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.