Working with an actress and a director for a year!

Some time in late December, 2019 sitting in a warm Boston pub with members of Boston Experimental Theatre, celebrating an intensive and exhilarating ‘IsNotThatAnymore‘ performance, Vahdat Yeganeh (founder of BETC) asked me if I’d be interested in being the musical director of his new project called ‘Zahhak’. Now, sitting in my Istanbul room, listening to Sam Harris’ Interludes, and three weeks away from premier of Zahhak, I wanted to share a short journal of how we (as in the creators; Vahdat, Donya and myself) managed to come to this point, from December 2019 to March 2021.

BETC rehearsal in process – Actors and musicians in same space – March 2019

The three of us started rehearsals in early January 2020 using New England Conservatory practice rooms as our lab space. Donya and myself plowed through myriad of exercises Vahdat (the director) laid on us to become better connected to our emotions, the surrounding space and with each other as performers on stage. The exercises ranged from simple introspective meditations to turn based improvised acting or music-playing which Vahdat calls “passing-the-ball”. The rehearsals were three to four hours in length and happened two or three times a week until the pandemic hit Boston in March 2020. From March to May, we hunkered down in our homes and kept meeting for rehearsals on Zoom and kept ‘passing the ball’ to better learn the script of ‘Zahhak’, analyze the characters of the story and stay in-tune with each other as performers.

What made this project really interesting to me was the fact that Vahdat asked me not to compose anything beforehand, and simply come to the rehearsals to improvise music off of the emotions that I felt at the rehearsals. As an improvising musician at heart, I naturally found myself deciding to improvise music for the whole forty-five minute-long Zahhak perfomances. (More on how I managed to do that in a future blog post!)

Entering June 2020, Boston’s COVID cases seemed to level off, yet live performances were out of question at the time. Burning with the desire to share our creation, we decided to take our chances in recording the project in July. This meant finding a rehearsal and recording space in Boston with a decent acoustic piano, and room enough for stage design. After many unsuccessfull tries, we found a church in downtown area with everything we needed (including a sweet grand piano!). The three of us jumped backed to our regular rehearsal routine now with safe distancing.

Community Church of Boston – Our rehearsal/performance space July 2020

After 3 weeks of intense work, we shot the performance with help from Boston News Networks’ Steve Marx and Ed Slattery (as camera operators), and Joseph Branciforte (as sound engineer) on the set.

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