To London and Beyond: Breathing Life into Nicholas Nickleby

In a cavernous, almost empty, and very echo-y warehouse space in the South Boston Waterfront District on September 14th, 24 voices thundered that phrase in unison for the first time. It was about hour 4 of our first rehearsal, and Spiro had just finished his first “pencil sketch” of the opening scene. It was the perfect way to begin our work on this text. 

image of empty warehouse used as Nicholas Nickleby Rehearsal Center

The Nicholas Nickleby Rehearsal Center is an empty warehouse next to the Design Center.

The first rehearsal always has its own energy – equal parts nerves and excitement. As the cast was looking at the lovely costume renderings by Rafael and listening to assistant costume designer Kathleen Doyle discuss their plans, Spiro turned to me and said, “I’m directing Nicholas Nickleby!” with both joy and awe heavy in his voice. 

And as we’ve settled into the space and the world we’re creating, that joy and awe still peek their heads out. Sometimes it comes from the text, like when the entire echo-filled room of 30+ people went silent to hear a small exchange between Smike and Nicholas, and sometimes it arrives when the entire company is screaming with laughter (thank you, Larry Coen as Young Wackford!) 

image of Spiro addressing several members of the cast in Nicholas Nickleby rehearsal

Spiro addresses several members of the cast in rehearsal

Of course, there have been challenges. Some actors are still finding out that they are playing a new role in rehearsal. Sadly, Peter Carey has been unable to sway Spiro’s mind, and the role of the Stableboy has not been brought back in. (Keep trying, Peter!)
This is my favorite part of the rehearsal process. After all the preparations, all the pieces being rearranged and sorted through for the hundreth time, now the play is suddenly bursting and breathing with life. Moments are beginning to be delved into, characters are beginning to form, and suddenly Nicholas Nickleby is here and now.