Last night's rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life" consisted mostly of running problem spots. If they can really be called that; we have only rehearsed twice. Either way we worked specific moments.
To begin with, however, the director assigned each actor a specific seat on the set. (If you read my previous entry, you'll learn more on that.) Now all of the actors have seats on stage, without the need to have some of them backstage. My seat ended up being only one seat over to the left than what it was before. So no big change there. I am still in a secluded little corner of the set. One actress in fact who had been sitting there previously, but has not been place very near front and center lamented to me that she no longer would be sitting in the "party corner" where the luxury of being a bit more hidden is enjoyed. It's true, she and others will now have to be more "on" than us over in the corner. But I intend to stay on as much as possible anyway.
After the seating was set up, we concentrated on the entrance of the actors at the top of the show. At this point we are to mingle with one another and the audience. Breaking the 4th wall and all of that. Always a bit awkward to think about doing that. Against one's instincts. But for this play it makes total sense.
After that, we spent most of the evening working all of the crowd scenes. Having the rest of the ensemble provide noises of crowds, mobs, board meetings, bars, and celebrations. This is not as easy as it may sound at first, for several reasons.
To begin with, the temptation is great to simply glaze over these sort of moments. Actors are tempted as well as directors. There is a tendency to just suggest crowd commotion, and then move on with the specific lines by specific characters in the scene. That has never been enough for me, and it certainly would not work for a radio play. Thankfully, our director is aware of this, and has us work on such moments.
Appropriate ad-libs at such moments can be tricky. People tend to not want to begin to yell and shout as part of a crowd, until they are sure everyone else is doing it already. I guess it may be because many are reluctant to say anything that is not directly in the script. Or they fear being the only one doing anything and looking stupid. And when most of a cast thinks this at the same time, you get to a direction for "Crowd Noise" and are met with silence and a smattering of milquetoast attempts to sounds like a mob. So you have to liberate a cast's hesitance to break in with such noise.
Once that is established, you have to remind them to actually say something. Another temptation for actors when providing background noise for a crowd scene is to simply go..."arr arr arr arr ahhh" under ones breath. Again, thankfully, our director recognized that this doesn't cut it. And the reason it doesn't cut it is that the overall cacophony or low rumble one hears when listening to a crowd does not come about because 20 people are standing in a room going "arr arr arr arr." It may sound like that somethings, but obviously that is not what is happening. What is happening is that many different conversations, (or accusations, depending on the scene) are blending together, making most of the words indistinct, and the overall effect SOUND like "arr arr arr arr" or whatever. Therefore, people doing crowd scenes must think of something to actually say, or shout, that is relevant to the proceedings.
So we worked a bit on that last night.
Timing was another issue. We will be getting hand signals from the "stage manager" (Who is in fact the director portraying the fake radio stations stage manager) which will indicate when to come in, and when to fade out, as well as how quickly or gradually to do it. We definitely needed some work on the timing, and still do. Especially in scenes where a door opens onto a bustling crowd, and then immediately shuts out the noise. That will be a bit tricky. But we will get it.
On the subject of slamming doors, there were more of the foley sound effects in place last night. Not all of them, however. Still, what they were doing was fun to watch sometimes. Clanking bottles. Dropping things that sound like shattering glass. Footsteps need some work in a few places, but that will be taken care of.
We also practiced the singing of the commercials, and of Auld Lang Syne at the end of the play. The former are going fine. The latter is going to require some timing work, in order to get to a decent place in the song by the same the dialogue stops. That will only come with practice, unless they change a few things in the script. I seem to be less worried about that working out than a lot of people do. I just don't think it is going to be as difficult to coordinate as others think, I suppose.
By the time we finished all of those trouble spots, we only had time to run act one. So we did. I gave Peter Bailey a more serious bent, as requested by the director. It felt all right. I can see where I can be more serious, without losing the depth of his humanity. It works for me. Don't know yet if it worked for the director. I haven't been getting the emails with notes in them. That is also being worked on.
During our break, the gentleman from the radio station on which this play is to be broadcast came in with a hand held recorder. He asked each of us to say our name, and the roles we were playing, (along with a short holiday greeting if we wanted to). These snippets will be used for on air promotions of the program. I think he also said it would be like the audio playbill at the end of the show. I didn't mention all of my speaking roles when I did it. I have five, but not all of them are really significant enough to mention, I didn't think. Yes, I should be credited for everything, but It just seemed tedious to me to record something like,
"I'm Ty and I will be playing Peter Bailey, Ed, the Man at the Bar, Mr. Welch and the Commercial Guy."
Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. So I chose what, at the time, I thought were my two most memorable roles. I said;
"Happy Holidays. My Name is Ty Unglebower, and I play Peter Bailey and the Dux Cake Guy."
It wasn't until later that I thought I really should have included Mr. Welch in the promotion since that is once of my voices that is very distinctive in the play. But oh well. If I am remembered for both my biggest part (Peter) and my funniest (Dux Guy), that will be enough.
May look for some costume pieces today. They want mostly black and white stuff, without too much white showing at one time. (Because of the lights.) I have most of that stuff, but we are allowed a bit of color, I think, and I need to find that. More importantly, I need to find something to wear over the shirt that is black, as right now, I have nothing.