Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Christmas Creep"

You have probably heard this term before, especially if you are in retail. It refers to a phenomenon, starting over the last 30 years or so, or businesses decorating for and selling items pertaining to Christmas, slightly earlier in the year every few years. The idea being that people always spend more during the holidays, and that the earlier companies can comfortably get people into that Christmas buying mindset, the longer they will be able to enjoy the fruits of an extended purchasing season.

Some radio stations get into the act, by starting wall-to-wall Christmas music as early as the first day of November in some cases.

That is the general use of the term. But there is another, more theatrical use for "Christmas Creep". It refers to the notion of being cast in a Christmas themed play, scheduled to go on at Christmas time, thereby requiring rehearsals to begin in and around October in most cases. Though one isn't putting up a tree or playing the Nat King Cole album just yet, being in a Christmas play does, almost by force, incline one to give thoughts to the holiday earlier in the year than one otherwise might.

Tonight begins a small amount of theatrical Christmas Creep for me. For in addition to heading into the Full Circle Theater for a pick-up rehearsal of A Thurber Carnival, I will also be attending my first read through for Full Circle's A Christmas Carol. Well, at least I will be attending a part of the read-through.

I didn't audition for this show. But it would appear that the male audition numbers for it were very low this year, and I was asked if I would be willing to step in, if needed. Not wanting the show to have to be canceled, or any such extreme as that, I let the director know that if the chips were down and she couldn't find anybody, I would step in. The chips fell, and there I was.

This is the same version of A Christmas Carol that I appeared in back in 2008, when Full Circle first opened its current venue. (For more insight into that adventure, please go back into this blog's archives starting in October of 2008 or so.) I was within a stone's throw of playing the same role as two years ago, but I will no longer be doing so. I regret that a tiny bit, because I enjoyed the part(s), and to date I have never reprized a role. I was curious what it would feel like to come back to the exact same lines just a couple of years later.

This script opens at the home of Dickens himself, sharing the idea of a Christmas Carol at a party. The guests in turn play the various characters from the classic tale. (With the original lines from the novel left very much intact.) The last time around, I played Bob Cratchit, among other roles, such as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the small yet highly enjoyable role of Topper.

This time will not be a disappointment though, as I will still get to play several notable characters, including Fred, Young Scrooge, and Old Joe. (Assuming the schematics of who plays whom remain the same.) There may be one other character in there for this role, I cannot recall at the moment.) The "base" character is that of Charles Dicken's brother Frederick.

I have played Fred in staged readings here and there, but never in a full production. Yet I have always wanted to explore that particular personality. I will now have that chance.

Though I can't say for certain, I imagine my blog updates during this show will be more streamlined than those of two years ago, simply because I am already quite familiar with the script. Though I won't be playing the same character, and it is being directed by someone else this year, I already have a grasp on the tone of the piece, and therefore won't have much need to document my discovery of same. It may even allow me to be more specific in my comments as rehearsals go along, concentrating on more subtle things. (About which I love to write.) I won't know for sure until after a few weeks of rehearsal.

But until then, there are still three more Thurber Carnivals to get through. Four if you count tonight's rehearsal. I confess the holiday show will not have my full attention until after Thurber is complete. But it is sometimes nice to know exactly where one is going next in the community theatre world.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Halfway Point

When I arrived at the theatre on Sunday for the first matinee of A Thurber Carnival, I had a prediction. Sunday audiences for community theatre tend to skew towards older people. (These crowds are sometimes, without tact, referred to as "blue hairs" by actors and directors alike.) Since much of the humor in this show is obviously dated, I thought that perhaps a matinee crowd would be more likely to relate to the material. And while I can't prove this theory, I can say that that small crowd on Sunday afternoon was in fact more responsive.

It wasn't easy to see the audience for the lights and such, so I couldn't tell if they were older. But of the 15 or so people that showed up to watch us yesterday, a majority certainly sounded older. They laughed at both the obvious and the more obscure jokes throughout the production.

They even enjoyed the atrocious Word dance at the start of the play, but I also have a theory on that. Given that we never really were permitted to rehearse this dance front to back during the entire 6 week rehearsal period, (as I have often written about here), none of us were ever 100% sure of what the final dance was supposed to look like. So each person was trying to adhere to the strict perimeters of what they believed was what the choreographer had instructed. As I have said, the result was always a lumbering, awkward sort of feeling for the cast. (And we suspect, for the audience.) So yesterday we opted to just to what felt more natural onstage, and as a result, there was more life to the piece. The new experience of opening with energy carried into the rest if the act. I think the whole show was about 10 minutes leaner yesterday.

It still had its problems, but once we decided to just follow the broad strokes of the dance, and opt to naturally enjoy ourselves through chatter, toe tapping and other small things during the transition, it felt much more comfortable. Certainly more natural.

We didn't have a meeting about it. It wasn't a group thing. It was as though each of us as an individual decided to just go with our own flow on the day, at the same time. A much livelier number was the result. We are going to continue to approach it in this looser fashion for the remainder of the run.

We had some light problems here and there. Twice when I was on stage they went out in the middle of a scene. We covered well, and the outages were short. A bit distracting nonetheless.

The scene changes are still a bit rough at times, and certainly too slow, but that is frankly to be expected. the tech crew didn't have much time to rehearse them. A week ago this very moment, they had never run any of the scene changes. Given that fact, they have done an admirable job with their tasks.

My own tasks were accomplished yesterday. No mistakes that I recall. There are a few moments I would rather not perform at this point, just because of how emotionally heavy their rehearsal process was. I don't think I  will easily get over all of the alterations to script and blocking made in order to keep some people satisfied. But setting that  (and my lack of enjoyment in performing said scenes) aside, I am happy with my acting for Sunday. It seems pretty clear that out of all the things I am in, Mr. Preble Tries to Get Rid of His Wife is the most enjoyable for audiences. Every crowd is different, of course, and the very next audience could get nothing out of it. But one does notice trends, and the trend seems to be that that is the skit out of all the ones I appear in that audiences are enjoying the most. Even the smaller, quieter audiences. I suspect it will be that way for the second weekend as well.

Right or wrong, this first weekend was more like an extra set of rehearsals. Rehearsals with observers, but rehearsals nonetheless. There were not calamitous, but people who come to the first weekend deserve as much for their money as those that come the second weekend. I don't think the first half of the run was a disaster, but until Sunday it was lackluster. And Sunday could have been better. All three performances I feel would have been better if not for some of the chronic rehearsal problems we had throughout. But that is duly covered here in the blog. Suffice to say it could have been better, and hopefully next weekend will be. I'd like to see a few more people come see the show, and have those people be even more energetic, but at this point, I probably should be content to just get through each remaining performance without hitting any potholes.

There is a pick up rehearsal on Thursday, thank heavens. Very few shows I have been in have called a pick-up, though I feel it is always a good idea. Especially for shows that have struggled to get to a good place for the first weekend, such as this one. The last thing we want to do is lose our small amount of momentum.

I'll be doing something else theatre related on Thursday, but I will tell you about that in a future entry. Check back before then to learn more.

Finally, one of my cast mates told me  on Sunday that his friends very much enjoyed my performance on Saturday. It feels good to know that despite of a lot of the static and stress associated with this play, my hard work has paid off in an enjoyable performance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Keep Em' Comin'"

Saturday's show came at the end of a long day of both work and leisure for me. I was up earlier in the morning than I like to be for a writing assignment in the southern part of the county. After that I went to a large picnic hosted by friends about 45 minutes away. And with the back road I was going to take from there to the theatre being closed, I was ever so slightly late for call.

Not that anybody seemed to notice that. Everyone was in a pretty relaxed mood. As was I. As it turns out, so was the tiny audience.

There were in fact a few more people on Saturday than on Friday. And they were slightly more responsive. So that was an advantage. I can't say it was electricity out there, but it did help to have a few more laughs coming our way.

Except during the dance, which once again landed with an elongated, and awkward thud for the most part. Each time we do it the music seems a bit different, and nobody is enjoying it either on or off stage. More than one person wishes we could just do away with it. But of course that isn't possible. So we just get through it as fast as we can. (As in, as fast as the music will allow) and move on to the more enjoyable elements.

Energy for Act One was a bit higher than the previous night. Energy for Act Two was probably about the same as the previous night. I think it's because Act Two begins with two of the longest and most dated pieces in the entire production, and they tend to lull the audience. It's not the fault of the actor's; these pieces are just outside the reach of most people these days.

Preble was still the best thing I did on the evening, and probably the best received. The Unicorn in the Garden, short and silly as it is probably comes in second place. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, despite it's overall improvements and the work we put into it does not seem to be catching on with audiences, which surprises me a bit. I actually wonder if they understand that what is happening is a daydream...

So today is the matinee and of course attendance is generally a problem for any show on a Sunday afternoon. But will the oddness of this play's target audience mean we do better today than we did for the evening shows? Possible, but I won't hold my breath. Especially during the opening dance...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Thurber Opening

So, at last we have done it. We have opened A Thurber Carnival at The Full Circle Theater Company.

So much strife and confusion this week, and in the previous weeks that it seems in some ways we just started rehearsing this one, due to it being in a bit of a mental fog in my mind. In other ways, it seems like longer. Either way, there is an unreal quality to the whole thing now, which carried over into tonight.

It was like I was in a holding pattern, or some kind of theatrical stasis. I never felt particularly  excited nor fearful the entire day. Earlier this week I was quite concern, nay, worried about some of it. And I assumed at the time that I would be a bit of a wreck in the final hour before curtain. But I wasn't, really. I was just...there.

The impression I got was that many of my cast mates were "just there" as well. That isn't to say that they didn't care about doing well. They did, as much as one could given our state of affairs leading into tonight. No, it was just more of a since of resignation. "We are here, and we have put work into this, so let's at least make something out of it." But no chemistry between us. No palpable anticipation of the first scene. No real excitement. It all felt rather utilitarian. We had a job to do, and did it, period.

Not exactly magical, or artistic, as I like theatre to be.

I was telling someone it was like we were all on a bus trip, and the bus got stuck in deep mud. And after hours of grueling work, getting dirty, hurt, and exhausted, we finally got the bus out of the mire. But we were so spent in getting the bus out, that nobody was really all that excited about getting to where we were going. We were just happy to be back on the bus so we could collapse into sleep. Tonight was getting that bus out of the  mud. We made it. The opening was passable, and I got a few laughs in some of the scenes I was in. (Preble, without shock, was the most well received of my scenes.)

Well received that is by the 12 or so people that were there. That's right, the house was about 12. Or, just barely more in the house than on the stage. I am sure this also contributed to the feeling of numbness. Not much feedback. Almost as though it were a dress rehearsal. We had about that many people for the first half of our last rehearsal, as I blogged yesterday.

So I wasn't even that nervous when we got to the much maligned and over produced opening dance sequence. As everyone predicted, it was clunky, slow, and felt very awkward to perform on stage. I think we got most of the moves down right, but they just don't come together as a very appealing package. Too much hesitation and uncertainty on our part. Too much standing around waiting for the music to get to the right place. Too much freezing in place. Too many moves that bear little connection to the type of play it is. As I have oft discussed in the "dance problems" sections of these entries. (The choreographer herself was not present today.) It's just bad choreography all the way around. But, relief of reliefs, that is at last over. And one of the few times I felt some degree of excitement was leaving the stage after the seemingly endless dance scene finally concluded. Weeks of tortuous rehearsals of it, and now it had finally been performed for an audience. That was a good feeling to have it behind me for the rest of the evening.

I did feel other things here and there on this numb opening night. I did get nervous a few times as we approached some trouble spots, and I am always a little keyed up before I do my two biggest scenes, (which come near to each other in Act Two), but for the most part, not a lot was going on in my head.

I didn't see everything, and I heard talk of some major problems in one scene. But nobody else ever brought it up again so it mustn't have been calamitous. Each of my own scenes went well, and I confess to having some fun doing them. Preble again wins out on most fun skit for me.

Not to be uninformative, but tonight really didn't feel much different than last night. It felt like a rehearsal, and I think most of us treated it as one in the sense that it was our first real chance to run through everything without interruption. Will tomorrow feel more like a performance for me?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Last Stop on the Rehearsal Train

One that sometimes jumped the tracks over the last few weeks with A Thurber Carnival. You know the drill by now, I won't dredge it all up.

So is the show ready for opening night? Let's just say it was more ready tonight than it was last night. Beyond that, I can't really say. not as ready as it should be, probably.

The choreographer now is a self appointed quasi-stage manager, (even though we have an actual stage manager.) She gives out acting and costume notes as though it were her job or something. It amuses me a bit that she can't even bring herself to give these so called notes to me herself. She gives them to other people to give to me, despite being in the same room.

The last time I checked she had not been named director or even assistant director of this production, and until instructed otherwise, I will listen only to notes given by the actual director of this show, unless it pertains to a dance situation. (And even then, my ability to change anything now that rehearsals are over and we are opening the show is in doubt. My energies must be focused on acting now, giving that this is not a musical. Not sold as one, or advertised as one. No sheet music comes with the script. It is a straight show with a dance number at the beginning. Always has been.

That straight show had a small audience tonight. For a while, anyway. There was a right up being done for the local paper. Billed as a "review", the reporter left before the play was over. In fact, so did the entire mini-audience, which consisted of a few students from one of the college classes taught by one of the cast mates.

They must not have been impressed with what they saw, or otherwise just all happened to have had somewhere else to be at the exact same time. Or their teacher told them to go after all of his biggest roles were done, and not worry about the rest of the play. Either way, by the time Act Two rolled around, it was totally empty in the house. Not even the director was out there anymore. (She had moved up to the lighting booth to help give cues, and fix some sound problems.

And there were sound problems from the start. Musical cues did come, or came late during the word dance. Which means we have never run it with the correct music all the way through. Today, in front of the microscopic test audience was only the second time we had run the thing all the way through at all. It went as well as can be expected.

I didn't get the impression anybody was laughing, though of course I was not out there the entire time. People being out there did serve a purpose, though. Being watched, even by only a few people, does tend to sharpen a few rough edges. I just wish I could have had a little of that for Act Two.

Not that I screwed up in any major way, that I know of. In fact, most of my stuff went smoothly. Mitty was probably the best it has been. Everything seemed to go faster tonight, (though we started an hour late due to some construction.)

I have zero costume change issues. They all have oodles of time, and they only involve putting on or taking off some jacket or another, and a hat here and there. Easy street as far as that goes. Others have it rougher. But as I mention earlier this week, I came up with a base costume, and have not been told to change it. So there it is.

I may have been talking a little too fast tonight. It dawned on me during a few speeches. I made a concerted effort to speak slower in the second act.

The director's main note was that energy was low. I think that is probably true, and has probably been true for most of the rehearsals this week. It's a hard show to infuse energy into. If things had been different, we may have been able to, but I think everyone is just running on fumes at this point. I hope the energy of whatever crowd we get tomorrow helps out with that. But if not, I will be happy just to get the opening out of the way.

If I sound non-committal, I am. I am more concerned, and less excited about this opening than I have been in a while. They say things always work out in theatre. I cannot agree. That is not my prophesying a bad opening, and I of course wish against that. It simply means that I don't assume things that have me concerned now will just go away naturally. Even if the show went perfectly from a technical standpoint, there is so much baggage connected to it now, it feels more laborious than some shows.

Nonetheless I will do what I can. I can't say I will have 100% for this show, as I admit mental exhaustion has set in in regards to some things. But I will do what I can. I just wish I was more excited for this one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Different Kind of Hell Week

Actors love the term, "hell week". That final week of rehearsals before you open a show. In most cases, that is when all of the technical aspects of a play are supposed to be worked out. Lights. Sound effects. More difficult set changes. Ideally some of these things have been worked out to some degree before, but on the amateur level, they often are not. And even when they are, the final week of rehearsal still often requires more work, and more time out of everyone, in order to bring everything together. All sorts of organized chaos, and maybe a little bit of pain. Hence the term, "hell week". I have used it myself before.

Having been an actor for ten years, I have experienced all kinds of hell weeks. (Or tech weeks, if you want to be more polite.) Everything from a week of well oiled acting being blended perfectly with well oiled crew activities, all the way down to, well, the one I am currently in.

"Hell week" has sort of taken on a whole new meaning in this context. Personality conflicts. Over crowded work spaces. Being way behind schedule. The time sucking "dance issues" of which I have often written here. All of them have conspired to make a rather unpleasant tech week for me.

There are good people in this show and some bad people in this show. People with whom I would work again, as well as people I never even want to see again. Yet the good has a hard time shining through the bad in this one, because of all the tension, strife, confusion, and in many cases lack of respect shown to everyone else. Add in heat and a few other factors, and it's just not turning out to be a good experience.

I hear through the grapevine that some of the scene I am not in are struggling a bit. I don't know if it's true, because I have not sat down and watched the entire show front to back, and I don't know that I will. I used to do that, but for this show I need more personal space than that will allow.

I think it is in some ways easier to be in a chaotic, struggling show with a large cast as opposed to one with a small cast. There is no place to hide in a small cast. Everything in right in your face. In a large cast, even if the evenings drag on endlessly with little getting accomplished, you can blend into the large chorus of people that make up the show. (Depending on the show of course.) You are more likely to find allies in your own personal struggles. I have been in a few of those as well, and though some of it may be that I have less energy for that kind of thing than I did five years ago, I believe that at least half of it is the smallness of the cast. (As well as the venue.)

Is there a compelling reason to describe the rehearsal from last night in detail at this point? Yes, that is the reason for this blog, to share my adventures. But sharing the headaches that I wrote about above is still accomplishing that end, because sadly, the majority of this particular acting experience has consisted of the headaches, as opposed to the acting lessons. I guess it's just one of those shows. (Someone else found a reason to be pissed at me last night.)

For what it may be worth, I'll just say my scenes went well last night. Even though my costumes are mostly my own clothing, I have felt more at ease on stage ever since I threw an outfit together earlier this week. The few costume pieces from the company I am using have added a bit more to some scenes, and that has been a bit of a blessing. Those little pieces of the show that are working are allowed to become more polished because of such acquisitions. I can, and must hold on to those pockets of fun that the show presents.

An odd last minute change involves me wearing a Confederate uniform while I am playing General Grant's aid. This bothers me a bit, and may have bothered me even more if the scene had been smooth enough for me to delve into nuance. But that scene has gone so poorly that I just try to get through it at this point, and not ask a lot of questions. I have to work with some very difficult people in it, who ad lib all the time, and it just isn't worth me trying to do any better in it. Not with one rehearsal left. (It seems the script calls for the character to wear a "Confederate hat", but no explanation is ever given, and I have heard of that suggestion being ignored in other productions. I am not wearing both a Confederate jacket and a black period cap.

Preble continues to be my best scene overall, though Mitty has improved with practice.

The choreographer allowed us to perform the atrocious opening dance without interruption very first time last night. But she made up for it by monopolizing time at the end of the rehearsal to change/fix/alter/polish/any other word you can jam in here/ the curtain call. Which had been simple but was inflated once again into a confusing mess.

As far as I am concerned, it is what it is at this point.

One saving grace is that I have a break that lasts about 40 minutes in this show. I deliver the introduction to one sketch in Act One. After that, the rather long sketch continues, plus one more. Then intermission. Then the first two sketches of Act Two, (one of which is the longest of the show.) At that point I return to the stage to be Mr. Preble. My two biggest roles come very near to each other, (just one sketch apart) in Act Two, so it's nice to have that rather large cushion of time during which I can take a breather, cool off outside, and otherwise refocus. I don't have records in front of me to prove it, but I think it is probably my longest period ever between appearances within a single show.

We have one more rehearsal, and to be honest I don't want to think about the implications. I want to just get it done, and survive it. It's the only thing keeping us from opening night, and that is something I want to think about even less at the moment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the VERY VERY Ugly

We all sin sometimes, and I committed a theatre sin last night. I got into a fight. But my limit with this certain individual had been reached.

It's a difficult thing to blog about in a way. But as I don't use names, and as it is a secret to nobody that was there, I will do so. Briefly, because I am still reeling from the unpleasentness.

The person in question likes to make changes to the script as he performs. Usually without telling anyone else in the scene he is going to do so. The reason is usually to "cover" for something that he feels needs to be covered, but is not covered by the script. It is usually without warning.

Last night, (this is tech week, just to remind you), it happened again, and I was confused, and yes, I stopped the progress to ask him to please not change my cue line on me. Yelling at me ensued, and yes, I yelled back, until the director broke us up, and we finished the scene.

In the green room, (which is basically just behind the stage), I was pissed. Understandably if you ask me. When cast mates asked what was up, I told them, dropped it, and then proceeded to gather my stuff for my next scene.

The man in question came up to me again, intent on blaming the stage manager for the situation. (A charge I have to say, in the interest of fairness, was unfounded.) I told him that I didn't want to hear anymore about the issue that night, and I proceeded to leave the dressing room. At which point I was followed, yelled at, and berated. Not having the energy to be the bigger man, I did in fact yell back, as I stormed out of the room, to take a walk around the blog.

With a cooler head, I returned, only to be approached again. This time, I was more balanced, and asked to be left alone. This was met with more blustering rage. To my own partial credit, I didn't return any of it this, time, (nor the subsequent time he brought the subject up, angrily.) I know, I should have been able to ignore it the first time. I couldn't and didn't.

So needless to say, I am not longer comfortable being around this person. I have requested that all changes he makes to the script now be explained to me by the director, and no he himself. I fear more confrontations otherwise.

And that, loyal blog readers, is how to put the "hell" into the opening of "hell week."

Not that even more "dance issues" didn't set the tone earlier in the evening already.

Then, me and a cast mate broke a glass on stage as we tried to wheel out a table. That held things up a bit.

Amazingly enough in all of this, I only dropped one line in all of my scenes. I hope to do no worse than that from here on out, obviously.

Getting to a more positive side of things, I did wear a costume of my own procurement last night. Simple khaki's and a striped shirt as a base costume.I don't know if I am to wear a tie yet or not, but there are plenty available. A dinner jacket needs to be procured for my stints of a narrator. Can't imagine that will be too hard.

I also wore what I suppose is called an overcoat for the Walter Mitty scene. I made it look frumpier on purpose, so, (hopefully) the character would look more pathetic as himself, and even funnier when he imagines himself to be noble.

I was told I could wear someone's hat for the scene as well. (There is a site gag with it, so I need one.) I pulled the hat and set it with my coat, but it was gone by the time the scene turned up. So I grabbed the nearest guy hat I could find; A cheap Halloween shop version of a black fedora. It is too small to look good, but it allowed me to wear it at a funny angle, which, judging by the notes we got at the end of rehearsal, seems to have worked very well. So I am going to keep it. I love when something last minute ends up being the right creative choice.

The line I dropped came in Preble. Unusual for me this late in the game, and I am not happy about it. But like I said earlier, I hope to minimize that sort of thing from now on.

I worry most at this point about the scene that caused the altercation, a few pieces of Mitty, and of course the dance at the start of the play. The rest of my responsibilities seem to be going smoothly, knock on wood.

We need more than three days of rehearsal to get it at optimal strength, but we don't have more than three days. So the goal is to get it solid, and to perfect a few problem spots. I wasn't out in the house to see how most of the other skits were going, but I imagine all of them are in need of some work, just as most of mine are.

Here's to a lot of work, and no politics from here on out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saturday Morning's Allright for Recordin'

It was an uncommon Saturday morning gathering for part of the cast for A Thurber Carnival last week. I had to be up early enough to take the half hour drive into Shepherdstown, and be there by 10:00AM. One of the cast members works at the nearby Shepherd University radio station, and we were there to record a promotional spot for the play, as I mentioned before.

Great little station. Reminded me of my own college radio days. Cramped quarters, but we got it done. (Even though one cast mate had to stand in for another, who was unable to make it that morning.)

We were given permission to to use about one minute of dialogue from the show, and it just so happens that the first 60 seconds of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ends at a very convenient cut-off point. So we ran through it twice, just to make sure the timing held up. (It did.) Then we recorded two takes. And that was that. Afterward, each of us gave our name, and a few brief thoughts about what we enjoyed about being in the production. The entire thing will be edited down to two, or possibly three minutes, and played on the air this week on the college radio station. (Which has a range of about 40 miles I am told.) Hopefully that will attract some people.

After the recording I walked by to the theatre, and helped with painting for a bit. There is no set to speak of, but there were several pieces of wooden furniture that needed to be painted off white. I hadn't helped with painting on a show in years. (Most of the community theatres don't need, and in some cases prefer the cast to not be involved in set construction.) But I was always fairly good at it, so long as it was just solid colors, as it was in this case. Coat of primer, coat of white. I think the director planned on putting one more coat on everything sometime over the weekend. I painted for about two hours.

A scheduled cue-to-cue with all actors on Sunday was canceled. The director felt in the end that there were too many things up in the air to make the rehearsal practical at that point. The small tech crew went in, but actors were given the night off. So tonight, (Monday) will begin our tech week. A Tuesday rehearsal has also been added. We  need it.

Those who read my blog we probably notice certain patterns. One of them is the whole, "we are in tech week and further behind than we should be" scenario. This is another installment in that series, as I really feel we haven't gotten to where we ideally should be by now. I confess once again that I am a bit nervous having only four days left at this point. The dance is still unrehearsed. (Thanks to the previous mention "dance problems". We haven't had music yet. We have a long way to go. But one consolation is that pulling together a bunch of individual skits in a short time should be somewhat easier than pulling together one continuous play in the same amount of time, at the same level of unpreparedness. In other words, it will be easier to make up lost ground with this show than with a standard show. I am counting on that being true. But hauling ass will still be required.

That ass hauling starts tonight, with costumes. (Which I am going to be wearing for the first time tonight, if the clothes I am bringing meet with the approval of the director. We don't need complicated costumes for most scenes, though I am starting to wonder about the Civil War uniform for If Grant Were Drunk at Appomattox. That is the sort of complicated costume change that I would have preferred to run a few times before tonight. But that is the one type of costume I couldn't possible provide myself.

So I'm in for a long week of long nights. But I want to be in for them. I want to have our nose to the grindstone on this one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Going All the Way

Almost. Last night we ran the entire show, except for the dance at the beginning. (We didn't have any music.) This is the first time we ran all of the skits in one night. In mostly the correct order, though one of the actors was once again about an hour or so late. So we ran some of his stuff later.

Our lighting guy was also absent.

Aside from lighting there are still technical issues to work out. Namely the who, how, and when to move furniture between scenes. We have two people on crew, but the actors are going to have to do most of it themselves.

I don't know how anybody else felt about their performances last night, but I was satisfied with mine, for the most part. I flubbed a line here and there, but course corrected. More props and costume pieces were in place last night. (I don't have a costume yet but I have some things to bring in for approval.)

For this play, I can't really do a whole lot of deep character work, since each actor is playing someone different in each skit. True, in each skit the actor is playing someone, and there are some character issues that could be worked with inside of individual skits. I am doing the best I can to create some nuance in that regard. But the fact is, there hasn't been very much time for that sort of thing. (I've covered the time issues in previous entries.) So I haven't been able to do delve as deeply into even my tiny roles as I otherwise would have liked. But sometimes those things come fast once everything starts to come together. My hope is that some of those things will come next week.

Theatre is in fact about the small, last minute things, as much as it is about the gradual weeks long process. Consistency and practice remain important, of course. When they are lacking, a scene suffers. (Like the ever changes dance scene that we have never run through once without interruption.) Yet I feel that the more an actor can practice the broad strokes of a scene, the more adept he is at adjusting when needs be. Both in terms of controlled changes, (a director's choice) and uncontrolled ones. (A missing prop, or something falling from a table during a scene.) If you can't adjust your performance to fit the often times unpredictable nature of live theatre, you put yourself, as well as your cast mates at an extreme disadvantage.

This was the case last night more than once with a few people. Angry protestations that pencils and books were several inches out of place on a table for a scene erupted more than once. The director changing a few crosses elicited the same response from certain parties, all "justified" by the fact that the actors in question were unable to remember lines unless every prop, step, and cue remains 100% identical night to night. This whole affair was, I will confess, somewhat disconcerting to me, not only because the anger with which it was expressed was unnecessary, but because the amount of perfection expected is impractical. One must be able to think on one's feet in the theatre, and if a book being accidentally placed one night on the left side of a lamp as opposed to the right is going to throw you out of an entire scene, perhaps you have not done enough homework on the scene.

You loyal blog readers know I have gotten upset with the dance section more than once. And it may seem like the same thing. But in those cases, no instruction had been given. Ever. We have been left to fend for ourselves in a complicated medium with which none of us is expert. But in the situations I described above, the simplest of things have caused total derailment of a scene, and that is not how it should be. I submit that if a director decides to change something as simple as a cross, an actor should be able to adjust to that without a melt down. I hope to see far fewer of those these week. Actually, I hope to see no more of them, but I fear I shall probably see at least one more from some party or another.

As far me, Mr. Preble Tries to Get Rid of His Wife and The Unicorn in the Garden continue to be my favorite skits to perform, probably because they have been the smoothest. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is steadily improving, however, and if that gets nailed down, it will be among my favorites I am sure. If Grant Were Drunk at Appomattox is so-so. My remaining parts are brief narrator gigs which do not require much of my time, and hence thus far have not presented me with any discernible difficulty.

Tomorrow is to be a work day of sorts. To begin with, the cast of Walter Mitty will meet at the radio station of nearby Shepherd University in the morning. With permission from Samuel French, (the rights holder), we will be recording a few lines of dialogue as part of a promotional spot that the station will air this coming week. Later in the day, painting, the minimal amount of building, and other odds and ends will be tended to by those in attendance. The set, originally designed to resemble a circus big top in honor of it being a Thurber carnival has been scaled back, due to, once again, lack of time. But apparently some sort of version of it will be erected on Saturday.

A Sunday evening cue-to-cue has also been added, so that we can run full lights for the first time, as well as work out for certain how each scene's furniture will be taking off and put on.

My understanding is that the director always likes to give casts at least one day off during tech week. I'd prefer we work all of them to be frank, but if that tradition holds, we have just three days to run the show at performance levels. I confess that this figure is a bit disconcerting, considering where we are now. If we are to make the most of it, we really will have to avoid the "dance issues", learn to think on our feet so that incident's like last night's don't occur, and generally be willing to stay as late into each night as is needed. I am always willing to put in the extra time, when it is needed. I'd rather be exhausted during tech week, and ready to go, then feel like I am getting home early at the expense of being polished up.

Time to buckle it down...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Act 2 In a "Flash"

The second act of A Thurber Carnival is the shorter act. This isn't that unusual, as the second act of any play tends to be shorter than the first act. Yet that is with a normal play structure, and not a comedy revue such as this. I had always thought that Act Two would end up taking longer to get through that the first act because it has two or three of the longest sketches in the entire show. But we ran the second act from beginning to end for the first time this evening, and it actually seems to take less time. By the time we get to performance speed it will go even faster. (Tonight it took about an hour, along with pauses to work out how to place the furniture between scenes.)

There was no dancing tonight, so it was a more productive rehearsal than Monday night's rehearsal had been. I only have two scenes in Act Two. Mr. Preble and the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. For the first the director wants me to play Preble as being a bit more hesitant to state his intentions to his wife. I actually thought I had added a hesitance, but it seems it is not quite making it to the audience yet. So I will be working on that, though despite this suggestion, I still feel that this skit is one of the most prepared of the ones in which I appear. It's been that way from the start. Who can say for sure why, but I would guess that it has a lot to do with the fact that most of it is only two characters, and my counterpart is highly prepared.

As for Walter Mitty, once we got started, ( a few actors missed their cue to enter because they were in another room) it went better than it did the last time. That skit has the highest potential for hitches and oil slicks if you will, out of all the ones I am in. Lots going on, and many people going on and off stage. But it really is beginning to come together, and today was the first time I did trip over certain lines in my head. Hopefully that will continue to work as well and better.

There are some prop issues that still have to be worked out in Mitty. I need a pair of gloves, and we don't quite know how we are representing a complicated piece of machinery yet. (Though a pile of random parts were handed to me at some point in the skit, causing much amusing awkwardness for a moment.) But I don't see that as being much of a problem. Making it spout smoke is what I think will be the biggest challenge.

Later, we ran a few of the Act One scenes, just because we finished early. If Grant Were Drunk at Appomattox among them. This continues to make slow progress. But progress is progress. I think there is a bit too much attention being paid to some small details, and a bit too much ad-libbing for my tastes. But the more we run it, the better it gets.

Gentleman Shoppers was also run. I introduce that skit, but don't do anything else in it. The premise of the scene involves a stocked bar being rolled in as I introduce the sketch. I think I am going to ask the director if I can take a drink off stage with me from said bar. Just for something to do that I think may add a bit of style.

After running that opening speech, I was allowed to go home, so I don't know how the rest of the scene went. I imagine it's getting better, like everything else, (with the exception of the dance) is.

Tomorrow the plan is to run the entire show, top to bottom, for the first time. That promises to be a long night. At least it should be a long night. There is no sense in rushing through it the very first time. We should get our bearings in whatever way we need to at this point. And I am not the only one to think so. I was talking with one of the other actors in the lobby before rehearsal this evening, and he said he has kept basically every day between now and opening night free in the event that an extra rehearsal is called. He is at the point where he wants to take any chance possible to rehearse things. I am in the same boat, by and large. We are moving forward in most things, but I would consider us behind at this exact moment. We can make up the time, but we have to make the most of every moment of rehearsal from now on. So more moments would be helpful.

8 days left.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Time for First Half

For the first time, we ran the entire first act of A Thurber Carnival. Mostly without interruption.

That is, once we finished with dance rehearsal...

It once again took an hour of our evening. Once again, the choreographer changed a good portion of the dance on the fly. Once again, the cast was confused by this, (myself especially.) Once again we were not permitted to run the entire dance without interruption. (This hasn't happened a single time in the entire production so far.) Once again, I had words with the choreographer over all of this. One difference is that I was not the only actor who found it difficult to stay quiet in the wake of it all this time.

This is getting to be so habitual and so unpleasant that I feel it there  no value in reporting on it in detail here on the blog each night. The situation is now clear to readers who follow this blog. My feelings on same are clear by now as well. not to mention the fact that it never really differs night to night. So let's suffice to call this unpleasant, unproductive part of rehearsal "dancing issues" henceforth, and leave it at that. From now on, if this sort of silliness effects a rehearsal in the final ten days (!), that is what I will call it. We don't have time for anymore of these dancing issues, really, but what can you do?

So, on to the real meat and potatoes of tonight; we ran act one with a full cast in order.

It is still difficult to get a sense of the timing for right now, because there is still some housekeeping that had to be done during each scene. However, we had a great many props with which to work this evening, and though I don't require many myself, having them on hand for everyone gave the first impressions of a polish to some of the scenes. Or in the very least, it gives the actors a chance to acclimate themselves with the props.

Also, because I haven't seen most of the skits, and we never did get a full script, (we only got the sections for the scenes we appear in), I am not yet sure when each skit is about to end. I will need to know that soon, so I will know when to be ready to begin the skits I am in. You can't hear the actors on stage from the green room, so it is extra important I know when a piece is about two-thirds over. When i get to that point, I will want to at least be backstage, if not at places. That will come, though. We may even secure a monitor to put in the green room.

My skits went well. As I have said, I don't have as much to do in Act One. All of my really short moments come in that act, and they all went well for the most part. (I am particularly pleased with myself in the short and sweet "Unicorn in the Garden". ) The only thing that is still a little shaky is "If Grant Were Drunk at Appomattox", and my co-star in that one admitted he find it one of the most difficult scenes he has ever done. But I told him it would smooth out by next week.

Which of course will be the final week of rehearsals. Tech week and all of that. There is still much to do, but as the director said after practice tonight, "There are glimmers of hope there."

Let's hope it is more than just hope.

Friday, September 10, 2010


In one of the skits I am in for "A Thurber Carnival" (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), I play a man who daydreams a lot. These daydreams are played out on stage. As is often the case in our daydreams, Walter Mitty tends to fill in the blanks left by his lack of knowledge with something made up. So the daydream doesn't become a history lesson or something. In more than one of the daydreams in this skit, a character refers to a piece of machinery as beginning to "crevulate".

It's not a word. It doesn't mean anything in real life. But within the dream sequences it's a verb this guy's mind has created as a stand in for any non-specific mechanical failure for which his dream-self will offer the solution.

I think it's fair to say that parts of tonight's rehearsal were crevulating.

Actually the only section that I feel earned this title was, (I am sure readers will not be surprised by this) the dance scene. I found it even more exhausting and exasperating than I did last night. And one of the many, many reasons I felt such was that I kept missing a cue to enter, and being called out for it. Because we have no full music yet, (and because without much more practice I am not really good at counting 24 measures in my head while trying to perform), the choreographer had given me a visual cue off of which to time my entrance.

After about 5 tries, she finally told me that she had removed the cue I had been using from the dance, and I wouldn't be able to use it anymore. "I just hadn't told you yet," she confessed, much to my disappointment an irritation.

Add to that an insistence that she is going to add even more to this confusing dance ("It will be so easy, even people who can't dance will be able to slip it right in!"), as well as clear proof that none of us have even mastered the first several versions of this dance yet, and you can see why I have begun to lose patience with the entire scene. The entire five minute scene which altogether has accounted for about half of all our total rehearsal time.

So, I won't even bother to mention much about the scene, really. I feel the choreographer cares little for how the actors are struggling with the constantly changing piece. I would prefer we practice the same dance two nights in a row, but we have not done so, given the changes. And with two week left, I fear we will not be able to do so in time. I admit to being somewhat concerned about this section now. And from my view, the choreographer has not indicated that she is at all concerned about how the comfort level of the actors.

Therefore I will move on to the acting portions of tonight's practice.

I very much appreciated the director's desire to make use of our rehearsal time early on. Due to several reasons we once again had a few people missing at the start of the evening, but the entire cast for "Mr. Preble Get Tries to Get Rid of His Wife" was present, while the choreographer was not.(Yet.) So amidst much background noise and extra work being done on stage, we ran that piece. It was time spent well, but the ironic part of it all is that "Preble" is probably the single smoothest and most developed of my scenes right now. We probably didn't need the extra work, but it was satisfying to know that the director thought our time was important enough to run it while we waited.

Once, that, and the lumbering dance hour were completed, we ran through each skit of Act One, in order, for the very first time. Not at the speed in which we will hopefully run it come opening night, but it was the first chance we had to do everything in the act in one evening, despite note having a full cast.

Act One is also where I have the easier stuff to do out of all my skits. My bigger challenges are in Act Two.

At the end of the rehearsal the director reminded us of how little time there is left to rehearse, (only eight or nine separate rehearsals on tap, though she may have to add more, she cautioned.) She explained how much work we still needed to do to get to where we belonged. She declared scripts on stage to be officially forbidden henceforth, and encouraged everybody too look carefully over their lines this weekend. This was gratifying to me, because it showed that the director and the cast are on the same page. (Which is far from a guarantee in any given show.) We all know we have some major obstacles to climb in the next two weeks, even aside from the dance.But we all want to climb them. And if we all make the best use of our time, we can still do so.

Though to hammer the point home further, the director told us to consider every rehearsal "sacred" from now on, and to attend each of them unless there is absolutely know way around missing them. I like that term: sacred. I always try to treat my rehearsals as such. I'm not perfect and certain things can dull my motivation, but hearing that tonight convinced me that my efforts in the non-dancing parts of this show will not be wasted.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Back "Breaking"

I sit here typing this update as my ibuprofen has thankfully taken effect, and my back is not in any real discomfort.

But it was when I got home, and for part of rehearsal. I wrenched it while working on a dance move during the opening dance portion of A Thurber Carnival practice tonight.

I use the term "portion" loosely, as more than half of the time we spent tonight was on the short, (and in my mind, increasingly aggravating) five minute opening to the show. Not that it would have to be as aggravating as it was.

To begin with, I really think that in the early days of this rehearsal process, choreography sessions lasted too long. Mainly because the movements being assigned were made much too complex for a group of actors who, with all but one exception, are not dancers. This particular choreographer has a habit of adding many things at the last minute, or changing things with little to know warning. When you are trained as a dancer, one can adjust to that easily. But if you are not, a lot of time can be spent on trying to catch up. (If you ever do.)

Such was the case with me.

Of course I have been honest about this all along. I made it very clear from the start of this show that I don't dance well, and that even when I do I require three times as much rehearsal time to get the simplest of things correct. This limitation was initially respected, but over time, things that are beyond my current knowledge have been added at speeds faster than I can assimilate them. A month of doing just this a few times a week, might get me on better ground.  But we didn't and don't have that kind of time. Not to mention that we usually have not had a full cast during such rehearsals.

After a nearly two week break, (while the choreographer was out of town) we jumped back into this scene tonight. And spent about an hour and 45 minutes on this five minute dance.

One of the reasons it took so long tonight was that the choreographer had apparently not taken any notes on the scene during the previous rehearsal. Or otherwise the notes were not with her tonight. Whatever the reason, more than once much confusion reigned supreme as some actors on the stage began to do what we had been assigned to do the last time, while the choreographer insisted we start doing something else.

The oversights did not seem to sink in with the choreographer at first. She tried to mentally recreate what we were doing to no avail, until I consulted my own notes, and used them to personally explain to the cast and the choreographer herself  how the dance was supposed to unfold, as per what we were told two weeks ago.

I prefaced everything I said with the fact that we of course could change it at any time if that was decided, but that as far as trying to do what we had done the last time, I had the information needed. Eventually, thanks at least half to me and my notes, we got back on track. For a while.

But the rising tensions in the room were clear. I don't like holding up a rehearsal, and I take no particular pride in challenging someone, but when it becomes so abundantly clear that a rehearsal is being derailed because of missed information, and I personally have that information, I see no reason not to act.

But by then, tensions were already high. I cannot put words into the mouths of any of my cast mates, but judging by the reactions of some of them I was standing near during the dance, I was not the only one losing some patience near the end of the choreography portion of tonight's events. Not trying to judge anybody's soul here of course, but from a rehearsal stand point, we were not getting the instruction that a bunch of non-dancers require.

This was especially true during the moment I hurt my back. It was decided, (why, I can't imagine) that the two guys who knew the least about dancing and form would pick up one of the actresses, set her down on the edge of the stage and sit down with her at one point. The actress had never been present to rehearse this moment until tonight, and upon seeing her size, the choreographer was concerned that I may not be tall enough to do the lift. But, unfortunately, she pressed on with it anyway.

I made some mistake or the other. Being given no direction whatsoever at the time, I didn't know that I was not positioned correctly to lift this person, and place her down later. The lift was alright, but when we got to the edge of the stage, and I went to step down onto the floor of the house, (still lifting said actress), and I guess I went to far, and came crashing down straight onto my feet, thus making my spine an accordion, if you will. Sharp pain at the time; tenderness for the most of the remainder of the evening. (Which is why I took some ibuprofen when I got home.)

While it may not be popular to say so, I really never should have been doing this carry in the first place, and the choreographer should have known this. The mistake was mine in that I stepped wrong, but it was hers in that she assumed everybody, (even a guy who swore he had NO experience with such things) could easily do this "easy" move. It probably is easy for dancers, or even non-dancers that are much taller. But for me, it was not, and without sucking on sour grapes, I hold the choreographer responsible. Thankfully only I got hurt and not the actress. I am not sure I want to try to do it again though. Not in it's current form.

Once the choreographer was gone, (along with some of the tensions that had built up), several of the straight parts of the show that actually involved acting were rehearsed. It just so happens that my two longest skits, (Mr. Preble and Walter Mitty) were run today. Mitty has always needed a lot of work, but thanks to running it a few days in a row now, as well as some very helpful new blocking, I think it is the best it has ever gone. Shaky, yes, but not bad. (And I got to use a makeshift bifurcated invertebrater today...figure that out.)

Mr. Preble continues to go very well. I and the actress playing my opposite have been off book for about a week, and each time we run that one, it goes smoother, with more nuance than the last time. It is without a doubt the skit I am in which is currently closest to being ready. I even got to make use of an actual shovel today.

We open in 16 days. This is only the second time the whole cast has been present, and we still have a whole new dance to choreograph, not to mention finding a way to perfect the first dance. This is not the least prepared any of my shows has been two weeks out, so I am not worried yet. Collections of skits like these do tend to fall into place quite quickly in the right circumstances. But without a doubt we have yet to have ideal circumstances, and hence there is much work to do in those 16 day. (Not each of which is a rehearsal day.) 

I am seeing some nuggets of really good stuff here and there throughout the skits. But we really need to buckle down now. With schedules evening out, and a cast full of people who all seem to want to give their best to the show should see to it that it all works out. But again, we have little room for error at this point.

So I am not nervous now. "Cautious" perhaps. I am at least getting to the point where I am proud of what I personally am starting to do in the show, despite some problem areas.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


There really isn't much that can be said for last night's rehearsal. Way too many absent actors for it to have been a particularly productive evening. We even got out a half an hour earlier than usual because of this.

I got to run some of my lines in a few of my scenes, but that is about it. We ran Walter Mitty twice, despite two people being missing. I flubbed here and there, even though I am offbook.

So I hope this will not seem angry or small of me, but there really isn't a whole lot about last night that would warrant comment here on the blog. We had four actors missing, and I hope that this isn't a trend as we head into the final two weeks.

There is to be a line reading tonight that was thrown together last minute, but I will not be able to attend. I have other plans that can't easily be changed. My next rehearsal is tomorrow.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Striking Out On Ones Own?

I just wanted to post a quick link here this morning. This article talks about starting up one's own theatre company. Loyal blog readers here at Always Off Book know that I have pondered and planned to do this very thing for a while now, and I am getting closer to taking the first step. Perhaps sometime in 2011.

But as for the article, i admire the drive and passion of those involved. But I have to say each of the companies profiled seemed to be rather well plugged into something before they started. The piece starts off as though it will explore how people came from nothing at all to creating successful companies, in both the profit and non-profit sector. I was especially hoping to learn about how to secure venues.

Yet it really was about fund raising in the modern theatre world. Which of course is important, if you have the grandiose visions that some of these companies had. (Along with the highly debatable assertion made here that "modern theatre is dead.") But I have a far simpler vision, and have not yet written traditional theatre's eulogy. Plus my network is nowhere near as exquisite as those in the article.

Yet I did take away something from this piece; confirmation that passion to get something done in the arts can and will eventually lead to some form of success. My hope is that it will hold true even for my humble plans.

You can read about my overall plan for how I, or anybody, should start their own theatre company with minimal resources to get a better idea of what I am talking about.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Three Weeks and Counting

Okay, we at the Full Circle Theater Company will open A Thurber Carnival in exactly 3 weeks. That wasn't true during last night's rehearsal, but it is today as I write this.

I can say we are a tad behind. But in a total change of precedent, I do not feel we are as far behind as some others in the show feel. At least for this moment.

Yes, time is running short.  And yes, some of the sketches are very rough right now. But I contribute the lack of expected progress to three things which, in theory, will not be there in about a week. At least hopefully.

1) A much larger than expected amount of time on the choreography for the tiny dance scene at the opening of the play.

2) The frequent, and indeed save one night, the constant absence of at least any given two actors for every rehearsal so far.

3) The inability to run the short skits in order, without int eruption, thus denying a certain flow to the production. (Based largely on a combination of the first two items on my list.)

But each of these skits is generally rather short. The longest, according to my informal timing, goes on about 10 minutes only. So once all the dance business is out of the way and everyone's schedule evens out, we can start working hard on actual acting. And when we do, I don't see any reason why we won't make rather rapid progress.

Last night we were missing three people for the first half of the evening. By 8, that number was down to two, but those two feature prominently in virtually every skit in Act I. (The ostensible goal of last night.) So there was much reading from the book and awkward movements while pretending people were there. (Something at which the cast is getting quite good in some cases by now.)

I did run "If Grant Were Drunk at Appomattox" for the very first time on stage, for only the second night anywhere. I am off book for that one. But not everybody is, and not everybody was present for that on. So it went roughly. So much so in fact the director decided that going through it again last night wouldn't be in anyone's best interests.

The other things I worked on last night were my smaller roles. (All of which come in Act I.) I am a narrator twice in Act I, and the role is very small in both. A few lines at most. (The Wolf at the Door and Gentleman Shoppers.) I also have a slightly larger role in the fable The Unicorn in the Garden. Despite many delays on that short piece in regards to "choreography" of one moment in it, that scene went well. Everybody is off book for that one. It's probably my personal favorite moment for Act I, as silly as it is.

At the end of the evening, I was surprised to find us running The Secret Life of Walter Mitty again. (Which is in Act II.) I knew for sure I would be much better the next time I ran in right after I finished it previously. (The night before.) But when I made that assumption, I didn't know we would be running it again the very next night. Nevertheless, it did go much better last night than the night before. I still have to nail down a stray line here and there, but I have no doubt that this one will get off the ground soon, at least for me.

Two people are still expected to be missing for Monday, so once again, progress will be limited. Plus I think it is a choreography day again. But as I said, by late next week, things should be falling into place. Yes, that will be cutting it close, and if we are not all in high gear for the coming week, we may be in mild trouble. But I feel high gear will be achieved on Monday and Wednesday, and indeed for the rest of the run. Let us hope, anyway.

I am not nervous at this time. I am 98% off book. And probably, when I get down to it, totally off book but for a few screw-ups.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A First Time For Everything

Tonight's rehearsal for A Thurber Carnival was a bit of a milestone; It was the first time that, for most of the evening, we has an entire cast present. The glory will be short lived, as several people have to be out of town for the upcoming holiday weekend, but nonetheless it was refreshing to have every role filled by an actual person tonight. Many a joke was made about each of us being thrown during the scenes by the presence of so many people.

To begin with, the elusive "young female" role was finally cast tonight. Much to my delight it is an actress I have worked with before, in Romeo and Juliet last summer with The Bard's Men. I haven't seen her since that show closed, so that was a fun surprise. She's a good actress, and honestly, a good fit for the characters she has been assigned. So hopefully, she will be able to stick around for the remainder of the run.

We ran Act II tonight. Not in order, and certainly not without hitches. (Some of them due to me. I'm getting to that.) My two largest roles come in Act II. (Mr. Preble and Walter Mitty). I made the deadline for being off book for the former. The latter...not so much. Actually it depends on how you define "off book". If you mean not calling for a line, than I was no where near that. But if if means being able to get where I had to go while calling line a few times, I was basically off book. I more of the lines that I thought, actually. But still, I wasn't as off book as I should have been for the deadline of tonight's rehearsal. So I am a little dissapointed. But I feel very confident I will be there the next time we run Act II.

And I am fine with my other scenes. It's just that for whatever reason, I didn't have as much mental power invested in Mitty leading into today. I think I spent more time with some of the other than I needed. Or perhaps it's the nature of the skit. Either way, I'll hit the script hard, and be much better for Monday. (The next time we are set to run Act II, I believe.)

"Preble" went very well though. I didn't have to call for any lines, and me and my opposite just seemed to hit a great rhythm with it, seeing as how few times we've gone through it. It got done faster that just about any of the other skits that were rehearsed tonight, and the director was quite pleased with it.

We also went through of the micro short fables from Act I for the benefit of our newly acquired "young female". I have my smallest role on one of those. The first thing I was off book for, in fact. So no problems there.

Not many problems at all, really. We have only been doing this show for two weeks, after all. But I caught a sense of things starting to come together. That is even more promising, given that half of our time in those two weeks has been spent on choreographing a 4 minute dance. I get the sense that this is the sort of show and cast that will be exponentially better in just a week. (Even though some will be missing next week.) There is a lot of chaos there, but a few lighthouses have appeared to guide us slowly towards some kind of shore, and I am pleased by it.

And I sense that others are pleased with certain aspects of the show. (I received a nice compliment from one of my co-stars on my performance of Walter Mitty.) And I feel at ease with this crowd. There really hasn't been a lot of the "getting to know you" awkwardness that is often a part of the first few weeks of a show. Perhaps because we have been working on doing so much in those first few weeks. But I also think this is a particularly laid back cast. This, coupled with the fact that I knew one, and now know two people in the show is making for a production that is going far more smoothly 23 days from opening than it could have been going. It could very easily have been a much bigger mess. I have in fact been in such shows. And while there is much work to be done, everyone seems capable of doing it. I'm not always so lucky.

Next rehearsal is tomorrow. Not sure what the agenda is just yet.