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.


Michael Clark said...

Where were the stage manager's notes on the choreography of the opening scene? It is the SM's job to take and give notes on blocking to the choreographer. Where was the SM when you were asked to do something that might get you hurt? What did the director do during the choreography portion of the rehearsal?

Ty Unglebower said...

The stage manager didn't have notes on it either, it would appear.

I admit that to most people who do a lot of dancing, the move probably wouldn't be a big deal, and was more a matter of my size working against me than anything else, but I still feel that is part of choreography: knowing what certain people should and should not try.

The choreographer is 100% in charge when she is present. The director makes no decisions pertaining to such evenings.