Saturday, July 25, 2009

Theatre Detritus

I walked to the City Park this evening. I did so because that was where a traveling production of “The Taming of the Shrew” was staged last night. I was in the audience for said show, and I was seized, for whatever bizarre reason within my head, with a curiosity as to whether or not the company’s stage and equipment had left any indentations in the grass. (I know, odd thing to wonder, right? But any motivation to get exercise is a good one.)

It threatened rain the entire time, but it was only a short distance, and I wasn’t that worried if I got rained on tonight anyway. I was in one of those rare decent moods that actually suited rain as opposed to sunshine.

I descended the dilapidated cement steps from street level down into the grass field. It’s an all purpose field, but there is a softball backstop there. It obviously is not mowed as frequently as some of the public land around here. Yet it was just presentable today, despite being soaking wet from the day’s thunderstorms.

With the exception of last night, I have never ventured onto the field. Just walked near it.

24 hours to the moment I had previously done so, I made my way to the far end of the field. Unlike last night, I sloshed and slopped my way through each step; some standing water in places. Normally I avoid such puddles, but this evening I didn’t care.

A moment later I reached where the stage had been. Sure enough, it had left a faint indentation. In the cloud hastened twilight I could just make out the impressions of the crossbeams for the platforms, as well as the outer most edges of where the performance area, and the rest of the set had been.

Though I didn’t at all plan it this way, (I promise), I stood right where down-center had been, at almost the exact same time the show had begun last night. (7:30.)

I can’t say if it is a Ty thing, an actor thing, or the things of Ty mixed equally with the things of an actor, but I did in fact feel the stage presence while I stood there, looking out over the sopping wet, empty, and silent athletic field. Not even any trains were idling or passing on the tracks some 20 yards away. (Oh, would that that had been so last night…)

When I stand on a stage, I get a certain sense. Fellow theatre people may know it. A residue of theatrical potency, stamped upon the atmosphere. Remnants of accumulated line practicing, backstage ritual, rehearsal, performance, excitement, fear, nerves, politics, art, and all the other things that take place in and around a stage.

This of course was not a stage. It was a field. The actual stage was in some other town that very moment, being performed upon by the very performers I had seen last night. And if I had to guess, my thespian equivalent to the “spidey sense” would not been as potent weeks, or even days later. In fact in short time those shadows I mentioned will not even be there at all. Unlike a permanent performance space, those ghosts will not build up enough to linger forever. Yet just one day later, I knew that actors had been present.
And not simply because I had seen them there. It’s a Ty thing, after all I suppose. I circled around the area, tracing the imprint of the set. Judging by the lines, I got to what would have been the stage right wing/backstage area. It may have been coincidental, but there was much debris there, condensed into a small area.

Several gum wrappers. Blue. Looked like Trident. I remember thinking how much of a bad name this gave the actors, if in fact the troupe, or a single member thereof, left this junk. Gum chewing is a common backstage nerve induced ritual, I have found, but littering shouldn’t be. But given there was no proof, I withheld judgment. I had left my DNA kit at home anyway.

A banana peel. A common quick backstage snack. Signs pointed more to actors than did not for this one. Biodegradable. No harm done, really.

Tiny hair clip. Probably dropped by accident. I defy anyone to survey a backstage ANYWHERE before strike and NOT find one of these. An even greater chance it was from one of the troupe.

A 1979 penny that shined more than one would have expected. This I picked up, thinking of my own penny which I carry on my person for all main stage shows I have been in since 2002. Knowing the displeasure I would feel if I lost mine for good, I hoped, in earnest, it was nobody’s good luck charm. I pocketed this, as I do most pennies I find.

Cap off a drink. Again, innocent until proven guilty. Somebody obviously left it there, and I hoped, despite the incriminating location, that it wasn’t a fellow actor.

I meandered over to where the softball backstop lie. This, I had noticed before, was where the dressing tent had been set up. I was pleased to find no trash of note in this area. Nothing that had any greater probably of being left by the actors than by a passerby or a kid.

I looked at my cell phone to check the time, trying to determine whereabouts in the play the company was at that moment, wherever they were doing the show now. I couldn’t decipher it though. I wasn’t paying that close attention that early in the performance, I must confess.

I saw imprints from the light devices. The tracks the moving truck had made when it swung out of there. The typical stuff that I found personally amusing in it’s triviality.

Again I stood where the stage had been, trying to determine what it would be like to perform in such a place. Despite the theatrical energy still being palpable, I concluded, as I always do, that I would not enjoy performing theatre outside. Just not my thing at all.

Savoring one last time the tiny Dionysian ambiance, if you will, I turned to exit the field at the opposite end from which I entered. This took me past the previously mentioned trash. (Which I didn’t think of picking up myself until writing this.) As I crossed over the light blue peppering of gum wrappers once more, something else caught my eye that had not before. Off to the side, but in the same confined area of which I have been speaking. It looked like a chain at first, but when I bent to picked it up, I saw it was not a chain. Not a metal one anyway.

It was dozens upon dozens of clover flowers, now browning with decay, woven together in a quite intricate, sturdy fashion. I tossed it around in my hand for a bit, puzzled. Then it dawned on me…

“Bianca’s” headband!

The actress playing Bianca had come out, near the end of the play wearing a bridal head band. It looked to be a normal costume piece from my perspective last night. Fake floral, I thought. Perhaps pleather. Yet it was not fake, for here in my hand was a home made costume piece that less than one day before had been worn by an actress in a play I had attended.

I looked at it more closely. Not to be all CSI about it, but there were even small strands of human hair interwoven into the creation. I wondered if that hurt when it came off.

Few non-verbal things make me laugh out loud when alone. But I did laugh at this. I am not sure why. It was not a funny occurrence. It was not amazing. But it could have been several things;

Maybe I was just amused that I, the actor, walking through the former performance space, should find what was a brief costume piece for another actor. (Actress.)

Maybe it was the bizarreness of holding in my hand something that so recently was a major prop, and now was abandoned trash. Knowing how careful actor’s should be with props, and know you don’t ever touch someone else’s, it was a bit odd to be standing there in the rain with something I myself witnessed being used on stage by another performer, in a show with which I was not at all involved. Sort of like putting another man’s wallet in your own back pocket. (Try that sometime, it’s macabre.)

But I think the biggest reason I laughed was because in a strange way it reminded me of something I would have done. It appeared to be a piece that had been furnished as a last minute idea, given the abundance of clover in the field. Given it’s transient nature, and the lack of assurance anybody would have that all venues the company performed in would even have clover, the odds are good that the actress only decided when they arrived that it would make a nice touch to the wedding scene. It’s the sort of last minute creative energy that I use before a show. That one last thing. That tiny adjustment. That minuscule addition that gives just the right amount of nuance and charm to the performance of a role.

I can’t of course promise that is what happened, but I did feel, as I held the former costume piece in my soaking hand, as though I knew this person, in some indescribable sense.

They say that theatre is ephemeral. That it is here and then it is gone. Vanishing into oblivion with nary an epitaph. Yet of course shows linger on. Not in the same form, perhaps, but in the things they leave behind, for certain. And I don’t just mean gum wrappers and clover headbands. I mean the laughs, the tears, the changes of heart and mind. The intangibles that leave an audience changed in ways they do not quite understand. The spirit that theatre people can detect, even when a show is over, in those places and at those times when, as Olivier suggested, actors have once gathered to hold the universe in the palms of their hands.

And where a piece of trash can manage to make one actor feel intimately connected with another, though the two shall never, in all likelihood meet.

But this is theatre, after all, so one never knows...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Still A Kiss, After All These Years...

The pattern continues. One of my first ever posts, A Kiss is Still a Kiss, about the stage kiss, continues to be one of the most popular in the 4 year history of Always Off Book. So much so, that not one but two more comments were left on it in just the last hour. It warrants it's own posting.

To begin with, a first. "Flaming_Chaos" became the first person seeking advice on stage-kissing to actually write back later and tell me how it went. Her first kiss was with another girl, and a very shy one, so some slight of hand and masking was needed. But, it seems it went well. You can see her post on the comments section of the original article. Congratulations to her and her partner in the scene!

Then, we have another "Anonymous" post, who posed some interesting kiss related subjects of her own with this comment...

Hi there. I just found this on a google, and I am really appreciative for your comments. I will be performing my first stage kiss in a couple weeks, and we've already kissed a few times in rehearsals. And I'm feeling ... really weird. Your comments really helped. For one thing, I haven't kissed anyone but my husband for a very, very long time. I am feeling a bit of guilt in my heart, even thought a) I know in my head that this is what has to be done and it's not a big deal; only it is a big deal to me, and b) he's a great friend, and I feel strange; incestuous is not the right word, but close. But I feel my director is handling it great, as we've been directed to rehearse the kiss from the get go. And I must agree that doing it that way, rather than waiting till the very last minute is certainly the way to go if you want to actually pull off the scene realistically. I also think the real kiss rather than faking it is the right way to go if this particular scene is to be taken seriously. Interestingly, my husband is not the jealous type, and he's not upset. His girlfriend is also my friend, and she's been great, too. He's also been really normal about the whole thing. It seems to be just me feeling the guilt. How do you recommend I sort of process that?

Another question. Um. What if you run into a good kisser? Our kiss is not a make out session, so I'm not really coming away going, wow, HELLO. But in theory, if someone's a good kisser, you're having a real kissing scene, you're acting like you enjoy it, which is not a stretch if you're actually enjoying it. How on earth does one process that?! I'm having *sigh* guilt. It's always been one of those actor things I didn't think I'd ever run into. I just ignored it. And now here I am and, well, yeah.

If you're still reading comments from this post, then I look forward to your reply. If not, then I guess I'm talking to myself, here. Either way, this post has really helped me. Thank you!

It is a common fear I think, to be swept up in unexpected pleasure during such scenes. But as I have stated in previous retrospective posts on this subject, that sort of thing is rare if the people involved are paying attention to their job, and telling the story. Again the more it is done, the more bored they are likely to become, and less "turned on" they will be. I posted my overall response to the most recent anonymous on the original thread, but in case it was missed, I will include it here as well, as it bears repeating. Here it is...

My suggestion about the guilt is to just relax. This is not a brain thing, or else your mind would just tell you there is nothing to be guilty about, and it would all go away. Since that is obviously not going to help, what you have to do is just be a more relaxed person about it overall.

Do this by focusing on the character. On what needs to be happening. Do whatever it is you do personally when you want to be relaxed about anything else in the world. Once you calm down, and can think about the kiss without feeling the physical symptoms of this guilt (and you know what they are) you will find the guilt is also going away. Just run it in your mind as much as you can, free of the guilty feeling.

My guess is that this feeling of guilt comes from a but of insecurity about doing this. Look into yourself and find the confidence to believe that you are telling a story, and telling it well. That it is pretend, and nothing more.

I am sure you have seen romantic movies and enjoy the romantic moments in them. Do those make you feel guilty? If not, just see this play as one of those movies, only you are telling the story, and not a famous person.

As for running into a good kisser, it is an interesting topic, but one I think people probably assume too much about. Assuming that you happen to be partnered with a good kisser, whose good kissing survives even into his acting (which does not always happen), you are not likely to be distracted by it, if you are focused on your job...telling the story of the scene you are in. It's all very utilitarian on stage, and if you just remain committed to your art and your job in the scene, you won't have to worry about being swept away.

Again it is about the scene. I have been straddled on stage by a friend of mine before, and really the main thing on my mind was how to block the scene so that it looked right.

We can acknowledge a good kiss as a matter of technique, without being overwhelmed by it. Just as we can a well constructed fight scene.

And if you do enjoy a kiss, it is not problematic, unless you do allow it to affect the scene you are in. But truly, I feel that such moments, where kissing another actor envelopes you in joy because it is so well done, happen only in the movies.

(Do you think this may also be part of why you are so guilty...fear that you may enjoy a kiss? )

Please let me know how it all goes. Of all the comments on this post nobody has ever written back to let me know how the show went. I would very much like to know.

And I do hope to hear about it!

Kissing will always have the potential to be tricky, awkward, and sometimes scary business for the actor of all stripes. The key, as always, is to remember it is all part of the art and mechanics of a scene. Confidence in one's ability, a good director, and a willingness to dive right in with no nonsense attached remain the keys to getting over this very common hitch for the performer.

It's tempting to slip out of character more when kissing than any other time. Hone in one who you are portraying and how THEY would feel about a kiss. If you can do that as an actor, you are exactly where you need to be.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow...

Exeunt Omnes. The show is concluded, and in many ways I was too tired until now, both mentally and physically, to describe the final night.

It did in fact go even better than Friday night went. The miracle continued, as it were. Never has so much happened in a show in so little time. Not only in regards to the quality of the show itself, but in regards to the personalities and activities of the group backstage, and socially. Just one week ago, nobody had costumes, few had props, and some people didn't even have their lines. But in addition to that, there had not been a whole lot of socializing amongst those people in the cast that didn't know each other already. Myself in particular.

But beginning with about a week ago various people started to show up early, and one specific day we all related our zany adventures of the day to one another, some pertaining to the play, and some not. The result was an almost instantaneous increase in out comfort level with one another. I have to believe that this is what led to the rehearsals that were exponentially better each day of last week, leading into the weekend performances.

As a result, I believe, (though I admit it is still too early to be sure), that this cast will stay in contact with one another more so than my average cast does. Not everybody, of course, it is almost never everybody, even in the best of circumstances. Yet near the end of this production, I started to feel a sense of unified commitment, both to the show and to each other in this cast that I don't feel in every show. In fact, I find I am blessed with that only every few years. Perhaps not to the greatest extent in my career, but certainly more so than have been my casts over the last several shows. I could speculate as to why, but there is no point in that. The point is, it seems to have happened, and hopefully new, lasting friends were made. Time will certainly tell. (As will Facebook...)

As for the show itself, i will remind everyone that due to the nature of the show and the theatre venue, I never really got to see the whole thing from start to finish, and so cannot really speak as to the entire experience on Saturday. But judging by the hearty reactions of the once again decent sized crowd, I can conclude we hit a bull's eye. (The standing ovation seemed to seal this deal as well.)

Plus, the final light cue was properly executed...thank the Divine!

I was particularly proud of "Romeo" in our scenes together. He gained nuance and subtle touches in his performances, at least in my scenes, each night of the final week, and Saturday was no exception. He came such a long way in our scenes, and it was such a pleasure to perform those scenes with him by the end. I have been in many shows before many audiences. I know when the people are into a scene. They were into our scenes, particularly out first several, when the mood was light.

I had to turn around and close the curtain during my first scene before Romeo came out, as it had not been closed correctly when I came out. No big deal, as I always made as though I was looking behind me before speaking. I just acting like I was shutting the door. (Before singing "Highway to Hell" while listening to an IPOD...the great opening gag for me that I wanted to wait until the show was over to reveal here.)

I slipped on a few lines. Again, not forgetting them, but inverting a few words here and there, running a phrase or two together with another. Nothing major, although last night I was more nervous about delivering my long, boring "sleeping potion" speech than I had been for a while. I am not sure ended up just fine. I guess sometimes certain things just never smooth out totally in one's mind. But that is one thing about this play I will not miss...that terrible speech.

Strike was very easy. We did not even have to tear down the walls and entrances we had constructed from scratch, because the president of the theatre like them so much. He thinks they make a good generic skeletal structure for future shows, so they will remain. One of the fastest, easiest strikes I ever took part in.

Then the cast party. Fun, though not everybody could stay. We did something I had never done before. We all gathered around, and each of us chose a person to compliment, and then compliment the director. What exactly was said by whom I will keep private between those of us in the show, but suffice to say, I gave credit where credit was due, and was moved with the amount of appreciation I was shown. In some ways I affected the outcome of the play without knowing I had done so. I am glad my hard work paid off in more than one way.

And so, one of the biggest whirlwinds of a production I have ever been in comes to a regretful but shockingly strong end. I hope to work with many of them again. Some want to come back as a cast next summer to be in a different Shakespeare play. I know the director expressed interest in directing again. If she does so, I will show up if I am free, now that I know what these people are capable of. Though hopefully we won't cut it quite so close next year.

Though even if we do, we've proven that doesn't stop us..

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Miracle of South Princess Street

In some ways that is exactly how our opening felt! When one considers that as recently as Monday. (MONDAY!) several people were still holding scripts, some fight scenes had yet to be choreographed, the set was not done, not everybody had a costume, and props were still up in the air, last night's successful (and well attended) opening came as a pleasant surprise to me.

Hard work certainly played a part. The daily ritual of socializing for a few hours before call helped also, I think. And of course luck also played a part now doubt, as well as the Divine Powers. The show was not problem free, but it basically had no more problems than your average show on opening night.

To begin with, I was a but more nervous to run this show than any I have run in a while. I was prepared, I knew somewhere deep inside. Yet the whole nature of a Shakespearean performance is different than standard theater, and I had not done Shakespeare in years.

My first scene is intended to be comical, and it worked in that sense. The audience laughed several times. (I even ad-libbed a bit of authentic Gregorian Chant upon my entrance.) One interesting thing that happened however, was that sometimes a few people would laugh at things that I did in later more serious scenes. Specifically they would laugh when I would pray at the end of a scene. Is my praying that funny, or was it carry over from the first scene?

The first half was always stronger for me than the second half, though I did skid over a line or two here and there. I didn't forget them, just stumbled a bit. Recovery was complete. Nobody without the script memorized would have known.

It is during the second half that I have two rather complicated speeches, both rather boring and a little pointless. I also have a shared speech with someone, something I have never done before. So the nerves were a little more tuned up for the second half than the first, even though the first half went quite well.

My longest speech went well, though I will never enjoy giving it. That is one thing about this I will not miss..that awful speech. But I need do it only one more time.

I made a moderate to major mistake near the end. I entered before I was supposed to. Fate and the Apothecary were supposed to have been long gone before I walked out. I walked out in plain view, saw them, and stepped back behind the curtain. No excuses, just an unmitigated foul up on my part.

The ending scene, when I find Romeo dead, and bid Juliet to come away felt "good" in it's tragic aspects, though Juliet picked up on my exit cue line a little later than normal. I started to leave as she delivered it.

At the very end, someone missed a line between two of my speeches in the tomb. I covered it by starting the second speech, but I am sure I looked like the one who forgot something. But oh well. I am happy with my performance in that scene. It can be draining.


The biggest foul up not only of the night, but perhaps in all my years of acting, when you consider how easily avoided it should have been, yet how damaging it was to the play.

This show has one light cue. "Lights Out". (I guess two, technically, when you count bringing them back up.) There is supposed to be a specific tableau, with Fate bowing to me, (God's Representative.) The lights came down instead a minute early, when the last line was delivered. Someone was pulling on me in the dark, and then stopped. I look around, amidst the premature applause, and saw Fate, my counterpart in the closer, still standing where she had been...with nobody else...not even the partner she is supposed to have in the scene.

The lights came back up, and the audience stopped. We half-assed our way through the highly symbolic ending, but it was clear it made no sense. I probably should have not even tried, but Fate was still there, and she would have looked silly by herself, so I stayed.

I was angry about that. Quite a bit. The triumphant mood of an otherwise good show destroyed by one of the most unnecessary foul-ups ever. I do not know who was running the lights, hard job that it was. But it is best I don't know. No good would come from me knowing. Everybody involved in the show has known that was the ending for over a month. Now we have one shot to get a pay off from our first great brainstorming session of our rehearsal process, those brief few weeks ago. Fingers crossed for tonight.

How odd it is to do only two shows. Despite my problems and worries, would that it would another week. With one more week this show would have been fantastic. It may yet be, but practice makes perfect, and we would have been even closer to perfection with longer rehearsal time. Now we speak of strike as the glow of opening night is still upon us. It is depressing. More so than most plays that simply end in their good time. I do feel deprived, even though I knew going into this it would be this way.

But, as my character tells Romeo... "O deadly sin! O rude unthankfulness!". I must remember to be happy for the chance to be in these two performances. And I must look ahead to this very night to make sure that it is even better than the first. And so I am off to do so right now. (By collecting my stuff to once again meet some of the cast early to hang truly has been a great medicine for some of the ills and worries of this production.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Time Has Come...

I really do not have time to be writing this update now. I slept poorly last night, and I have many things to do before I leave for town to go to opening night. So, briefly...

The final rehearsal went well. Those who had been struggling with lines did better for the most part, as near as I could tell. I had to make a save once or twice, and I stumbled a bit here and there, but nothing disastrous. Director said act 2 was the strongest is has ever been...even stronger than act one.

I was running around with a video camera taping backstage antics and there were in fact plenty of them.

I feel as ready as I can be...and I think the cast feels the same. We have become way more comfortable with the play and each other in the last 72 hours...I hope it continues into tonight and tomorrow. But of course, it will.

Now, I must go and finish my errands...2 hours before I leave. (To beat traffic, and maybe meet up with some cast mates for some social time before call.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No Plan "B"

Today was a costume rehearsal, and we ran the whole show. Kind of.

One person was missing today. And "Mercutio" had to leave early. Plus, due to the building being a multi-purpose facility, we were not able to begin on the stage. We had to practice in the green room, which is not an adequate space for such things. Particularly during tech week, when we should be running things exactly as they will be performed. That bothers me, I will admit.

About 3 or four scenes in, we gained access to the stage, and continued. Because we are still stopping and going to fix things here and there, it was not a continuous rehearsal, and contrary to the plan, we were unable to get to Mercutio's death scene before he had to leave.

Aside from that, and some other confusions, things went rather well, considering how poorly they went last night. Some people still are reading their lines from the script while on stage, which is a bit worrisome, but it would seem that the director was pleased. At the end of the rehearsal she admitted she had been working on a "Plan B" for the production, but based on tonight's rehearsal declared it was not necessary. (She did not elaborate on what her "Plan B" was.)

Truth be told, it was quite a far piece from last night. There was more energy, and there were fewer missed lines, and need for books. (Though I confess I needed to call for a line a place I do not usually have to. I am not sure why...maybe just the overall stress of the situation. I am going to work as hard as I can to prevent that from happening. Though of course, we cannot call lines the next time, and the time after that is opening night.)

I think several things contributed to an obvious increase in energy, (which in turn resulted in more nuanced performances from just about everyone.)

Firstly, we were all on costume. I have said it a million times; getting into costume helps push a show in the right direction. Many people hate getting into them, but as I said in my last entry, I love to be in costume. It really drives home the character and the story, and gives the actor an extra push.

Particular with me today. The director's father is an ordained pastor, and I wore his stole as part of my costume. It was the real deal. Red, which was good because the director wanted me to wear a read stole. I had been using a red scarf, until the family remembered that they had an ordained pastor in the family. (He himself is in the play, as Montague.) I pondered if I should remove it every time I wanted to use a cuss word or something, since it was the real deal.

On a similar note, many props materialized for the first time today. They help in the same way costumes do. I still need a small Bible for the wedding scene though. "Romeo" may bring one.

Yet as mentioned, the overall higher energy of the scenes seemed to be, if not the silver bullet, at least the anecdote to some of the lethargy from previous rehearsals. Who can say why exactly, but I know that for a few hours before we even started rehearsal, energy was building amongst some of us who were there early. We were joking around, and carrying on in the green room for quite sometime before hand. (Laughing, in no small part, at the white stretch pants that our Romeo must wear in this show, which he just purchased today.) And one thing led to another, and there was much laughter and hi-jinx all around, for those who were there. Others joined in later.

Was this the proverbial, (and sometimes mythical) "cast bonding" moment? I don't know. I know I felt more relaxed around some of the people today, and that leads to enjoyment of what you are doing. It carried into the start of rehearsal. Mix that with the other things I have mentioned, (and the fact that we are seriously out of time on this one) and some things I suppose naturally improved.

I confess that I am more nervous about going on for this show two days out than I have been for just about any show I have been in. Not for want of desire to do well on anybody's part. Just how close things have been getting. With the one foul up aside I have proven I have my entire part off book, and I have declared myself off book, but I really think that in one more week this show would have been good. However, if we can improve as much between tonight and Thursday (no rehearsal on Wednesday) as it seems we did between last night and tonight, we may just be totally ready after all.

I have nothing specific to report about my performance. It is solidifying into the way it is now, and I am not yet able to work all of the nuance into it that I had originally planned to. But I must also say that I have managed to fit more of it in during the last few rehearsals than I would have thought I could last week. So, perhaps I can apply even more on the night, or during performances. We will see.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sunday and Monday

(Is that getting old yet?)

Sunday was in informal rehearsal that was not required. Ergo, most people did NOT attend. Out of those that did attend, the director spent most of her time with Fate and the Minion Dancers as I call them. I am not sure what all they did, but I think it;s fair to assume it was basically choreography.

Out in the house of the theatre, I, along with about 6 cast mates read through the show, trying to run lines without checking the book. (Having to read for all the absent people as well.) I was able to do about 90% of my lines without looking. We could go through problem scenes more than once, but I didn't request such services. (Though I did ask that those reading for parts in my scenes actually read the whole scene, as opposed to just reading the last few cue words for me, which is what they did for the others. I have never been good at picking up my cue with just a few words.)

Others in the group, by their own admission, were not doing very good with lines. I mean, I have taken longer than I normally like to, but others were congratulating me for having so many lines down. I do not know if I deserve praise for being somewhat less behind on my job, but, I appreciate the sentiments. I just wish, as did they, that everyone was where I was in regards to lines.

That being said, it was a very refreshing experience for more than one reason. It was an informal gathering, but work was getting done. The pressure to be performing, and remembering everything all at once was off, and it allowed us all to relax a bit. When relaxed, more happens. It also allows for goofy moments, but unlike many of the rehearsals, those moments do not get out of hand, and they fade quickly back into the task at hand.

It also allowed us to take time and discuss things.

But most importantly, it was the very first time I got to deliver all of my lines to someone in some capacity. I have too long been reciting my lines to only myself, or in rehearsals wherein too much was going in in regards to blocking that delivery really wasn't happening. Sunday marked the first time I had delivered some of those lines in the theatre since the first first read through or so. Just the simple ability to do that made me more relaxed overall, almost right away.

I went home, and for most of that night, and today, I studied the few lines that I was still shaky on. I happy to report that as a result, despite a few shaky moments, I performed totally off book tonight, for what was our first full run through of the show in one night. (I did call for part of one line, which we are still allowed to do, but it was a fluke...the line was not any of the most recent ones I had been having trouble with.) So, though I need polish, i can after tonight, declare myself officially off book.

Sadly, that was probably the best, if not only good news from tonight to report...

The director told us, (rightfully so) at the end of tonight's rehearsal, that she just wasn't seeing the effort put into getting the show off the ground. And indeed, weaknesses abounded. We have yet to have a single night where the whole cast stayed for the entire evening. Due to having not run the show before tonight, there was some confusion as to when scenes actually changed. But worst of it all...many people still had book on their hands. This, loyal blog readers, is not good.

I only feel comfortable saying that, because the director agrees. As I said, she told us that we just are not getting there, and that we need to improve very quickly by about "5 notches".

A lot will be riding on Tuesday night. That is the night she said there will be NO stopping. Monday night, and all previous nights each scene had to be stopped several times to change or correct something. From now on, she told us, if we run into a jam we are on our own. Which we should be by this point. But I wonder what that will bring about on Tuesday.

What exactly the director will be looking for on Tuesday night, and what the consequences will be if we cannot deliver it, I have no idea.

I correct myself, however. One other good thing about tonight was that I wore a costume for the first time in the show. I did not have to, but I wanted to be into the character as much as possible, given the circumstances. Every moment I have at all engines firing, the better. Everybody has to do costume starting Tuesday, so I just decided to give it a head start.

I have never thrown together a costume so quickly. My stand by black shoes, which I have worn in at least 10 shows if not more. Black socks. Black slacks, and a durable black t-shirt (from a previous show.) My plan was to find a real clerical shirt, but that was not easy, and I was out of time. I planned to have someone sew a white piece of cloth on the collar, to give the impression of my wearing the roman collar. But tonight, as a stand in for that, I taped a small piece of white box backing to the front of the t-shirts collar. It must have worked very well, because more than one person, from a distance, thought I had found myself a clerical shirt with a collar. Not bad for a last minute idea. (Though I probably need to have cloth sewn in for the actual fear of tape just coming off in the middle of a scene, though that did not happen tonight.)

So, we will see what tomorrow brings for the Friar's outfit, and for the show is the most critical and direct moment of truth for a show that I have ever been involved in, in my tens years as an actor.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Thursday and Friday

Like my snazzy title?

My apologies for not documenting the events sooner. With the holiday weekend and other such things, it slipped through the cracks of my schedule.

Thursday night's rehearsal was originally supposed to cover all of "Act One". (And in this context, I mean the first half of the show before intermission.) We did not quite get there, as most of the people in the cast could not, despite knowing it may be needed, stay late to finish things up. And though I got to run some of my scenes, I did not get to run my best scene from the first half. And in fact, I have not run it yet.

All kinds of circumstances that would not be proper to get into here have contributed to what even the director admits is a bit of a slow moving process; one that is behind where it really should be at this point. I confess that even I am a bit nervous in more than a few ways. We never had a lot of time to get a Shakespeare show together anyway, and with all of the difficulties we have been facing, I feel less into my character, less settled, a bit less focused, than I am used to being 6 days before a show opens. I also admit to being worried about having not run all of my scenes yet.

It is by running them on stage with the actors that truly commits the lines to memory, and opens up the mind to creativity and nuance within a performance. Yet with actors still holding books, people being missing, and other problems, that has not been able to happen yet. And it seems that it is often the scenes that I am in that get sacrificed for the sake of time. It is not personal, but it is this rate, I will at most, get only 4 more times, and possibly only three. If we run the whole show each day next week, (with Wednesday off), that means I will have 3 chances at best to actually experience most of my scenes as I will in the performance. (Romeo will be missing for one of those days, and 85% of my lines are with him.)

I am also usually in costume by now, and I have not, as of yet, found anything that will work for it.

Long story short, I actually felt nervous performing some of those scenes for the first time, without book. I really should not be feeling that way in the final week. That is when it should be clicking. It actually should have clicked for me before now, which is one reason I am a bit concerned.

To be honest, I do not, beyond this, remember much of what I did accomplish on Thursday. Suffice to say that I got to run some moments for the first time ever, which relieved some of the pressure within me. The scenes that remain unrun, still, with less than a week left are replacing that pressure and fear, however. I have never been this close to an opening without having run all of my scenes before...

Friday I remember more about. "Act Two". (After intermission.) Again, not all of my scenes were run, but the most significant things that I do for the second half we did in fact get to. The first being my delivering, in its proper context, the hideously long and boring speech that explains the sleeping potion plan. I got it all out. Not totally natural feeling, but I did it. I have it. Hopefully there is time to polish it up.

Skipping around the script a bit, (given that once again a large portion of the actors had to leave early), we moved to the last scene. A big scene for me, wherein I discover Romeo, my surrogate son of sorts, laying dead. And the resolution of the play following.

I confess at that point I was more frustrated with the proceedings than I had been up to that point. I had been, on two different occasions, been building up to performing that final scene, to make sure I had the emotional power I wanted for it. On two different occasions I was unable to get to it. So on Friday when jokes, laughing, a lack of focus, half hearted readings, and just overall noise elongated a 2 minute segment into over a half an hour of work, I finally pleaded with the entire group to please just run the scene.

I probably should not have said anything. It probably was not my place, but I very quickly saw my chance to run the all important final scene once again slipping away, and I really needed to run that moment that night, and as many times as I can between now and the opening of the show. So, just loud enough to be heard above the fray of actors laughing and bouncing off of the walls I said, "Can we just run the scene, please?"

That doesn't sound too horrible, I realize, but it wasn't my place to say anything. I have no authority over the production, being just an actor. But as an actor, I felt that not all of my fellow actors were being as productive at that moment as others.

It did calm done a bit for the final 20 minutes then, during which we ran the final scene. (With a new actor for the first time..."Montague" quit the show.) It went well, I would say over all, though the blocking will not be exactly as it should be until we have the actual slab on which Romeo and Juliet will lie. It can make for an interesting take on the ending, if we polish it enough.

As for my part, I am happy to report I was in fact able to sum up the depth and type of emotion I wanted for the discovery of Romeo. I have not had much occasion to cry in character in my career, and as with all things the key is to not over do it while at the same time being removed enough from the tone of the rest of my performance to have an impact on the audience. I believe, personally, I achieved this. (I am not sure what the director thought of it, though...she did not comment on it.) Hopefully, I can polish that in the next precious few days.

That last 15 minutes in fact is going to be quite a roller coaster for me. I have to go from bewilderment, to worry, to devastation, to defeat, and than to strength, all within the course of the last scene. Just the anticipation of doing it last night had my nerves keyed up a bit. (Which is why it is stressful to build up to tackling that scene, and not being able to do it.) I imagine it will only become more pronounced as the performance gets closer. My prayer is that by running it 3 more times (at best, sadly), it will become natural enough for me to be at ease with it.

In fact, that will be the goal of all of my scenes. I am thankful that some of them are at last under my belt. But it means that a great deal more will have to be accomplished with the scenes I have not yet run, than otherwise would have to be, had I been running them sooner. I wish to heaven for one more week.

But I shall not get it. The only 2 performances are coming at the end of this week. And I have much work to do. (I confess to needing the book for my final speech...) I am upset at myself for letting distractions get in the way of my memorization, but I have already gotten more off book sense last night, and will continue to work on the final speech or two tomorrow until I leave for rehearsal at 6PM. That should give me three whole performances during which to deliver all of my lines off book. I just hope it's enough. It will have to be.