Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rough Hewing

Last night was the second rehearsal for "It's a Wonderful Life". The rudimentary elements of the set are up, so we now have an idea of what our workspace will be like.

In a word, cramped. At least for most of the cast. The actors with the three largest roles get their own chairs down stage further when they are not performing.

It will eventually look like a radio station, of course. Quasi 1940s. In the center upstage will be the table with the 4 or so foley sound people. On either side of them, on both stage right and stage left, or small rows of chairs in which actors will sit when they are not performing. (When their time comes to perform, the will contort themselves and step over fellow actors as best as they can to reach the microphones downstage.

I happen to be seated with the stage right group of actors, as I am always assigned to the stage right mike.

Rehearsal itself went well. The director is pleased with the fact that actors with multiple roles are starting to come up with distinctive voices for each role. I myself have been working on that in my free time. Some of my roles, (in fact most of them) have only one or two lines, but that makes it all the more important to find ways of making each role stand out. The worst is to sound like the same person each time. I believe I am avoiding that. I have not been told otherwise.

This whole play in fact reminds me that I have not usually been called upon to use different voices or accents in the plays I have been in. I guess either my directors are not usually worried about it, or they think my own voice is fine. But I am already taking away from this experience a desire to experiment more with different voices for future roles in standard shows.

Sometimes voices you come up with hurt your throat, and you don't want that of course. One character I play, I am playing as though he is somewhat sick, so his voice is a little gravelly. I think using that voice all night would be unwise. But since it is only for one scene and three lines, I can get away with it I believe, without hurting my real voice.

The director is also pleased with characterization. People are developing their roles, and hopefully I am as well. The role of Peter Bailey, George's father, requires most of my attention in regards to character and voice, given that it is my largest role in the production. I got a note during the break that the seriousness I gave to Peter near the end of one of my scenes was good, and that I should find a way to bring that to bear for all of Peter's lines. I will attempt to do so, of course, though I think one reason it had not shone through in earlier scenes was that I was going for warmth with anger. But perhaps righteous indignation, (a term that is a perfect for that scene) cannot mix with that sort of softness. It probably can't. I will work on it. I just don't want him to be irate.

Another change I will have to make is in regards to the physical script itself. Though he said he will not force anyone to change anything, he would prefer that all scripts be in hand, as opposed to in a binder, as I have done. I admit to preferring the binder myself, given that not having it makes the papers a bit unruly to me. But given that the director was gracious enough to leave it up to us, and that he expressed his preference, I will get rid of it. Plus, there is a gag at the end of the play wherein we, as the radio actors, toss our scripts into the air in celebration. This would not go over well with a binder.

Which brings up one final point I have been pondering about this production lately. The "base" character. The radio player that I, like everyone in the show, will be portraying, who in turns portrays the various roles in the radio play.

If this sounds familiar, check out all my entries for a year ago for "A Christmas Carol", wherein I also played a base character that in turn played other roles.

Unlike a year ago, the base character for this has no particular identity provided by the script. Not even a name. Given that we have not been instructed to do otherwise, it would be easy enough to just have Ty Unglebower mingling with the crowd before the show, and sitting on stage all night waiting for his cue. But if you read this blog regularly, you know by now that I don't usually settle for what is easy on stage. Therefore, I will be giving this random "1940's" radio talent some sort of identity. Name. History. You know the drill. I may or may not share those decisions with you here on the blog, but I will let you know when I have made them.

Next rehearsal is Thursday night.

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