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 do...deal 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.