Monday, October 20, 2008

The Reading

So, My Sunday/Monday evening weekly column is taking a Monday turn this week. In fact, given that I performed on Sunday, this week will be a recap as opposed to a column.

Let me say that the reading for Dinner with Friends went quite well. Very intimate setting, (it is a small theatre, maybe 75 seats total, not sure.) I think we had about 30 people there, and they were all very warm and responsive to our reading.

So warm in fact, that as I read, I found the play to be a bit lighter than I originally thought. At least the way we did it. I still would not classify it as a comedy per se, but compared to how heavy and depressing I found the piece to be after my initial readings, the presentation was far more comical than I expected it to be. (If the laughter of the audience was any indication.)

I have done readings before. But none with such a small time commitment. So I got there early yesterday, (before our practice run through) just to get a feel for the space.

It was nice to experience all of the ambiance of the theatrical experience in such a short amount of time; meeting the cast, having the initial read through, working through some blocking, hanging out in the blue lights back stage, and smelling the aroma of saw dust, paint, and other such things.

It was a bit surreal in some ways. There were moments when it felt like I had been in the show for several weeks, as opposed to 24 hours. Probably because all of the sensory stimuli I previously mentioned usually don't conspire into a pre-curtain atmosphere until near the end of a rehearsal process.

And then there is the performance itself. The speed with which one has to get comfortable with a script, to find small nuances, to come up with facial expressions and line readings, and characterizations. Though our production was very minimalist, there was still some blocking to go over. With a fair amount of leeway for impromptu blocking, the idea of throwing movements and line deliveries into an entertaining and convincing show in one day stretched acting muscles that often do not get utilized to such an extent in a straight show. At least not that early.

I don't know if the performance from a one day reading should qualify, in general, as a complete performance. I would still hope that given 6 weeks with this play,I would be more nuanced, and be able to give greater depth the character. Yet, I was pleased with how much creativity I and the rest of the cast was able to make use of under the gun. When you do things this quickly, and are not consumed with all the technical aspects of theatre, such as being off book, costumes, sets, (though we did make some use of doors that belong to the current main stage show), there is a well of rapid fire creativity that opens up to you, which I enjoyed.

All of the acting inhibitions that one may encounter as one starts to stage a show simply can't be succumbed to in a staged reading like this. It was both a little scary and thrilling to have to toss all of those comfortable buffer zones aside and get right down to it. So much so, that I pondered whether or not a straight show would benefit from requiring a cast to sort of put on a full throttled reading, complete with some rudimentary blocking, in front of a small audience, right off the bat, say in the first week. Even if things would evolve and change from there, a sort of baptism by fire would give greater, and earlier life to many casts, I do believe. Just a theory though.

As far as the people, I mentioned how relaxed and easy to work with my cast was. The same was true for all of the people I encountered at the theatre. I am sure I will be doing other things in Winchester in the future.

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