GREEN GABLES MEETS THE COOLIDGE by Barbara Biddison
I wanted to see Anne of Green Gables in rehearsal. and of the choices that director Jessie Thompson gave me I chose "first time in the Coolidge." It's always interesting to see what happens when the actors move to the actual space where they will be performing in front of an audience. In this case for this show and this rehearsal, it was mostly kids and it was cold in that space. (The outside temperature was hovering around the freezing point.) So I wore an extra coat, knowing that they would have it warmed up by opening night for show-time. The wondrous part about that theatre space now though is that the feel of Hamilton-Gibson's Elephants Graveyard, with its sadness and grief, is swept aside by the young voices and a story that most of us know. And, of course, the kids are wonderful to watch.
Anne Shirley, the title character is played by June Roth. I don't think I've known her before, but she is so at ease on the stage. And the couple that takes on Anne, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, are known to all HG followers as Sarah Duterte and Herb Johnson. I found it really interesting to watch the director/assistant director duo as they seamlessly shared duties with this crowd of actors in ths "first time in the Coolidge" rehearsal. Jessie calmly gains attention as she reminds a young person at a given point. "You remember how we had you put that down right there, before you walk away." And later Cody directs a song while he moves the singers into place. The point here is that both of these things can be happening at more-or-less the same time. And if any part of the singing gets off-pitch or mixes up rhythm. Cody is right there and Gary Citro at the piano pounds out the correction on the piano. To see this kind of intuative cooperation in a new space is a joy to observe.
As Anne arrives, "Anne with an 'e'" as she insists, riding in a carriage with a horse, we hear her respond to her first sight of Green Gables. In this rough rehearsal. Still, it actually gave me goosebumps. And when they got there, what does Martha say but, Where is the boy??" And goosebumps turn to tears. Even in this preliminary telling of the tale, these actors portray the emotional beginning of Anne's story.
At this point I find myself wondering if the set will have an upstairs. That's where Anne's bedroom is. The line in the play says so. And it set me to remembering the "upstairs" part of Madwoman of Chaillot and how it transformed the entire Coolidge. Whatever they do
for Anne, I'm sure it will evoke Green Gables. We are always taken into a new and wonderful world when we enter the Coolidge,
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