Julie is a professional actress. She is co-directing the Festival play, ‘The Life of Buddha Shakyamuni’ and shares some of her insights into rehearsal and preparation. The play is performed on the last day of the festival and is a well-loved and profound end to the Festival.
I know my blog is for the experiences of today but it cannot start without a yesterday and yesterday I badly sprained my ankle. As I missed one rehearsal, I was determined not to miss another.
Rehearsal means to re hear. To re hear and repeat similar actions until they become heartfelt and meaningful. In guiding the retreat session today, Gen-la Khyenrab said repetition in Dharma is extremely meaningful and brings the Dharma into our heart. As with Dharma, so with acting.
The film director David Lynch says that, “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper”. As one of the directors helping to direct ‘The Life of Buddha Shakyamuni’, my responsibility is to encourage the actors to go deep into their heart and explore the possibilities they can bring to the part.
For us, preparing the play is Dharma. We set a pure intention. The rehearsal tent becomes the Temple, a holy space where imagination can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary world of Buddha. It is interesting that Geshe-la often uses acting as an analogy.
We are rehearsing the first part of the play. Everyone is important even if they have no speaking part. We are all interdependent. Stanislavsky, the great theatre director, said, “There are no small parts, only small actors”. And he is correct. Everyone in the play is important because they are part of a vision to bring to life this wonderful, profound play about Buddha’s life.
I spoke with the actress who plays Kisogatami. It is one of most challenging roles in the play. Her baby has died. Struck with grief, she seeks the help of the Buddha. The baby is a bundle of cloth. For the actress, she has to transform this bundle of cloth into a real baby. In puppetry this process is called opalization. It’s when the puppet ceases to be an inanimate object and becomes real. It becomes real to the imagination. Just as in Tantric practice we create an imagined basis upon which we impute a Buddha, the actors on the stage provide the basis for the audience to imagine a living Buddha and receive amazing blessings.