Making (and breaking) the “Fourth Wall”…

172e5f6246b411e3847022000aeb0b98_6This is no proscenium stage production.

When we first started staging rehearsals, Yuval Sharon (Director) began with what seemed to be unrelated acting games. We were instructed to go into a room, choose the first prop we gravitated to, then enter the rehearsal space and “create a story” with the prop. As a singer/actor, I call these “throw yourself under the bus” moments. You cannot be self conscious, you have to just act. Not “act” as in “acting”, but “act” as in “active”. The next steps involved the production crew doing things to try to distract us from our story and various interactions with each other. What seemed to be seemingly unrelated became quite clear when we went to our first staging rehearsal at the Station. Very quickly we realized that what Yuval had been doing was helping us build our own personal “Fourth Wall”. In a proscenium theater there is a physical barrier, even if it is just the spacial difference between seats and no seats. Here there was none. Our first interactions were with (as we have mentioned) the “residents” of the Station. We had to use a combination of intense concentration and diffusion in order to not be distracted. On top of it all, our only connection with the conductor/orchestra was our in ear monitors (IEM), and often we would be singing a duet or quartet with cast members we couldn’t even see. This added another whole layer of concentration.

As we continued to rehearse and the locals became used to us, it was easier to build your own imaginary proscenium around yourself. That totally changed the first night we had an audience. There was so much more to distract, so many more people, movement, traffic…But, it again got easier. I expected this cycle to continue, only, it hasn’t. Each night brings a completely new environment. The audience is hugely responsible for this. Sometimes they are reluctant voyeurs, sometimes like bulldog reporters. Each audience has a different feel and, as such, creates a completely different setting for the Opera. Because of this, it has become increasingly difficult to stay focused and even more difficult to not drift into unmotivated complacency. The “Fourth Wall” has become more and more permeable. The problem with this is brought into sharp focus because of a very special moment in the Opera, the breaking of the wall.

Each show is a journey, not only for each audience member, but for each cast member as well. In order to maintain the isolation and individuality of that journey, the “Fourth Wall” must remain intact, no matter how porous it has become. However, in the last scene, it is each of our job to search through “the inferno” and discover those who “are not the inferno”. This is a real “reach out and touch someone” moment where the wall that has been there for the whole show must be drawn aside. And, this is the moment that has become the greatest motivation to keep the wall intact, no matter how difficult, no matter what the distraction. This moment, the moment when the “Fourth Wall” is shattered, is the moment when human connection is re-established and the true meaning of the Invisible City becomes real.

@Steve_Anastasia (Twitter)


The OTHER Tenor…


Hey, Folks. I’m Stephen Anastasia, the OTHER tenor in Invisible Cities. Since Ashley started by talking about interactions in the Station, I’ll relate one of mine.
We start out in the Station in street clothes, trying as well as we can to blend into the scenery. On the night of our first full run-through, I was seated next to one of the Stations “residents”. Oblivious to the fact that I was about to perform, he regaled me with a story of how he needed $20 for a train fare to Lancaster. As a starving artist, I didn’t have the money to give him, and on top of that, didn’t have my wallet as I was “in costume”. I told him I didn’t have any money, which he responded to by asking for a quarter. I explained that if I had a quarter, I’d give it to him, but alas, I had absolutely no cash. Putting my in ear monitor back in, I got back “into character” as the Overture was starting.  My first singing lines is one of the first in the Opera, and is a disjointed duet with Cale Olson, the Ensemble Baritone, where we finish each other’s words. Without accompaniment, it is an understatement to say it is weird. Well, the poor fellow next to me just freaked out. He leaned over to the guy next to him and said, “Somthin’ wrong with this dude!” Then to me, “You OK, Man?? Tell me, tell me!! Just TELL me!” As I was in performance mode, I had to just ignore him and keep singing. This is no proscenium stage production.

@Steve_Anastasia (Twitter)



Hey everyone, I’m Ashley…well, ONE of the Ashley’s anyway. I play Marco Polo – What’s it like singing opera in a train station you ask? It actually feels pretty normal… in fact, within the first 5 mins of our first rehearsal at Union Station, I had broken down any awkward boundaries and decided to just go with the flow. On that first day, Yuval (our fearless leader) asked us to each take a prop into the station and have some kind of interaction or moment with it.  It was his goal to get us slowly adapted to our surroundings and what it would feel like to perform among the everyday travelers and regulars at Union Station. I decided to take a flag with Japanese characters on it into the station and wave it back and forth. I walked proudly with this flag raised in the air, my eyes fixed on it with admiration and some strange mixture of joy and giddy delight (I don’t know…hey, we were improving, give a tenor a break here!) I had only taken a few steps when a passenger approached me and asked what the flag actually said…without hesitating or breaking character I smiled with the same strange joy and delight in my eyes and said “I have no idea whatsoever!” The guy looked very puzzled and even a little scared. A few moments later I was standing in the middle of the south garden staring at my flag once more when I heard a woman approaching me. She was cursing and yelling about Obama and then something about OJ Simpson (lady don’t get me started! oy vey). I decided to stand my ground and continue my “scene”. I could hear this woman getting closer and closer until she was right behind me. That’s when she stopped, took notice of me and my beloved flag (what in the world DID it say after all?) and decided that I was CRAZIER than she was and went quietly in the other direction! That’s when I knew we were all in for a wild and fun ride!



Stories From The Invisible Realm