Rehearsal Diary - The Woman Who Turned Into A Tree
Updated: Mar 24
Alex, Assistant Director for The Woman Who Turned Into A Tree, reflects on the team's first week of rehearsals.
Excitement swirls the air as our team walks into the theatre for the first time.
Bash’s face lights up to see the seats that will soon be filled, Amy surveys the ceiling for lighting, and Ioli moves around the stage, testing its length and depth with Emily. As I connect my laptop to wifi (an inevitable struggle, given my laptop’s age) Bash and I go over recent script changes. She tries out curious new words and phrases as we try to find what fits her character, Daphne, best. Emily has been working with writer Lisa Langseth since 2021 to bring Daphne’s story to production. Even longer, when you consider that her story was first told almost 4000 years ago.
Maybe you’ve heard of Daphne in literature, maybe in history, maybe in humanities: A girl of the forest, a nymph, who asked the gods to turn her into a tree rather than surrender her body to the will of Apollo. The myth has been rediscovered and reinterpreted by many in the light of the #metoo movement, but The Woman Who Turned Into A Tree takes the story a step further.
How are women pushed to surrender their bodies every day? What if these countless moments of almost-unconscious surrender create a web that we’re all stuck in? What is the nature of this interconnected web that shows us exactly how to surrender our bodies, our wild, true selves? I’ll give you a hint: You’re on the Web now. But don’t scroll away.
As we stare at our screens; scroll through social media, we find endless examples of how we should be living our lives. Buy this thing! Wear this brand! Try this product! You’ll be better if you do. You’re not enough. You need this. Need this to survive. We’re evolving, and it’s the survival of the fittest, so you’d better get fit.
But at what cost?
Ioli and Bash start to move together, warming up and improvising on stage until Emily calls them in to try something.
“Let’s explore the relationship that Daphne has with other people’s opinions about her. Where does she hear them from? What does she think of them? What does her inner voice tell her when she looks in the mirror?”
Slowly, words start to fill the space, inflating like big balloons and hovering right below the ceiling: Fat. Ugly. Lazy. Useless. Stupid. Bitch. Cunt.
The improvisation continues for several minutes, and the words feel more and more suffocating. When it’s over, Bash and Ioli give each other a warm hug. This is a safe space for the actors to explore difficult content, and they step in and out of character with ease.
But those words are not usually spoken in character. They are spoken, often not aloud, every day by people in many languages and corners of the world. But even as they are spoken, they fill up like heavy balloons in our hearts and minds, threatening to suffocate us. Daphne’s story is not unique. Daphne is not alone– she never has been. There are so many Daphnes in the world. Enough to make a forest.
Alex (she/her) is a director, teacher, and theatre artist originally from Washington State. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Theatre Directing at East 15 Acting School in London. She is the co-creator of Poetry and Prose and the creator of Out There, two original musicals, and the founder of C2 Productions with the mission to tell family-friendly stories involving gender empowerment, non-discrimination, and empathic thinking.
Photography credit: Eleanor Grice