At the end of the day yesterday, I felt like Crash Davis from Bull Durham. "Don't think. It will only hurt the ball club."
That seemed to be the key. We had been trying to fix blocking and my scared actor was still scared and wrapping themselves around the text to protect themselves and not really being open to anything, even when I grounded it in the text. I felt like I was in a mine field, watching this person move around the stage because they felt safer yet feeling like I couldn't say anything because it might set them back even more. But when I finally said that a particular movement looked like an actor wandering the stage, they said something I couldn't hear than thanked me for that comment. After that it got better.
The whole key to making this play of ideas sing is to ground it in the character relationships. And by forcing them to concentrate on that, by just letting the thing run without stopping them, it clicked. The nuances and levels I was looking for appeared, and I even saw glimpses of the things that I was trying to establish that were being resisted showing up naturally. Adam's an incredibly talented writer.
Heather Lacey, our wise stage manager, told me to stop trying to figure out how things had changed to try and fix it, but to just accept that it had happened and not take it personally. And I realized just how defensive I'd become. I had put up my own wall that had to be torn down. When I actively started to do that, when I really made an effort to get past looking at that actor as an obstacle and instead look at that person and think, "I've got you, I'm not going to let you fall", I think I was able to connect with them. At the end of the rehearsal, that person looked at me, really looked at me, and for the first time it felt like we finally got each other.
So now they're off learning lines and I'm working to put the tech side together. Monday and Tuesday are crunch days, with Tuesday our load-in at the theatre. After that we can concentrate on fine-tuning before we open on Saturday. I'm really hoping it's smooth sailing from here.