Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Underway with Jekyll (And Hyde)

Last week we had the table reading for Jekyll and Hyde. (Henceforth referred to as J&H.) The director, a friend whom I have known for years, provided wine and cheese for the affair. But even without these items, it went well.

Sadly, someone who had been cast tried out for something else, and opted to take that role instead, so that caused a delay in starting the rehearsal process. Now, I had never met this person, but I thought that was a lousy thing to do. All the worse because someone left a show I was directing once just as it was getting started, and to tell you the truth, it still angers me to think about it to this day. So, I don't take kindly to people doing that to other directors.

However, all roles were eventually filled, and we were off and running.

Because of the delay, I have a hell of a lot to memorize in far less time than normal. I'm working on it of course, but the clock is ticking faster on this one than on most.

I have been playing with a stage British accent. I'm sure I'd fool no actual British person, but I think it has become serviceable, and I will continue to hone it. I haven't used an accent in a play in years.

We blocked the first few scenes last night. (I'm a bit behind in my updating here.) That took longer than the director wanted to, for various reasons. The play, though consisting of a small cast and minimal sets has certain aspects that can make staging tricky, especially in a smaller space such as the Black Box Arts Center. I do believe the intimate venue will eventually serve the play well, but it will take some special considerations as we get started and work out way through the movements. The first several scenes are more complicated in that regard than subsequent ones.

Blocking rehearsals tonight (Tuesday) through to Thursday this week, so there will be much more to say about the feel of the movements on stage as soon as tonight.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Next Up?

Unexpectedly, I already have an update on my theatre activities.

Last week I auditioned for, and was cast in the Jeffrey Hatcher adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the Black Box Arts Center. I'll be playing Jekyll.

It is interesting, and a bit of a whirlwind how this all came about.

In truth, the story has never been one of my favorites. But once Glengarry Glen Ross was over, I looked into this script, as much out of curiosity as anything else. It is in many ways a unique adaptation. The nature of the staging, as much as if not more than the story itself drew my interest.

It is a cast of only six people, four of whom each play Hyde at some point, along with several other characters. It was, ironically, this aspect of multiple Hydes the encouraged me to give it a shot. How interesting, then, that I should end up as one of the only two characters that doesn't play Hyde at all, or indeed any of the other roles.

I mentioned my preference to play one of the Hydes on my audition sheet. But I was asked if I would be willing to play Jekyll, and I agreed. It is very rare for me to refuse a role that is offered, if I have auditioned. I think it happened just once, in fact. So of course, I accepted Jekyll.

It's written to be a minimalist, fast moving production, and those things also appeal to me, as did the story being told mostly in vignettes. (Last year's A Christmas Carol that I appeared in had a similar structure.

It also doesn't hurt that the director is a friend of mine, with whom i have worked many times before.

So Jekyll it is. I think the first reading will probably be this coming Sunday evening, (today is Friday.) I look forward to it, as I do most readings at the start of a show. But because I have little attachment to or preconceived notions of this tale, this show offers me the rare clean slate. I can in  many ways build my experience totally from the ground up this time, in ways that aren't quite possible when one is more familiar with the story or script. I have a lot of work to do in this show, of course, but the approach to the work will in many ways be more organic or collaborative than most of my other shows have been for a while.

Other than one person, I know all of the other people involved in this show, which is almost always a plus as well.

We'll be performing the show in Halloween season, which works out quite well with the material.

So check back often, as we will have to hit the ground running on this one, given the time frame.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Finale Glen Ross

It has concluded, and may I say on a solid note.

Somehow, the energy didn't dip much for our final performance matinee. (This despite the fact that several of the cast members went out for something to eat and drink the night before. I opted not to join them.) I don't have an equation to determine this exactly, but to the best of my memory it is one of the highest energy closing shows I've ever been in.

I can't say I felt as on target as I did for the night before. (See previous entry.) I in fact skipped a line or two in a speech. Even setting that aside, the experience wasn't quite as exciting internally. Not quite as much of the golden ratio. Nonetheless, it was a closing show I could be proud of.

The audience, though small, was responsive. Again, not as much as the previous two audiences this second weekend, but as with last week, solid for a matinee. Both matinees being among the better performances in a two week run is uncommon for me.

This production was different in more than a few ways for me. I don't mean the particular challenge of a Mamet script, (though that was certainly part of it) but in regards to how I felt and behaved once the tech week and performances began.

To begin with, my level of ritual and tradition was lesser for this show than most of my others. My biggest rituals and "charms" if you will (which I've mentioned here many times) were still in place for this show. Yet despite the intense focus required to commit the script to memory, and to deliver it properly, I wasn't as somber in the final 15 minutes or so before curtain. Often I move off by myself, to meditate and such, but for this show I didn't. I remain relaxed, and reviewed my script in the actor's green room before hand, but didn't take a big pacing tour of the facility every night as I am known to do.

Perhaps it's just who I have become. Or perhaps the focus required for this play was so intense in some ways that part of my mind was allocating and prioritizing resources. Could the very intensity of the script and the work I put into same have caused my overall greater ease heading into the production? Was some part of my psyche saving energy for the show itself, by pulling it away from the need to be so ritualistic before hand? I think it's at least possible.

Maybe it comes from another angle. I have to admit that despite a few stumbles here and there, I felt more prepared each night for this play than I have for the last few years of theatre. That's not to say I've ever failed to be ready for a show, I haven't. But there is usually at least some gap between starting a show and total confidence in it-one which doesn't always get closed. This time, that gap was either much smaller, or not there, even before we opened. So much so, that there was a fairly large roadblock in my very first scene on the very first night...yet I never felt any panic about it. That might be a result of this higher level of preparation, might it not?

Why was I more prepared? In short, I think the script demands a different level of focus at different times than a lot of other plays. It's comparable to Shakespeare in effort to perform (even if not in content and poetry.) Not much room for zoning out, and I was conscious of this from the start. So I was even more tuned in than I usually am, and that is higher than most people I work with, if I may be so bold.

No need to analyze this into oblivion, though. Every experience in live theatre is different, for a variety of reasons. Glengarry Glen Ross at the Black Box Arts Center in August of 2017 happened to feel like a different experience for me. Not a totally poor one, not a disaster, just different.

And more tiring, no doubt about it. I didn't even go out to eat with the cast each time they did it, and I even skipped the cast party for the first time in my acting life. I felt emotionally spent, I had things to do at home, and I felt it was high time for me to exit the experience, the good and the bad, as soon as I could, after the final curtain, and so I did.

I have risen to the challenge of Shakespeare, and hope to continue to do so may times throughout my life. I can now say I have risen to the challenge of Mamet as well. To be frank, I think this experience will suffice. It's by far his best play, and his kind of rhythm can get more tiring for all the wrong reasons to me than other playwrights scripts. I'm glad this is on my resume, and I am satisfied with my work in it, but I don't feel a great desire to revisit David Mamet from now on.

Next theatre challenge? Unknown. I;m not cast in anything. I opted not to try out for the usual group of people that do Shakespeare in this area, despite many friends doing so, because of a venue change. Too long a commute for me each night, and a play that I never could get into. (Titus Andronicus.) I mentioned I'd fill a small hole in the cast if anyone backs out or something, but that I wouldn't be going trying out. It is what it is. Looks like they've got the people they need now. Here's to them.

Whatever is next, however, you can be sure I'll write about it here for you, whoever you mysterious, loyal blog readers of theatre are.