I got two questions from one of the members of the "Anonymous" family--like the Smiths and Jones' a very large tribe. Here goes:
"Does a production evolve with time or is it pretty much fixed after the previews?" and "I really enjoyed the Birthday Party especially since it was at the Aurora with it's intimate space - "intimate" sounds odd to me but I can't come up with a better word to describe the connection I feel when I experience a play there. Does the close proximity to the audience affect actors' performances?"
Yes, Martha (I'm taking a stab at your name here) the shows do evolve--hopefully--to greater or lesser degrees. ALL directors build a framework for the production and your performance but they vary in their exactitude. Some directors build very structured productions; they will sketch in every color, every movement, head turn and line reading and others will give you your blocking (movement patterns) help shape your performance and the show and then step back and leave you to your work.
Mark Rucker, the director of Richard III (love him to pieces) is one of the latter--he very much trusts his actors and allowed us to thrash around a bit, let us find our own way through what our instincts and intellects told us about our characters and then nudged us one way or the other. Mark has done a beautiful job with this show--see it.
We have to stay within the framework that has been built for the show and stay true to that directors vision regardless of whether or not we like it or agree with it--that's part of our job and part of being a true professional. And it'd be chaos if we didn't--picture a stage full of actors thinking "I've alway hated that line, I think I'll say HIS line!" or suddenly hiding under tables or taking off their pants whenever the odd whim struck them. It has been know to happen. I once had a fellow actor decide that he needed to slap me.....twice. It didn't happen a third time.
I think you will seldom see the same show on opening night as you will on closing--all the lines blocking and structure will still be in place, but there will be a myriad of minute discoveries-- inflections, intentions and changes of attack on the language or scene that will make it richer, and more textured. Speaking for myself, it's evolve or die--if I can't explore, even the tiniest bit, within what we've built it gets boring--it's more like playing a recording than a live performance. But you have to use common sense when exploring--does this new choice fit within the framework?
As for the intimacy issue--I don't know if he proximity of the audience at the Aurora affects my performance but it certainly makes me focus more; y'all can be distracting! Many audience members don't realize just how keen an actors radar is--we take it all in, we hear every muttered comment, wince every time someone unwraps a cough drop, can sense when an audience is bored, too hot, too cold, or when they can't hear you and we have to filter all this out and speak our speeches trippingly off our tongues.
I don't remember any incidents at the new Aurora space, but at their old one I've had audience members put their feet on the back of a chair I happened to be sitting in, seen them get so into a scene that they leaned forward over the back of a couch to listen to the two actors sitting on it and look from one to the other as we spoke (alarming), and one night one fellow decided he didn't have enough leg room, so he put the empty chair in front of him on the set in front of the door that we were to enter through causing me to nearly break the door down to get on stage.
That one might have affected my performance..........
Keep asking questions.