper may feel off-kilter on its feet. So when something feels weird or wrong, someone pipes up to say something. And that’s an important step.
The authors of “Allegiance” have told us over and over that nothing is precious. Nothing at this point in time is set in stone, that we can’t do anything about what’s written in ink.
The show is being worked on in an organic way. It’s so wonderful knowing that the actors have as much influence on a scene as the director or the writers. It’s something that I definitely appreciate and am grateful for.
Safe to say that I have different versions of certain songs from “Allegiance” trapped in my head. And letting those go hasn’t been easy.
Many songs that started out as solos have now been transformed into duets or quartets. Reconfiguration of certain songs has turned heavier ballads into lighter, jaunty ditties, and melodies that we once thought were thrown out are reintroduced to serve another purpose.
Plus, more new material is being written as I write this column. Thankfully though, this hasn’t resulted in mass confusion. A lot of paper is being recycled every day, what with all the new stuff being printed and distributed. That means by the time our first preview is upon us, there will be much that was memorized and forgotten.
Working with George
Some of you “Star Trek” fans might be wondering what it’s like to work with Hikaru Sulu himself, George Takei.
Allow me to preface this by saying that George is a very important person, as far as being an actor of Asian descent in show business. His being cast on “Star Trek” was groundbreaking, to say the least.
As a Japanese-American, he was alive at a time when being of Japanese descent was tantamount to being considered an enemy of the United States (he and members of his family were internees in World War II). He was also around when interracial unions were against the law.
That all seems strange now, as he has officially married a lovely Caucasian man named Brad.
Working with him on every reading of “Allegiance,” as well as the workshop in New York last year, has been such a pleasure. He really brings great energy to the rehearsal space.
Yes, I think we’re always star-struck being around him. He’s also been an invaluable resource person for all things related to the internment, as well as with Japanese language and pronunciation (he speaks it fluently).
He’s also incredibly funny, humble, joyful. And it’s been fun seeing fans come up to him to have their photos taken during our lunch hour.
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