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...

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