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.

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