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.)

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