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Pizza and Silence- Aubie Merryless, rising star of The Aliens, brings us into the Exile's rehearsl process.
Pizza and Silence- Aubie Merryless, rising star of The Aliens.
Whoa. We just finished our first week of rehearsal for The Aliens…and damn, what a week. It’s so wonderful working in the city - I grew up in Downingtown, went to college in New England, and am only just now getting my bearings in Philadelphia, where I‘m hoping to stay for a long time. It’s nice to have finally made the transition, and I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome than to get to work with Matt and everybody else at Exile. Yesterday I walked out of the rehearsal room (which also happens to be our performance space, so we get to literally watch the set appear around us - each day we come into work and there’s something new; it’s a pretty rare thing, and I’m loving it)…I walked out of the rehearsal room, planning to scrounge around for something to eat, and I literally bumped into Joe Canuso, who smiled and gave me this really earnest look like he always does and said, “Hey Aubie! Do you want a slice of pizza?”
I sure did! I had been thinking that possibly, if I was lucky, I might find crackers. Pizza?? I couldn’t have been happier.
But anyway…what a crazy play! One of my castmates, the relatively unknown Jeb Kreager (hah!), summed it up well when said something to the effect of, “What a bold fucking move. One third of this play is silence.” Then he sort of raised his eyebrows and looked around, as if to say, “you know you all agree with me here.”
And I do. Bold move, Annie Baker. Bold…and awesome. Already, as we struggle and stumble through rehearsals (the good, exciting kind of struggling and stumbling), I am starting to see how wildly awesome this play is gonna be. It’s really like no other play I’ve ever read. Annie Baker is so specific with her language that you really get a sense of these characters - these are people that we all know, I think.
My current challenge is memorizing all of my character’s ums and uhs, all of his “filler” (but is it, really?) and deflection and insecurity, and differentiating between them all. “Cool. Um. Cool. Yeah. Um.” It’s incredibly frustrating and completely liberating at the same time - already I am able to see that if I just say the words, if I really trust them, then the character emerges for me. I don’t have to do anything but really respect what our playwright has already painstakingly created, respect it and live inside it. And it’s a subtle, impressively detailed world in which to live. But if I want to live inside of it, I need to really know it. So I am drilling these words far more than I’m used to doing with other plays. But it’s rewarding work, because once it’s all there (the text), we get to really start playing. We get to start filling all of that silence. It’s wonderful getting to hang out with Jeb and Sam, Matt, and Anya (our stage manager). Sometimes we get into these really intense discussions about the play, other times we can’t stop cracking each other up. So yeah, it’s great fun - her stuff feels so real that as we get the hang of it, it all just flows off the tongue, which is, for lack of a better word, a real gift Annie Baker has given us.
So, um. Yeah. Come see it. Um.
Hah! I’m already writing like Evan.