Thursday, April 29, 2010

Honing In

Tonight we rehearsed the second half of the show. Despite a few blocking snafus and a few lingering line problems, thinks started to click in more ways than one. We are not at the "everything coming together" moment yet, but for the first time such a moment is visible on the horizon. And we are moving towards it quickly.

In fact, the director said the the day is soon coming where most of her attention will be focused on technical issues, as lights and sound, (some of which we had today), start to be utilized in full.

That moment in a show represents a sort of weening for the actors. When the director begins to let it go and fly on it's own a bit more. Again, that moment, by the director's own declaration, is nigh, and it feels like it. Which means I need to get down to smoothing out the few rough spots I have in blocking, and begin to create more nuance for my moments. I began experimenting with some things tonight. I will do so even more tomorrow, and from now on. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here. First, tonight.

During one scene, the characters gather around a radio and listen to the broadcast of a boxing match. We had the actual radio program available for us to use today for the first time. Two of the cast members work/have worked in radio and television, and spent some time a few days ago recording and editing the short radio segment. It sounds very good. It was a little too soft, but I imagine that will be corrected in future rehearsals.

Off stage I had more of a chance than usual to simply converse with some of my cast mates. Given that we ran more than one scene before getting notes, as opposed to stopping for notes after each scene, those of us not in the final scene had to stick around until the end for the first time. So there was much conversation in the green room.

This is also historically the beginning of that "bonding" experience in a play. Though I have been friendly with several cast mates already, and have a problem with none of them, a show to me always just feels a little different, a little more relaxed, once those moments of personal familiarity between the actors start to become more commonplace. I would not be surprised if after tonight even more of those moments show up as we begin to enter the trenches of the final two weeks of rehearsal. The prospect of becoming even more at ease with one another off stage can only help us onstage. I look forward to that.

I also look forward to getting props sorted out. The green room had been cleaned up, and props from former previous shows finally put away. Some props for this show have been pulled, but more needs to be done. Namely, I need a pistol. I handle one in two scenes, and the sooner I can stop using the lousy little bright yellow water pistol, the more comfortable I will be. (Unless that is the one I will really be using, in which case, I need to paint it at some point.) That is actually something I want to practice using because someone else will be firing the gun that makes the noise. The gun in my hand will be silent.

Tomorrow night we will rehearse the entire play in one night for the first time. It will also be the first time that we are not stopping between scenes in each half. All of Act One before notes, and the same for Act Two. This should give us our first real idea of the length of the show, as the director has also as much as said that we can no longer play, "What's my line," after tonight, which I took to mean we cannot call for lines anymore. It may be a bit rough in places, but this moment had to come eventually, and the sooner it comes, the sooner we can smooth out said rough spots somehow.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"It's Looking Like a Show."

Such were the words of my director after tonight's rehearsal of "Act 1". I am as pleased as she was with the progress of the production.

There was still some calling for lines, but there was much improvement over the last time we ran these scenes. I feel confident that form now with each passing evening there will be less and less of that. A rhythm is developing. A rhythm I have spoken of many times here on the blog. An apt metaphor I suppose would be a plane that has started to coast full speed down the runway. We are not airborne yet, but for the first time the momentum towards opening night is palpable to me.

Perhaps some parts of the show are in fact already airborne, however. The director told those of us involved in a small scene wherein my character and three others discuss the writing of a large check was exactly where it needed to be. She even mentioned that if this were a movie we were making she would be ready to film that section. So she cautioned us to keep everything just as is; to add nothing extra to it. I think we can handle that.

However, it begs the question; what is it about that exact section that has worked out so well in such a short amount of time? It is nobody's first scene, nor anybody's final scene. We have not rehearsed that section any more often than the others. Yet something about it has just clicked almost from the start. Who can say why? There probably is no real answer. But it is fascinating to think about. I guess there is one of those moments in a lot of shows.

Then there are the not so normal moments during a rehearsal. Like surprise karate kicks and chairs that slide several feet when sat upon. We experienced both tonight, along with the ensuing laughter during the scenes. (I was lucky enough to be off stage when these things happened.) One doesn't want too many such moments to happen, but the fact that they are happening at all indicates how comfortable with one another we are becoming as a cast.

After rehearsal the actress playing my "romantic" interest and myself put in some extra time perfecting a scene with which the director wasn't quite satisfied. A scene with both of us on the couch. We have to strike a good balance with it, because we need to say and appear to be interested in one another, but not actually be so. I think we've got it down now. We rehearse that scene again on Friday. That will reveal how much the extra time tonight helped.

Also, we have our official set pieces in place. No more practice furniture. The couch is more comfortable than the one we had been using. I personally prefer the practice chair to the one we will be using, but not by enough of a margin for it to be problematic.

Next rehearsal is this Thursday, which will be the final time we rehearse only part of the play. Starting Friday we run the whole show in one sitting.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Rarity and an Anniversary

It hasn't happened much in my acting career, but yesterday I had to miss a rehearsal due to an unforeseen circumstance.

Everything is fine now, and the situation is over. I just hate missing a rehearsal, but luckily it was for the half of the show where I have fewer lines. This would have been considerably more inconvenient had we been running the first half last night. I apologized to the director over the phone, and hopefully my absence did not throw off my fellow actors too much. I plan to make it up to everyone by working extra hard from now on.

As for the anniversary part, I cannot believe I forgot to mention it, but Wednesday marked the 10 year anniversary of my very first opening night. In a college production of the one act play, "Sorry, Wrong Number", by Lucille Fletcher. I played Sgt. Duffy, a police officer on deck duty. The first line I ever deliver on stage, (not counting in acting classes) was:

"Police Department, Precinct 43, Duffy speaking."

At one time I had planned to have some sort of big celebration/recognition of my 10 year anniversary. I wanted to mark with a bang my decade as an actor. Then the day/week of it comes, and I forget to even make mention of it. Due in part to the fact that, ironically, I have been distracted by learning my lines for Heaven Can Wait.

But perhaps there is no better acknowledgment of the still be just as dedicated to excellence and immersed in the work of an actor ten years later as I was during that very first show.

And there's always the 15 year anniversary...

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Walls Go Up

For the first time, we rehearsed the entire first half of our production of "Heaven Can Wait."

We just didn't do so in order.

A few people from the first scene had to arrive later in the evening, so we opted to run the third scene (out of three) of the first half, and then go back and run the first two scenes.

The third scene is the longest scene in the play, as I have mentioned before. Though I was mentally prepared to do the second scene, I wasn't thrown when we opted to start with the third. In fact I have to say tonight was the smoothest it has gone so far, and that goes for everybody involved. There is a great deal going on and a lot of lines and blocking to remember just for that scene, and there were no huge difficulties during it that I can recall.

It was going so well in fact that I felt at liberty to experiment a bit. I tweaked the delivery of a few lines because now that the books are gone I have noticed that I am not consistent in some places. My cadence changes somewhat in a  few scenes as compared to others. And while that could be accounted for by the differing action in each scene and probably would not be noticed by anyone but myself, I have never been one to ignore a problem once I spot it. Especially when I know I can iron it out with a bit of effort and attention.

It is a little harder to be snooty and confused or shocked at the same time. It is there that I wish to strike the balance, and it is with that goal in mind that I delivered some of my latter lines differently. It felt good.

The director did have to remind me to grab items with my upstage hand. I know better. But being right handed I sometimes naturally gravitate towards that hand for certain actions. But the table is on my left, which means my left hand would be the upstage hand. So I will have to make a conscious effort to pound that into my mind.

I still am working on retraining myself to cross my legs in the more snooty fashion as opposed to the "cowboy" way of doing so. I am getting better at that, so there is hope for me in getting the upstage hand to do the work in that short section.

All and all the director seemed pleased with the scene. As did some of the other actors in the house, who are not in the scene but were present and able to watch it for the first time, given that they were in the other scenes we were scheduled to do tonight.

One such scene is the prologue for the play. This runs about 15 minutes. Because our assistant director is out due to illness we have all taken turns being on book for the actors on stage should they need to call for lines. It fell to me this evening to be on book for the prologue. And boy did they ever need me.

Not that I am making fun of my talented cast mates. Everyone can have an off day, and by their own admission tonight's run through of the prologue did not go very well in regards to remembering lines. Which is a little weird because it has gone better than that in the last week. (The director herself said this.) It will be better next time, I have no doubt.

The set is also starting to take shape. Three walls. A set of french doors. A platform leading to same. Nothing is painted yet, but it is certainly giving we actors the correct sense of space for the performance area. The ideal is the have all set pieces secured and all set dressing completed with about two weeks to spare before opening. (In other words within about a week from now.) If that ends up being the case it will be one of the fastest set completions for any production I have ever been in. (Sometimes paint is still drying on opening night.)

At the end of the evening after everyone had gone home, the actress playing opposite me, as it were, wanted to work with the director on he very first entrance of the play. The timing for same had been awkward since we first blocked it and she wanted to smooth some things out. I offered to stay behind and take my position on the set for her entrance, so she could run it in the same manner she would during the show. She was very grateful for my offer and accepted.

I always try to help out other actors in that fashion. We are all in this together, and actors should look out for one another within a production and when one of us improves or feels more comfortable, we all do. Plus I know how much easier it is to commit something new to memory when the environment resembles as much as possible how it will look once the show opens. I was glad to help.

Tomorrow has the potential to be a very productive night. Head shots are being taken, and the costume person may show up to take some measurements. Plus the running of the entire second half of the show. I look forward to what that will bring for us all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"You Can't Put a Cardboard Maid On Stage."

I am going to go ahead and declare myself off book for "Heaven Can Wait". Not that I won't ever have to call for a line during the rest of the rehearsal process, because I very well might. However, given that as of tonight all of my scenes have been run off book at least once without any major trouble for me, I think it's fair to conclude that I am off book, at least from an intellectual stand point.

Not that the scene we ran tonight is my greatest challenge in regards to lines. The exact opposite in fact; I have fewer lines in that scene than I do in any of the others I am in.

In an interesting twist though, I believe it is also the scene where I spend the most consecutive minutes on stage. I haven't timed it or anything, but it feels like I am actually on the set longer without an exit than at any other point in the play. I am just silent most of the time.

This presents one of the more enjoyable challenges for me as an actor. To make sure the audience knows that I, (and thus my character) am 100% present for every moment of the scene, despite the fact that I am not talking much. Facial expressions. Gestures. Shifts in my seat. All of these nuances must be practiced just as much as my lines are, so that I don't appear to be fake.

As my late directing professor once said, "You can't put a cardboard maid on stage." In other words, even if you are in the background saying nothing, you need to be performing. Your character should not go away until you are off stage.

Yet there is another element to my character in this final scene. I am not sure how much I can say, in case those who have not seen the play, but want to, are reading this. But let me say that during the scene my character has to be pretending he is thinking one thing when he is thinking something else. So I must convey someone conveying that. It is not as complex as it may sound, but it still requires a bit of nuance, and I hope to have that in place by the time we open.

According to one of my cast mates I have in fact brought good things to the scene already. He told me at the end of rehearsal that he sometimes has to struggle to not laugh at what I am doing. I take this as a compliment. And the fact that I had no idea he was trying not to laugh at any given time indicates how well he too is doing, in my opinion.

Tonight also reminds me of a theorem that I have as of yet not found a cool name for. But it goes something like this...

"When a cast consists mostly of people who do not know one another, the amount of fun the cast has together is inversely proportionate to the amount of time spend with scripts in hands, starting from X, whereas X represents the first night of being off book."

A fancy, pretentious way of saying, yet again, people really start to feel more relaxed and enjoy themselves more once scripts are gone, even if they still have to call for lines. Even if they screw up. We are at that phase now. And it will evolve from here on out, since we have now run every scene without the scripts for the first time. Starting Thursday we will be on familiar territory, which will allow us to really start the magic.

Speaking of Thursday we will be running All of Act One, and Act Two Scene One, as defined by the script. (Though in our production, this represents all that we will be doing before intermission. So it is sort of the de facto "Act One" of our performance.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Marathon Accomplished

Tonight was the longest rehearsal thus far for "Heaven Can Wait" with the Potomac Playmakers. But it was not quite the dragging, grueling experience that I had thought it might be.

Part of the reason for that may be that I only have a medium sized role, but one that allows me to be doing something at regular intervals during Act 2. (What we went over today.) Part of that might also be that I am accustomed to three plus hour rehearsals. Granted it has not happened in a while, but I've experienced four hour rehearsals before. Sometimes such experiences get to me, but by and large I have not been adversely effected by long rehearsals.

I most cases I have friends I can talk to during the long rehearsals. I am getting to know the people in this show, but none of the friends from previous shows are in this, so I didn't even have that to make it easier, and yet i still didn't mind. Perhaps, shock of shocks, I am becoming a more patient man as time goes on. Heaven forbid, right?

Act 2,Scene 1 is the longest section of the play. Originally we were going to run the entire scene, and then run it again, but the decision was made early one to break it into informal French scenes, and replay each of those sections twice in a row before moving on. The director thought that would help pound lines into our head that we hadn't quite committed to memory yet.

On the subject of lines, everyone did a fairly good job at being off book for most of Act 2 this evening. (Especially those with the really large parts.) The overall off book quotient wasn't as high for the last third of the material we covered tonight, but that is to be expected, I think. Fatigue sets in, and those were in fact sections that we have not had much of a chance to go over so far.

For my own part, I suppose I cannot complain about my progress. I did call for a line very briefly 3 or 4 times during the evening, but I am happy to report I didn't have to call for the same lines twice at any given point. (Which says to me that they are starting to solidify in my mind.) I still want several section to come a lot more smoothly than they did, but tonight proved that what needs to be in my brain is there now. It just needs some time to take root, as it were. The same with my blocking.

The director told us that tonight was mainly for us, as opposed to her, or the overall vision of the play. A chance to get those roots I mentioned to take for all of us by getting the words said and the blocking used at the same time without books in hands. Deeper characterization will come next week, but I am proud of some of the choices I have made tonight and last night either way. Thus far I have not been told they are wrong choices, and in a few cases were told they were good choices. This pleases me, and I hope of course it continues.

One somewhat embarrassing moment came for me when I was in the prop room looking at props when I was called to the stage for a bit of blocking. So I had to be summoned more than once and held things up for a few moments. I was acting under the assumptions that I had nothing left to do in the scene, and that I would be able to hear the director is she called me. Wrong on both counts, but in my own defense, I had never been asked to perform the action in in previous rehearsals of that scene. But nobody yelled at me, so I suppose all is well.

In a way tonight was the most nerve wracking sort of rehearsal. The first off book rehearsal for the longest part of the play. There will be rehearsals in the coming weeks that are just as long, and take up just as much or even more energy, (there is a reason they call it "Hell Week"), but there will not be that fear of "doing it" for the first time. The initial spreading of the wings that is being off book is completed for the lion's share of the play, and from here on out I know what to expect. I have received my very first reading on the frequency of the signal, and that will help set the tone for the rest of the production.

So while it was not terrible, I am glad tonight's rehearsal is now behind us, and that we can get on to other things now, without having to cross that particular threshold.

The thoughts of the cast also are with our assistant director who had surgery yesterday, (I forgot to mention it then.) So we hope for a speedy recovery for her.

The next rehearsal is Monday evening; our first off book rehearsal for what the script calls Act 3. (But will not be a separate act in our production.) I am not concerned with that rehearsal much, as I have only 5 lines or so in the entire act, and I am off book for them now. My appearance in Act 3 or mostly about non-verbal acting, a subject I love to talk about.

But not tonight. Tonight I will give myself rest from the script, and get back to reviewing lines and blocking sometime tomorrow.

Four weeks from tonight, we open the show.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Cups and No Books

So today was it. The first off-book rehearsal for "Heaven Can Wait". At least for Act One of same.

To begin with let me say that we are still allowed to call for lines for a while. I am relieved to hear this, for while I am about 90% off book for the whole show, the percentage sometimes dips a bit on the first few nights of rehearsing without the book. I will be doing some more reviewing tonight and a lot tomorrow before rehearsal, but I feel confident I can give any line I can call a prompt for at this time.

But that is tomorrow. More on tonight.

As I have mentioned previously, I make only a brief appearance in Act One, so I can't claim it is as feat that I didn't need to call for a line today. (Again tomorrow will be the rest chore on this, but I digress again.)

How I enjoy those first few nights of not having books on hands, though. If you are a loyal follower of this blog, you have no doubt grown weary of me mentioning this fact during every single play. But it is mentioned so often because it is true. In some ways, holding books makes rehearsing seem more like a dynamic reading or cast meeting. Once the books are gone it begins to feel like a play for the very first time. A very stop and start sort of affair, but a fledgling production nonetheless. A time when the nuanced work of character development begins in earnest.

I felt the freedom right away today. Just being able to enter without the book, and exchange lines with my cast mates. No crutch.

During notes, the director told my co-star and I, (the one playing my "love" interest) that in fact she does not want us to play up the romance angle much at all. In fact, perhaps none of it. She wants it to be clear from the start that the two characters are merely engaged in a mutual beneficial arrangement. It isn't clear whether or not she wants our characters to have ever even had sex for the sake of doing so. But nonetheless, this approach required changing some of my line readings to reflect the new reality. A bit tricky, especially when there are so many "dears" and "my sweets" in the dialogue. But I cam to the conclusion that perhaps they can be delivered almost as a formality. Just as when my character calls his superior "sir", even though he is constantly plotting the man's death. (Don't worry, this is clear from near the beginning, so I have not spoiled anything.) So the lust/lovespeak that is written is going to be delivered by me now more like play acting within play acting.

I also requested that I be able to at least use some stand in props for the scene tonight. I have to pour and deliver two drinks during the scene and now that the book is out of my hand, I wanted to be able to get my bearings for that with actual glasses. Or at least stand ins. Pursuant to this request, the director had us bring in the set piece mini-bar. Two paper cups were also retrieved. This works fine for now, because the goal is not to feel exactly as it will feel during performances, but merely to remember that the cups are there. (I generally hate to pantomime things, even in very early rehearsals.)

We already learned that my opposite has no place to really place her cup later in the scene after I leave, so I will be taking it off with me along with my own.

My gestures were explored today as well. I have been visually suggesting that I will be straitening cuff links or at least the cuffs themselves when I enter. I always found it to be a very smooth yet snooty thing to with one's cuff links. It suits the character well.

Another gesture is the crossing of my legs. I must remember to cross left over right as opposed to right over left as is my custom. This because it looks better when I am seated next to a co-star that is also crossing her legs.

So we are well on our way. Tomorrow night, as I mentioned, is the marathon rehearsal. Act Two, which is a long act with a very long scene in it. I feel better that I can call for lines tomorrow, as I already mention above, but it will still be a long night. We have all been advised to bring food and drink. I don't usually do so, but I think this time I may make an exception to my guideline. Check back late tomorrow night or Saturday afternoon to find out.

Shaking Up Your Rehearsal Process

I just ran into this excellent piece over at "Theatre Folk". It gives five exercises, or ways to conduct a later rehearsal which will hopefully not only help the cast understand and present the play in a more effective manner, but also be a lot of fun.

You want to use such tactics sparingly of course, but I can tell you I have been in several productions that have used some of these tactics, and I myself as a director have used the "Character Switch" idea.

Check it out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Short and Sweet

Cliche', but no other way to describe tonight's rehearsal for "Heaven Can Wait". We were running the blocking of Act 3, which is split into two scenes. I am only in the first scene of same, which is the shorter of the short halves. So, after about a 40 minutes of running the scene and getting notes my presence was no longer required. So I went home, obviously.

That being said, the director continues to be very pleased with our progress. No major log jams while running the scene. The dog was not present this evening though, and in all fairness, I have almost no blocking in that scene; I am sitting on a couch for 90% of it, so it's easy to remember. I am almost off book for the few lines I have in it as well.

There is a bit of coordinating that must be done pertaining to the last few seconds of the scene, but I hesitate to go into detail about that, because it gives away a major plot point. Let's just say I must decide which of the incredible circumstances to be more shocked by at a given moment before the end.

Speaking of offbook, my overall progress in that regard is as follows:

Act One: Off book. I have only one scene in that Act and I have been off book for that for about a week. Smooth sailing should ensue for Thursday, which is the off book deadline for Act One anyway.

Act Two: 2/3 Off book. This is a huge act, an in particular there is this big 30 minute scene in the middle of it. The vast majority of my character's stage time is in Act 2 during said long scene. I have about three scenelettes within the scene. (I am not on stage the entire time.) I am pretty close to totally off book for the first two, and 80% off book for the third. The fourth section is the one I know the least as of now. Plus I have a large block of text to memorize that I am supposed to be reading. That will probably be the biggest challenge between now and then.

The second biggest challenge is finding a way to sound natural while rapidly delivering dialogue that basically consists of stock market terms. I know zero about such matters, so I looked up the terms, in order to sound more genuine when mentioning them during the scene. A personal practice of mine, since I don't like to be unaware of at least the rudimentary meaning of what I am saying. It didn't exactly help much this time though, as I still have no idea what most of that stuff is. But I will get there. (And I wish to blog about this topic later in the week, as a separate post.)

So I do have some work to do between now and Friday's marathon Act 2 off book rehearsal. We haven't run some of those scenes more than once or twice, so that makes getting off book a bit more difficult. But I feel confident that I can be most of the way there by deadline. At least to the point where calling for line will be helpful. (I hope we are allowed to do that for at least a few days, though I am not privy to the official policy of this director on that subject.)

So I will have to put the pedal slightly to the medal, but I will be there. And then comes the really rewarding part of rehearsing. We can set the scripts down and work on the nuance of speeches and scenes. Where the real magic of theatre happens.

Check back often, loyal blog readers. It is about to get real.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dog Gone?

Tonight we blocked the last scene in which I appear. Act 3, Scene 1. This scene contains my fewest number of lines, and even less blocking. In fact, I am sitting on a couch for about 90% of it.

Easily remembered.

The same goes for the actress playing my wife. And at her feet will be sitting a dog.

A real dog.

This was mentioned as a possibility a few weeks ago. At least I has thought it was a possibility. It was in fact a certainty. But until two dogs, (I suppose one was a stunt double) waddled into the theatre today, I didn't know this.

Cute dogs. I think bull dogs, but I am terrible with knowing breeds. The breed however is not so much the problem as my potential reaction to them.

You see, I am allergic to many different types of dogs. And I had to bring up this fact during our break tonight. I would have mentioned it weeks ago but as I said, I didn't realize that the dogs would actually be there. (I apparently was absent the last time they showed up.)

Sometimes a dog doesn't effect me at all. Some dogs make my eyes water a bit. Some make them bloodshot. Then there is the sneezing. There really is no way of knowing how any given dog will effect me until I am around it enough. Which is why I assured the director that there was not yet a reason to get rid of the idea of using the dog for my sake. I cannot promise it won't come to that, but I am relieved to know they are willing to take that step if my reaction ends up being unmanageable. (I am on no prescription medicines.)

Returning to the subject of my few lines an easy blocking, though, the director mentioned the unique challenge of such scenes. It is a topic I have touched upon previously here on the blog as well. That when there are many characters on stage at one time, and there is a lot going on between each of one's lines, it because extra important to make sure an actor reacts to the action going on around them. This is true all the time of course, but the temptation to tune out is greatest when there are large gaps between one's lines within a scene. But the acting must be constant, and I have always prided myself on my ability to take in what is going on around me during such a scene, and process an in-character response to same. A character must always have some kind of business.

I very much enjoy coming up with such things. Sitting on a couch will not allow me to do much other than whisper to my co-star, but perhaps I can come up with some smaller goals as well.

Now that I know what all my movements will be at this point, I can work on memorizing them all, as well as getting off book for all of my lines. Plus each rehearsal from here on out will be dedicated strictly to building character, establishing atmosphere, and all the other nitty gritty theatrical goodness. I look forward to entering this phase of the production.

A small twist on this idea for this show: there are several character on the stage during the scene that cannot be seen or heard by everyone. So we all must remain ever cognizant of when it is appropriate for us to react to a line, and when it is not.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Monday, Monday...

Written about on a Tuesday evening.

Last night's rehearsal started at hour earlier than normal, at 6PM. This was to accomodate running both Act one and Act Two. (Remember there is a short Act Three in this play, so we weren't running the whole show.)

Nonetheless, Act 2, Scene 1 in the longest in the entire play. I am guess when all is said and done it might last 25 minutes.

But because it had already been blocked last week, it went more smoothly tonight.

I am happy to say that was "essentially" off book for two snippets; my entire appearance for Act One, and my first appearance for Act 2. Or just under half of all my lines. But I am what I call familiar with the rest of Act 2, and with some heavy reviewing I should be okay in about a week, (which is when lines are due.) I am a little concerned, but not yet worried.

I got several compliments during notes last night. One was that I was a flexible man, based on a weird stance I took during one scene. It was my poorly executed attempt to stand in the way I had been directed a few days before, but it would seem I took the directions too literally. And can and will stand in a fashion that is somewhat loser next time.

The A.D. also told me that though she normally stops laughing at lines deliveries this late into rehearsing, some of my lines still get her. She again compared my delivery to William Shatner. I suppose that can be a good thing or a bad thing, but by her tone I can tell it was a good thing. It all comes about from my efforts to speak a bit more slowly, to display this sort of relaxed approach to the horrific events that my sleazy character has put into motion. I think people will, on a subconscious level, will feel more of his nefarious qualities because of that type of delivery.

I deliver things slightly faster when the character is not alone with the co-conspirators...when he must at least give the impression that all is well. A subtle thing I do that hopefully pays off.

This reminds me that I must sit down and outline my characters backstory. I do this sometimes, and other times I do not. In fact it was been a while since I thought of doing so in such a detailed way as I have been planning. But I think in a play like this, which is a bit bigger than life, nailing down those concrete qualities can help my performance. I keep them to myself unless asked, and indeed already have some ideas in my head about it. But I want to sit down and think more about it in the near future.

One problem is that the director feels there is a bit of awkwardness between myself and the actress that plays my "love interest" when we perform. I can't really judge that yet, other than to say it does not feel awkward. But performers do not have to feel awkward in order to look it. One issue may be that the lines are those of two people that are in fact in love, or at least in lust, but that the way we have been asked to play it is less sincere than that. When it comes down to it, I think playing up the superficial lust may be helpful. But I won't be sure until we run the scene again, probably late next week. We'll get there.

Actually, she that is playing my love interest is a good deal of the way there already after last night. It seems she had a breakthrough on her way to giving the character the right amount of attitude that the director wanted. I personally can't comment much on that, because it's between her and the director, but judging by the clapping and laughing coming from the production staff, one has to conclude that something good has been struck upon.

Some other things that helped last night; I had a desk, papers, and a toy gun with which to play during the rehearsal as well. Other than the desk, none of the items will be the actual ones used in the performance, but it is easier when something is in my hand. (Other than a script.)

I am going to try to run some lines tonight, and run them a lot more tomorrow. Probably a little bit of all of my lines, but I wonder which sets of lines I should run more; the lines for the scenes that have already been blocked, or the lines for the scene we will be blocking for the first time on Thursday? I am tempted to pound the lines for the earlier scenes into my head more, since being off book for a blocking rehearsal really isn't that productive. (You have to have your book with you at all times to write down the blocking anyway.)

Our next rehearsal is this coming Thursday. In the mean time I am going to see if I can post some of the pictures I took with my cell phone of the theatre space. Check back.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rough But Profitable

Tonight was one of those night's that was just difficult for any number of reasons.

To begin with, there was personal tension. I of course am not going to get into any details about it, because that would not be proper. I will say that it did not involve me, and I am not 100% certain what the situation was. It was an argument between two people who already knew each other, and I just did my best to not be in the way of it. I mention it here in broad terms only because I have agreed from the very start of this blog to be honest about the experiences I have, and that was honestly what happened. It honestly made me a little nervous. But that being established, there is no reason to talk about it any further.

And actually there is not much of a need to talk about the actual rehearsing either. As with last night, tonight was devoted to blocking a rather large swath of the script. This section, in addition to being long also includes some more complicated blocking than in other parts of the script. (Including a moment or two during which I admit I feel a bit awkward about the blocking I have. The only time that has happened thus far in this play. Not a bad record at all.) Not a lot of creative work going on from an acting perspective tonight.

Plus I think everyone was a bit off in regards to picking up the flow of what they were doing. Myself included. I had an entrance, (with no lines) at one point in the play that I have never even noticed as I read the script until tonight when I missed the entrance. (I walk in, there are about 5 lines of dialogue from other people, and then the intermission curtain. In self defense it was easy to miss in the script.)

I did get to sit at the desk I will be using in the play for the first time today, so I have that in my mind. I'm told the desk seems to have been one of those set pieces that has made an appearance many times on the stage of the Potomac Playmakers.

Aside from this though, tonight's rehearsal is probably best left at that.

Outside of rehearsal itself, however I have a few things on which to comment.

First of all, the speed with which I have become comfortable with this cast. I can't claim I have shared any intimate secrets with any of them, but I have arrived at a level of social comfort with them after two weeks of rehearsal that has often taken twice that long to achieve. This is especially surprising to me, because as I have mentioned here on the blog before, I had never met a single one of these people before.

And perhaps that is it. It's been such a long time since I stepped into a brand new group of people, perhaps I have actually mellowed since the last time it happened. I may never be a social butterfly, but perhaps I have actually become more at ease with strangers. What a wild possibility that presents.

It could also be that the people themselves are just easier to get along with than some others with whom I have worked. Or it may be that comedy scripts tend to open people up to one another faster than dramas. In reality, it's probably a combination of reasons.

After rehearsal I was talking to the actress who will play my love interest in the play. She kindly mentioned to me how much she enjoyed working with me so far, and the feeling is mutual. We then discussed methods for memorizing lines. (At least we tried to as we collected our things...we got booted out of the building mid-sentence because it was being locked up at that exact instant.) I shared with her my method of recording my lines into a recorder, and listening back to them. This she had tried, but she told me she cannot stand her own voice played back to her. This is common, actually. But I am used to it, so it doesn't bother me. After our chat, she decided she would give the method another try.

One more highlight of the evening for me; I was told I looked young for my age. Very good to know, indeed. There was thing about the compliment I couldn't agree with though, (though I didn't mention it at the time); I was told that I couldn't actually be as young as I looked, because people that young have not lived long enough to summon up the cynicism and bitterness I am showing on stage. I wanted to mention to them that when one experiences the life I did by the time I was 25, one learns plenty by that age. But I didn't. Too tacky. Here on the blog though, I have no shame.

So, that was this evening's events. Much went on to feel good about outside of the actual rehearsing. Which is all part of the process as well.

Our next rehearsal is Monday evening. It has been made one hour earlier because we hope to cover both Acts One and Two on that day. (There are three acts to the play.)

Happy Easter to everyone who celebrates it. Otherwise, Happy Passover, and other such holidays about which I know little.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Long Night

It was a long night's rehearsal last night, (which I am just now blogging about) because we were working on the longest scene of the play. About 25 pages or so. That's a lot of blocking in what session. And we didn't quite finish the task. We have to continue it tonight.

It was a blocking rehearsal, so there wasn't a whole lot of creative excitement going on just yet. So despite the length of the evening, this post about same won't be especially long or detailed.

But much practical work did get accomplished. Several times in this scene, "Joe" has to get into my characters face and threaten him. I just let the reactions come forth on the moment without thinking too much about them. It seems I made good "choices", because the director commented that it was just the sort of thing she was looking for in those sections.

I am not off book for the scene, yet, given that it is also my own longest scene. But I like the way these rehearsals are unfolding. The idea of blocking, and then running one scene at a time per night for a while is helping me get both the lines and blocking into my head faster then say blocking out many scenes, or a whole act one night, and then running that over the course of the next couple of days. (Some directors do this.) So when the director says we look like we are farther along than we should be for such early rehearsals, much of the credit goes, in my opinion, to this method. (Which is similar though not identical to how I run early rehearsals when I direct.)

We also were given some posters last night to disperse around local businesses. I haven't done that yet, but I plan to soon. The ad in the local paper for the show is already running.

Last night also made me realize how much I hate to pantomime things. In this context I mean having to pretend to hold props that are not yet there. It can't be helped all the time of course, but tonight I think I will look for any little stand in props that may serve for early rehearsals. Just to get the feel of holding something. I like to do that as early as possible. (Especially for something like a gun, which I do have to handle in this scene.)

Tonight I believe we finish the scene blocking, and then go back to the top to run the whole thing with the blocking we have.