Earlier this evening was a rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol". We had planned to do all of act one, but we only got halfway through it. Yet that doesn't bother me, given how much we accomplished tonight.
Keep in mind that we are now rehearsing in what will be the house of a theatre we have not yet built. So in reality it is not yet even the house. It is the lobby of a former art gallery that over the coming weeks we hope to convert into a performance space. Given those limitations, going through blocking can be a stop and go process. But most theatres I have worked in require at least half of the rehearsals to take place in an area other than the stage, so I didn't have too much of a problem. As long as I know where the audience is supposed to be, I can rehearse in just about any space.
That being said, we were one man down tonight, which means things went a little bit slower still. However, i was more prepared than I might have been. I spent most of the free time I had in the last two days trying to get off book for at least the first scene, (wherein the dinner guests and Dickens explore the notion of presenting the story.) While I did have to refer to my book a few times, I found that I had it nearly cold in most sections.
I was semi-forced to get even further off book due to the nature of the blocking, which did not allow me to easily carry a script around with me. The first of these moment involved me entering while carrying a 13 year old girl on my back. I don't do this often, but the script called for her to be on my shoulder. If I had done that, her face would have been up in the lighting somewhere. So we went with the piggybacking.
The other moment involved a sequence wherein my character is mocked, has his eyes covered, is spun about to confuse him, before recovering and jumping onto an up stage platform...all with a violin and bow in his hand.
We had no instrument tonight, but all of the blocking I just described would have been dead on arrival if I had had to look at the book for every line. So I made double sure that my speech for that section was in my head. I anticipated yesterday that i would probably not be able to make much use of the book for this part, so I went over the speech a few extra times. I am glad I did.
Yet still I had to approximate the lines once or twice. I think you simply have to do that once in a while in a rehearsal. Normally you should try to say things exactly as you would in a performance. Yet, if the time comes to rehearse specific blocking which precludes holding a book, I advocate saying the gist of the lines until you are off book, so as not to slow up the blocking rehearsal. Memorization can be worked on when one is alone. Blocking requires everyone's time. Learn how to move, and then later what to say. You can always polish up what you say, when you say it. But unclear blocking often sticks out like a sore thumb.
I also came up with some good business to do when I am Bob Cratchit sitting in the tank. I think I will do some basic algebra. He was after all a clerk, and would be working with a lot of numbers for Scrooge. And for someone like me who is deplorable at math, doing intermediate algebra might be just the think to give Cratchit the look of tedious number crunching. Just a little trick I came up with.
Being the official photographer of the Full Circle Theatre Company, I also took quite a few pictures of rehearsal tonight. Of course, none of the scenes I was in. I may try to take a few pictures while my character is in a few background scenes once I am off book, I will have to think about it. But for now, it wasn't going to work.
One thing taking pictures of a show does is give you a good sense of stage composition. What is a show if not, among other things, a moving picture of sorts? I have the basics of stage placement of course, having studied it in school, but usually I do what the director says will look good. When I take pictures, I can see what works and what does not work with all the more clarity.
Saturday morning is the next rehearsal, and afterwards we are tearing down walls to begin the construction process. I have to work that evening, of course, so I will be unable to stay long, but I do want to stay long enough to help out. I truly want the place to be ready in time, at least in a rudimentary sense, because I do not really want to go back to the previous space the company used. So, I will see if I can find a sledge hammer, and do what I can do for the good of the cause.