Saturday, January 26, 2008

Morning Rehearsal

I have not had to have morning rehearsals on any consistent basis since my college days. This production has all of its Saturday rehearsals at 10 in the morning, (which is not really morning to alot of people.)Today was one such rehearsal.

We ran two scenes today that I am essentially off book for. I had the book on my hand, but rarely referred to it. This of course, makes a scene far easier to play, but it was mostly about getting blocking done this morning. In fact, we were all instructed after a while to read right from the script, if we were not totally off book, just so we could practice the blocking properly.

The blocking, of course, is a challenge, as there are 7 people milling about at any given time, in a rather small performance space. Plus, a lot of standing around is called for in this dialog based play, so that furthers the challenge even more. But we will get it, of course. At least today we did get to practice in our performance space. If I read my schedule correctly, that is the last time we will be able to do that for several weeks...

I am lucky, in one scene. I essentially enter, and sit in the background for 90 per cent of the scene. My fellow actors get to learn the complicated dance of moving around each other without blocking too many people. I must laugh a bit at this, but only because I must play the game myself in most other scenes, though not as much as others. By his nature, Geoffrey is in the background, observing alot, anyway.

I have not seen my costume yet, which is a tunic of some sort, but have been instructed to find black sweatpants or something to wear underneath it. I will go shopping for them in the coming week.

One week from today we need to be off book.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pencils for Knives

That is what we were using tonight at rehearsal. At least I was. One of the scenes we rehearsed tonight was the final scene of the play, where Eleanor brings her boys knives, ostensibly to escape the dungeon.

But before that scene, we rehearsed two others. First, a scene where Geoff, John, and Philip are plotting and planning. (All for Geoff's benefit of course.) Then, John and I must spend am extended period of time hiding behind a tapestry. (Of which, we do not have one, yet.) It probably will only, in reality, be about ten minutes behind said curtain, and I am not sure what sort of curtain it will be. But when you are standing waiting for your entrance, in what will in all likelihood be a very small space, with another actor...I am sure it will feel longer.

But today of course, I had the luxury of just sitting in a nearby chair, and running lines for my next scene...which is one of my favorites. More on that in a moment.

As is always the case, there are blocking issues right now. That is because it is still early, but also because we are working in our practice venue most of the time right now. (The same venue wherein we performed "All in the Timing".

I adore the natural physics of actors on stage when a production is in it's infancy. A great many of them seem to naturally clump together in a scene, unless a line very particularly mentioned a movement. Even then, it does not always happen. Even more puzzling...such clumps, depending on the show, tend to occur in roughly the same part of the stage, regardless of the scene. In our case, we often seem clumped at a position down right. It can be frustrating, but at this point, it is still amusing to me. We are, however, slowly working all of that out.

But there are great things going on, even now. I am starting to get a better feel for what Geoff is up to, scene to scene. I of course, intellectually know, but it has to get inside me before I perform it. It is starting to do so. Unfortunately, two of the scenes we ran today or ones I have not yet gotten off book for...and the madness of holding a script was still present.

But the other scene, I am basically off book for. Not simply because my responsibilities are brief in it, as far as lines, but also because it is, as I said, one of my favorite scenes. So I have read that one more often. It is the scene when Geoff confronts his mother about why she, or his father, for that matter, never showed him any affection. It is, arguably, the only scene where Geoffrey is not directly plotting something. Ergo, he is at his most vulnerable. This makes the scene rich. Andit also requires me to give a great deal of thought to it...possibly more than any other scene, despite its brevity.

Geoff is the cold, cerebral, calculating son. Even others in the play allude to it. Thus far I play him as someone who is either always in control, or in the very least, always ascertaining as much information as he can in order to regain control. Always listening, always observing. Always making a calculation. Never out of his game. But in this least in the first section of it, he appears to his mother simply in order to ask this question...and as he says, it is not an easy question for him.

I have many questions I must ask myself. Why does he do this? More important, why does he choose that exact time? How do the events leading up to that point bring about this rare moment? How shall I portray that, as an actor?

Thankfully, our Eleanor is not only an excellent performer, but someone that I know. It will cut down the stage intimacy time required for it. Even today I felt the truth of the scene, though it is all very rudimentary. I long to see how it unfolds overtime. As I do, of course, the whole play.

We are to be off book by the first of next month. I have some work ahead of me, but I can get it done. We will be able to call line for a while, so I should at least be that far along.

One final factoid: I was talking with "Eleanor", and she had come across the same interesting fact in her research as I had a few weeks ago...the historical Philip was great friends with the historical Geoffrey. Not sexual relationship was indicated in the articles I read, but so distraught was Philip when Geoffrey died, tht he had to be restrained, lest he leap into Geoffrey's grave.

History being more dramatic than the stage sometimes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Memoriam: Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger.

He had promise, I think. He would have been one of the better ones of the next decade, I feel. As an actor, and a young one, respect for Heath, here at the blog.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


It was a little bit difficult to rehearse today, simply because two cast members were absent. That is not to say we got nothing done, but it is always more of a challenge when people are missing.

Plus, we have many people on a very small stage in this play, and there are a lot of cramped scene problems. They will work out, I am sure, but it is something that we will have to work on.

And I must work on speaking slower. But that is nothing new at all.

The director and the A.D. had an interesting method of blocking the play, however, which they worked on in the interim between rehearsals. The set up plans based on a chess board. Not only is this story of shifting power and jockeying for position very much like chess, there is even a line in the play, by the character Alais, that makes reference to this very attribute. I extend kudos for using that as a springboard.

There has also been a cast change. The actor who had been playing King Philip has been replaced by a whole new person. The original Philip, however, will remain in the cast, from what I gather, as a freelance servant, if you will. Bringing in wine, or helping the king put on a cloak in various scenes. A gopher sort of person. (Of which, there would certainly be many in a medieval castle.) There is no such part provided for in the script itself, but it will certainly add to the piece overall.

A rehearsal that was supposed to take place on Thursday was snowed out. So it had been a week since we rehearsed, and will be nearly a week until we do so again. (Weather permitting.) I do wish we had the option to rehearse more time during the course of the week, but that is when the practice venue is open, and we must work with what we have.

We also got a look at the prop knives and swords that the director bought recently. Very nice props. handsome. There is talk that I will not have one, though the decision is not final yet. I certainly hope I get one, however. It would make an exquisite costume piece if nothing else.

Five weeks until we open. No worries at all from Geoff's end so far.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Belated Entry

Several things have prevented me from posting this until today. But one of them was NOT a lack of enthusiasm for Saturday's rehearsal.

It was, in fact, a very good rehearsal, if one that early in the process can be very good. We only ran a few scenes, but I think we got alot done during that time. But first, the venue.

As I mentioned previously, we will, on occasion, be able to use the actual venue for practice before the tech week of the show. Saturday was the first time we used it. It was, in fact, the first time I had ever seen this place.

It is a small venue, I would guess about 150 seats or so. It is owned by the town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and is located on the campus of Shepherd University. As per arrangement, the college gets first dibs on the space, but other community organizations can rent it, and that is what the theater company has done.

The actual performance space is smaller than average, but larger than the last venue this company used. Nice wood flooring on the stage. Curtain. Very clean, well maintained place.

Lots of room in the lighting booth. I have not seen a lighting booth with this much space before. If I ever learn how to post pictures here on blogger, I may include some of the space. Until then, trust me, it is a very nice little theatre.

As for the practice itself, obviously being on stage feels best. But aside from that, it was a constructive morning. The scenes we ran will require alot of choreography, as there are several times that the entire cast is on the small stage moving about at the same time. Tricky, but by no means impossible. Saturday was mostly about letting the character get used to the stage, and we were all giving lattitude as to when and where to move I had to be especially on my toes, given that my character is often in the background, observing, and hence is at risk of being blocked from view quite often. A lot of countering going on. Still, I enjoy having my character back there, except when speaking. He is a plotting, observant type that probably belongs in the shadows much of the time anyway.

Until tech week, practices will be held for the whole cast twice a week. Thursdays and Saturdays. I have already started to go over my lines, by reading them into my digital recorder. Quite a challenge to find ways of evoking that many voices distinctly. But I have managed to do so, by and large, and will be listening to my scenes with frequency until Thursday.

Until then...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Rehearsal...

And so it was tonight, that The Lion in Winter began to roar for us for the first time.

To get to the point...I am quite pleased.

With one exception, I know all of the other people in the cast, having worked with them before in various capacities. All of them are very well cast, in my view. Each of them brought exactly what their characters needed to the readings. When you can say this just after the first read through; when you can see scenes and characters coming to that much life already, before a single foot has beenplaced on stage, you know that you have something going.

We have something going, here.

Add in the extra built in comfort with the players and the director, and we are well on our way to something special.

Saturday morning is our next rehearsal, and we temporarily get a chance to practice in the venue in which we will perform the piece. I look forward that, as I do all aspects of this show.

Eve of the Beginning

Tonight, barring a last minute schedule change, will be the first read-through for "The Lion in Winter". I eagerly look forward to it.

Of course, I always look forward to the first read thorough of a new production, but I have been anticipating this opening more so than most.

I have, as I said before, been familiar with the script for some time. Despite that, I have been going over it for the last few weeks off and on, and for the last week in particular. The richness of the dialog is all the more palpable now that I know I and my colleagues will be delivering it ourselves. Setting aside for the moment the fact that we have no officially met, and the director has not yet shared her specific vision for the piece, I can already see, or even feel some parts of scenes unfolding on the stage. I know several of the people that will be in the cast, so projecting the broad strokes of how it might feel and sound in my mind's eye is not an impossible task.

I already like what I am sensing. It can only improve as we get under way officially.

A friend of mine asked me if I am liable to be disappointed with the experience simply because I have anticipated the chance of playing this role for so long.

"Can anything," they asked me recently, " like up to the hype you have for it in your mind?"

I can say with confidence that this will not cause a de factor disappointment, though I did challenge them on the way they phrased the question.

There has been no "hype" in my mind about the possibility of playing this role in this play. Hype to me indicates something that cannot be backed up with reality. Or something that has all style, and no substance heading into its genesis. Something that may or may not live up to all the words surrounding it. Yet for me, playing Geoff in The Lion in Winter is not something that I have hyped in my mind. I have never had, no even do I have now, a precise prediction on every nuance or detail of the upcoming experience. The part has not been a dream role because I have seen some perfectly orchestrated mental movie of where every atom will fly, every strand of hair will fall, and every word will carry. It has been the longing to partake in a process invovling the building of that character which I have longed for for quite some time.

It is a process whose general characteristics I am familiar with. After 20 odd shows so far in my career, I know the sense of finding the exact line reading that works, or the epiphany of finding a comfortable motivation. The sanding off of the rough edges of a performance. When I as an actor do my homework and commit myself to excellence, these things should, in varying degrees, be inevitable, regardless of the role or the play. So it is that potential for the extras, based on how much a role sings to you on paper that builds the longing to engage in that process within a certain play...and hence what causes me my great anticipation tonight.

The more emotionally invested in, or perhaps connected to, a character you feel even before you ever audition for it anywhere, the greater the possibilities for those extra moments, those that transcend the process, rehearsals, the script and even one's own talents. Call them magic, if you like cliche'. But whatever they are called, I have found that they make themselves more visible when you feel that deep connection to something you have read, and you finally get a chance to play it. I think that is what actors are often thinking of when they mentioned their "dream roles". At least, that is a reasonable approximation for what I mean. (Though it still falls short.)

Yet on the eve of beginning this play, I have no overt concern about finding the right words to describe it. I only thought it prudent that I share the feelings with you, my loyal blog readers, here today, and to assure all of you, as well as my friend, that I have not set my sites too high for the character. I just wanted a chance to do all of the grueling work that acting requires to as to bring this particular role to life. That sort of work always pays off somehow, and I look forward to starting it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


My friends, I am in, and in as the part I wanted!

I shall be Geoff in The Lion in Winter. Not only my favorite part from one of my favorite plays, but one of my favorite parts in any play. Needless to say, I am quite pleased by this.

Also adding to the pleasure of the friend I mentioned in the post yesterday also made it into the play, as Alaise. So it will be nice in that regard as well.

No word yet on who the other players will be. But I am sure they will all be top notch, as will be the show itself. I have worked with most of these people before, and they never fail to bring a great product to the stage.

First rehearsal is on Thursday of this week. Here is an adventure I very much look forward to.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

First Audition of the New Year!

And the first blog post. Welcome to 2008, everyone.

As I had planned, today I auditioned for the Full Circle Theater Company's Production of "The Lion in Winter".

It went well, though, I thought more people might have been there. But I was there on the second day. I have no idea how many turned out for the first day.

I read for Geoffrey, my preferred character first, along with another actor, who I met for the first time today. He was interested in the John role, so we read a scene with those two roles a few times. (I had to be told to slow down. I think 90% of my auditions have me reading too fast at first.)

This other actor also read for King Philip, and during that time, I read for Richard.

I like the role of Richard. Deep. Lot's of good lines, as most of the characters. I could do alot with Richard, and would accept the role, if offered. However, it is no secret, either here, or to the director, that Geoffrey is my preferred role.

I am very pleased that duringthe audition I got to deliver my favorite line in the whole play. Indeed, one of my favorite lines from any play.

"I know. You know I know. I know, you know I know. We both know Henry knows. And Henry knows we know it. We're a knowledgeable family."

That line alone would make playing Geoff worth it. And I delivered it well, I dare say. The other actor was surprised I didn't trip over it.

As I was finishing up, a friend of mine came in to audition. I did not really get a chance to talk to her at the time, as I was on my way out. She later told me in an email that her audition for Alais went well. If I get in, I hope she gets in also.

We should all know soon. As usual, I can only say now that I did everything with the audition that i could have done. Maybe a few things could have been smoother here or there, but overall, I was ahead of the curve for my own expectations. All that can be done now is to wait.

You'll hear it here, as soon as I know.