Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Much Delayed

The holidays, dear blog readers, have kept me away from updates, but that will change in the new year. Until then, on this auspicious night, allow me to say, simply...

Merry Christmas, loyal Blog readers!

---from, Ty

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Ghost of Productions Past

Into whose domain the Full Circle's "A Christmas Carol" is now consigned.

The final show on Sunday went well, but I think the night before was probably the best overall.

As is the case with many shows, I think there was a sense of relaxation to the cast, given that is was the last show. This relaxation often leads to a more open performance on stage, which in turn leads to new ideas. Irony of ironies, the final performance of a show often represents the turning of a corner of a show into improved creativity.

If only that sense of openness and relaxation could be captured earlier in a run... This is why I have for a long time advocated a three weekend run for community theatre shows. It has happened on rare occasion, but in general, it is not done. But I maintain it is the best thing to do.

With amazing consistency, the arc of a production I am in is as follows. You get through opening night, iron out the bugs on the second night, and the first matinee is lower energy, but technically a better presentation of the show.

You slack off a bit during the week, but also get to rest. Assuming you had a productive pick up, there is a renewed excitement on the second Friday, and the show goes new places...finally hitting a great stride.

80% of the shows I have been in, the second Saturday is the best performance of the show. A corner is turned and you know you have nailed down much of what had been bothering you.

Then the final matinee comes, and as I described above, the show is flying in many ways it had not been flying before.

And then, you strike the set, and everybody goes home.


With a three weekend show, all of that peaking that starts to happen way too late in the process can be capitalized upon for a third weekend...and instead of having one or two great shows at the end of everything, the average show can have one great weekend, and possibly a half.

Yes, this is a bit of a digression from the actual play I was in recently. And it would not apply to all shows every time, naturally. But as a concept, it really is frustrating to hit that stride on the final day, and it happens so often.

I concur with those who are thinking that enough preparation would make a show sparkle earlier. Legitimate point. But there still seems to be some sort of magic veil in community theatre that requires a show a bit of extra time to reach that zenith. I cannot explain it, I can only recognize it. Make of it what you will.

As for the actual show I was in, as I said, it went well. And some scenes, due to the last day phenomena, went better even than they did the previous night. The now infamous Topper scene, to which I have referring often in this blog, was wild with it's energy. As was the dance during the Fezziwig scene.

As for me personally, I had a bit more difficulty getting into the correct main frame to do the Cratchit mourning scene. I did it, and am satisfied, but it was not my best run of it. I think because that last 30 minutes of the show, where I play about 4 different people, with barely a minute to spare in between them, plus my one and only tech job of the show all running together was a particularly draining prospect on the final day. (Even I fall victim to the temptations, good and bad, of a final performance. I'd be lying if I said I did not. So would any actor.)

Audiences in general seemed to enjoy the show. So I suppose that makes it a success. But it was a very grueling production at times. Building the theatre while we rehearsed tech week. Having no real tech week. Construction people who did not care how loud or disruptive they were of same. Several cast members showing little to no inclination to follow direction of ANY kind, and certainly showing ZERO respect for theatre etiquette. As well as the director not always receiving the respect her position demanded. A conspiracy of such factors tends to weigh on the emotions of even the most seasoned and professional actor. (It did at times, to mine.)

But, the overall success of the end product despite all of that is something that I cannot ignore.

However it managed to happen. And I cannot rule out a Christmas Mini-Miracle.

Next stop for me? Who knows. Full Circle shows are already casted up through May, when they will put on "The Importance of Being Earnest". No idea if I will be involved in that. But, I do not have to decide that now. I have Christmas to tend to.

And so do most of my readers, I dare say. So here's to the end of another production of mine, and here's to all of you. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Since I did not write last night.

As for the show last night, it went well. It was high energy, and I think we were having noticeably more fun. A few line flubs here and there, and a techie snafu in places, but nothing that would have been noticed much by the audience, I do not think.

I was a little off in the first Cratchit Christmas Present. I was not horrible, but I felt half a step removed for some reason. Just for a few moments. I think i dropped a line. Or the person before me did. I honestly do not know for certain what happened. But it was covered well by "Peter", and for that I thank him.

I think I had more energy as well on Friday. I found a place to sit, (an uncommon thing in our tiny, unfinished black-box), and pretty much remained there, in a semi-meditative state for 20 minutes or so. Nothing Zen like or anything. But enough to be mindful of all of the noise and sensations going on around me in great detail, but to not be bothered or affected by any of them.

Those who read this blog know that under normal circumstances in other places, there is where I like to try to get before a show. Not comatose, but highly focused. With Full Circle Theater Company, the only theatre I have worked with for the past year and a half, that has been a bit more difficult. Each show has been in a different venue, and there is not a lot of back stage space in any of them, and there have been no dressing rooms of any kind. So, I find myself moving around more, trying to stay out of the way, and sometimes getting in my OWN way in the process. Friday felt like the more relaxed final 20 minutes before curtain I am used to from other more conventional theaters. But that is harder to find in such a smaller space. I have managed to do it more than I thought I would however. Just that Friday was especially successful for a longer period of time.

During the crying scene of Cratchit in the future, when he breaks down over Tim, I tried the effect of delivering the first of two exclamations of "my poor boy" in a quiet, strangled way, instead of the instant breaking down that I had been using. I think it was more affective, and I decided to keep it for the rest of the run.

Which of course, at that point constituted only 2 more shows. And now, only one, since I have completed the Saturday show, about which I will share details now.

I think, (despite some very obvious tech issues) it was our best overall performance of the show. The energy is most places was high, and as with last night, the fun was more evident amongst most of the cast people. The "Topper" scene, as I call it, was a particularly good example of the manic, high energy fun that can make such a party scene so enjoyable to be in, (and I would hope, to witness.)

My family was in the audience tonight, and they were laughing during the scene. Few others were. And in fact, I have been overall rather disappointed and puzzled as to why my boisterous take on Topper has not amused more people. It saddens me a bit, as I am quite proud of the portrayal. But I had fun tonight, and the scene was the best it has ever been.

There is still the problem of some of the less experienced people decided to add lines, or extra entrances, as well as delaying their exits, in order to stay in the spot light longer than the director intended. This shows little respect for the show, in my view, and something that I have taken note of in certain cases. I am unlikely to ever cast someone who would behave in a similar manner should I direct a show.

That may be harsh, and of course, I do not name names. But those guilty of such things have been instructed literally dozens of times to not do it. This assures me that it is a matter of them choosing to ignore their directions, and not simply a matter of not knowing any better. So I feel my frustration is justified.

As was my slight frustration tonight over a very specific stool that ended up in the wrong place in every single scene. It is really just this tiny box that Tim sits on, but somehow, in more than one scene involving me, and presented itself, like a nemesis, right in the middle of my path. (The only snafu in the great Topper Scene tonight being that I had to come up, in character, with an excuse to move it). Actually, I think "bemused" is a better term than frustrated. It is just such a mystery, though. That piece has never been a problem a single time before tonight.

But such is life, amateur theatre sometimes. You do not always get explanations. Realizing that is difficult, though. I am still working on it.

The best news of all, outside of the good performances, was the fact that we were sold out tonight, and had to literally turn people away at the door. Hopefully they will come tomorrow. But of all the problems this show has had, that is one problem I welcome.

Only one performance left. Amazing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pick It Up

Tonight was the pick-up rehearsal for "A Christmas Carol".

In a way I am glad we had it, because I do think the play needed it, and most plays I am in do not end up having them. On the other hand, many of the things we could have used the most practice on...,that is to say the things that went the roughest in the first weekend, were not run through today after all. This is due to the fact that two actors and the entire tech crew were missing.

So in that sense, it seemed a little bit silly.

But, I did get to go over my lines. As did the people who were present. I also got to review my blocking, as best as I could without the missing actors.

There is something useful, I think, in having to run a scene with one or more people missing. You have to visualize their blocking in your head, so that is mental exercise that is useful.

And as for missing actors lines, someone else, off stage, is reading the, usually nothing like the way the actual actor reads them. This, therefore encourages the actor to pay attention to exactly what is being said, instead of relying simply on the timing, or the cadence of how something is said by a specific individual.

So there was a great deal of that sort of exercising today.

The concept of pranks came up. It is a tradition among many theatres, to fill a pick-up rehearsal with goofiness and pranks. While I believe in having fun, I do not believe in this sort of derailment. It is a waste of time for all involved. A previous show got so out of hand during the pick-up, that the second half of rehearsal was cancelled by the director. And I only ever really did anything in act 2 for that play. So I had driven 45 minutes, and waited all that time to practice my problem spots for nothing. I, therefore am glad that most of us agreed that it would not be a joking pick-up rehearsal.

I still think it could have been taken a tad more seriously overall...but I think most people did focus more by the second act than they did in the first.

I must confess here that second to last line I did goof off with. I told Dickens to "kiss my ass" instead of saying "of course", when my character is asked to do something. But that late in the game, there is little harm. I literally was off stage for the final time within 2 minutes of that. And had it ruined anything major I would not have even done it then.

Overall, there were no major problems tonight, if you ignore the fact that I was one of only two people that made use of props, most set pieces were not places, we had no tech people, and about a third of the cast was missing. A lot to ignore, of course. But, it certainly could have been worse.

The reservation numbers are even better for the second weekend than they were for the first. If you should be in the area, and want to secure a ticket, we are getting down to the wire now.

Go to the Full Circle Theater Company website for details.

Here's to a better second weekend even than the first.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

"What Could I Be Thinking to Forget That?"

Not only is that one of my lines in "A Christmas Carol", it expresses a sentiment of mine over the last few days. I have been so busy and/or tired with the show, that I have forgotten to do some blogging about it.

Which ends now, of course.

To begin with, our final rehearsal. Truly the rehearsal was not horrible, as the director said we gave the impression we were having fun for the first time. So in this, it was a good practice, despite some difficulties.

As for opening night...

There were several technical problems. Lighting, prop placement, set piece placement and the like. One or two minor costume situations. I myself did not feel that I lost my place at any given moment due to these situations, but at times I did notice them. Not to mention the fact that some less fortunate cast mates of mine were more affected by some of the mistakes mentioned above.

The director also had her concerns about it.

But, the crowd was about 30 people out of 80 seats for the first show ever in the venue. And they were responsive for the most part. They laughed, and seemed to enjoy themselves. That was a plus, without a doubt.

So overall, despite the obvious flaws, given how much work we had left to do at the start of this week, I would say we all pulled off quite an upset, as it were.

I myself have no major complaints about my performances. I switched a few words around here and there, I confess, but corrected myself quickly. Though I was responsible for one of the techie issues...I think when I moved Scrooge's tombstone at the end of the Future scene, I brought it in upside down...oops.

As for tonight, I would say it was the best run through of the show we have accomplished thus far, though I was exhausted from the start. I never like to start a show when tired. But I had had a trying commute into the theater involving mountain roads, darkness, and unsalted snow covered roads. Plus a very large amount of traffic due to a local event that I had no clue was taking place tonight.

I had been at the theatre about 15 minutes when I reached breaking point.

The stage manager mentioned to me that a prop would be placed in a different location tonight than it had been the previous night.

Well, the dangerous commute, the fatigue, the previous worries of the show, and other such things conspired to cause me to raise my voice.

Ask any fellow actor I have worked with, and they will tell you that I rarely blow up. I pride myself on not doing so very often. Yet, it happened tonight, and the stage manager was the unfortunate catalyst of this event. Not that I blamed him directly, even as I yelled. But, he was the bearer of bad news, and there you have it.

We are on even terms now though. I got over it. And at least it that it has, it is far less likely to occur again for the rest of the run.

As for the production, as I said, it was the best it has been. And despite my exhaustion, some of my scenes went better than they have ever before. I felt particularly good about the scene where the Cratchits mourn the loss of Tiny Tim. It was extra draining tonight, but worthy it. I hear I almost made some in the audience cry. That means I am doing my job of course.

That ten minutes of the play are my hardest. First, all of act 2 is twice as active for me as act one is. I play four characters in about 20 minutes. This ends with the Cratchit scene I mentioned previously. There is that draining performance, which I must follow up right away with the placement of the tombstone. No real time for me to recover.

On top of that, after I move the tombstone, I must convert directly into the most jovial, carefree character that I play, Topper.

It's quite an emotional, tiring stretch of time for me. But, as I have said from the beginning of this show, I welcome that extra challenge.

Doesn't mean it won't knock me on my ass though...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Best Policy

Rehearsal with rough tonight. I made mistakes. My co-stars made mistakes. Unknown entities made mistakes.

Nerves were exposed, and patience was in short supply.

On the bright side, I drew a semi-cool abstract picture today at rehearsal. I did it to feel more like my character before I started. (The character is an artist.)

I have zero training in drawing. So it really was literally just a by the seat of my pants thing. A cast mate liked it...said they could tell exactly what it was supposed to be. (The view of the house from the perspective of the stage where I was sitting.)

So that was cool.

And I held a violin for the first time in my life. Hard to believe some people hold anything like that for an hour at a time. One of the most unnatural positions for the human upper body to be in. I now have even more respect for those who play. And my appreciation for the lady who will actually be playing the violin music while I pretend to.

I asked said violinist to help me hold the instrument in the exact right way. I want to at least look authentic. So I will be working on that tomorrow.

It's the little things, sometimes, that help with the big things. Those little authenticites I take pride in.

One more rehearsal. I wish we had at least 5 more.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Come Together"

The sound technician will often play her play list through the sound system, (a laptop connected to a boom box at this point) in order to test everything. One of the songs the played briefly tonight was the Beatles tune, "Come Together".

A very tiny bit of that started to take place last night, but there was a large price to pay for it.

I did not leave the theatre until midnight. I think that is the latest rehearsal I have attended since college.

Still a lot of problems and annoyances. Namely, the construction crew STILL insists on hammering, nailing, sawing, pounding, etc, while we are trying to rehearse. I await still the first rehearsal in the actual venue which will replicate a performance mode. Hopefully tonight. But that is a big hope to hope for at the moment.

I did get my costume. Or part of it. The overall coat for Stanfield, which will serve as my base costume, as I throw on other pieces that will, on a superficial level consistent with the script, indicate the various other characters Stanfield will be portraying throughout the telling of the tale.

We do not have a costume person per se, so many period pieces were borrowed from other theatres. (I am not certain where they came from.) We all basically stood and tried on things until we found something that fit comfortably. I found two such frocks. Both consistent with the period. One was clean and new looking. The other was tattered in places, and looked like it had been repaired more than once.

I opted for the latter believe it or not.

One main reason is that I felt it went with the idea of Stanfield being an artist. A painter, to be specific. And while I know not if the historical Clarkson Stanfield would approve, or if he ever truly suffered from a lack of wealth, I have opted to play him in this production as a good natured, modest person, so typical of many painters that I myself know. In other words, the tattered overcoat works for two reasons. The first being that Stanfield probably did not get wealthy from his paintings. The second, even if he did make a living wage at it, my version of him simply doesn't concern himself much with the finest of clothing and other such trinkets. He is an artist.

So, I am going with the damaged overcoat. Which will probably have to be repaired a little bit to make it show worthy. It will not require much, I am sure.

So I wore that. And despite some delays during the show, this was the first real chance I had to gauge the time I had to make my costume changes backstage, as I became other characters.

It is tight in a few places.

Mainly, the gloves I wear tend to get tied up with one another when I fold them up. So I have often been fiddling with pulling them apart and getting them right side out before going on stage. I made it, but I want it to be smoother. I might store each glove in a separate pocket of the overcoat to prevent that.

This is also one of the most prop laden plays i have ever been in. Especially considering the rather small size of the cast. Objects are everywhere in our already tiny backstage area. But a system is slowly being initiated.

Now, for the acting. (By now it would be easy to forget that I talk about that on this blog as well.)

There were many confusing moments, in regards to entrances, exists, and set pieces not being where they should be. This I really cannot be surprises about...we are two days from opening and did not run the show on the stage we will be actually using until yesterday. I would have been amazed if there had not been major screw ups and delays.

Overall, I was pleased with my ability to improvise around these obstacles while remaining in character. I know that in the beginning one of the actors has never once delivered a line that belongs to him at a certain moment. Ever. Not one single time ever has it occurred, except for the very first read through when we all had books in our hand. (It managed to not happen the other times we had books in our hands. I have no explanation.)

Last night was no different.

So when the silence came, I tried to deliver a line similar to the one that is perpetually missed. I mangled it a bit, but I think I gave enough of the cue. Problem was, once I delivered it, the appropriate actor suddenly decided to deliver it as well.

So that is what it is like sometimes in the show.

Later, I had to add lines just to kill time as late props arrived, or other such dilemmas. I like to hope it looked natural enough.

I did blow it a few times. I forgot some changes to my blocking that had been made the day before, and reverted back to my old movements in a few scenes.

There was also one mistake by somebody else that through me so, that I had to take the rare step of asking for help in the middle of a tech rehearsal. Normally I never do this, but I had no clue, and given the fact that not everyone else has respected the sanctity of the tech rehearsal this week, I saw no reason for me not to make my exception.

I do not think it will happen again. Not that there is much time for it to do so.

On the positive side of things, I believe several scenes went very well. In the very least, they felt good to me. Many of the high energy scenes seemed to propel themselves, and create some sparks of improvisation and nuance. It is widely known here on the blog I love that experience. I would say the scenes in which this happened the most last night were the "happy" Cratchit scene, and the party at Scrooge's nephews house. We went off the track in one or two minor ways but recovered quickly, and nobody in the world would have ever noticed, without a script to follow word for word.

So, is this becoming a perfect show in the final few days? I do not wish to go that far. Not now anyway. But there did seem to be a greater sense of responsibility and attention permeating throughout most of the cast members last night. (Though not all.) That increased desire; that tangible higher dedication to purpose did at least make the experience of being there until midnight more tolerable.

I certainly hope it continues to increase tonight, and for the rest of the run. If it does, things will improve.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Cue-to-Cue rehearsal for techies. Without proper lights. After rebuilding the set again..while we rehearsed. And we did not get through the first act.

It really was too chaotic for me to have much of a focused thought to provide you, loyal blog readers. Hopefully the final three rehearsals will go smoothly, and help me be less taciturn afterward.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Chaos Out of Order

This was a very rough and frustrating evening of theatre rehearsal.

We were in fact back in the performance space, but those doing construction, contrary to the director's wishes, were totally unconcerned with the fact that there was a rehearsal going on. So, there was extra noise to contend with.

Also, though the set is built, it had to be partially torn down, re-built, torn down, and rebuilt again, and again several times as the concept changed right before our eyes.

Which entailed pushing and pulling some extraordinarily heavy walls and other pieces of the building that we had yet to tear down, or are trying to incorporate into the set.

Huge amounts of junk to be moved, and stashed in random corners in the building, so that we can trip over them when we are off stage, as opposed to on stage.

Then there was the concept of the platforms we needed for this set. It would appear that the person in charge of delivering them has been late on two different occassions, leaving us a bit high and dry. Today, just as we were finally settling in to begin rehearsal, 45 minutes late or so, the platforms show up...and everything had to be re-arranged, town down, etc, in order to make room for the platforms.

One of which was, after all of that, the wrong size.

Then there was the matter of the lighting person not having shown up to install the light board. There were therefore no lights with which to work on stage on this, the first day of tech week.

Not to mention the same member of the cast that I have talked about before...who has been to no more than half of the rehearsals, and who once missed a whole week, and promised he would not miss another...missed rehearsal tonight. I hate to be picky, but it is hard to respect anyone who can show so little respect for the play he chose to try out for himself.

I have not yet tried on any costumes for my base character.

Not everyone is off book.

And we go on in four days.

I am doing my best to go deep within myself, and find all that needs to be found to turn in a great performance. I usually have to deal with some kind of adversity when I am in a show, and I always find it within me to make the character mine, and to give life to what I am doing, regardless of what is going on around me. I hope to do so this time, and I feel it can happen, but I confess that it has never been this difficult. I feel somewhat disappointed in myself that I have not been able to do everything I need to do with ease. I suppose everyone has a point beyond which the distractions and adversities outweigh one's strength and dedication to purpose. Perhaps this is my point.

Trying to look on a more positive side, I think I was doing some good things in the Cratchit scenes. It seems that obstacles on stage, physical and symbollic, often bring about greater creativity and depth of character. You have to be extra careful in such circumstances if you want to keep up the pace. So the dodges and curves you go through can take you to some interesting places if you do not give up. I have not given up.

I did find a hat to wear for the Undertaker. It actually fits my oddly shaped head. Not many hats in the history of theatre have done so.

I also wore a cloak type of thing for my time as The Ghost of Christmas Past. Feels good. Simple garment. Suits the character.

Sadly, I did drop a line during that scene. But not because of the cloak.

Outside of the Crachit scene, I felt a bit flat in what I was giving. I need to watch that.

In theory, full tech capabilities should be attains by Tuesday. Which will give us three days to run the show as performed.