Friday, October 15, 2010

Spread Out.

I made a mistake in my last entry. I mention we would be blocking Act Two on Sunday, when in fact that is what we began last night. We didn't get all the way through the act, though, so we will be continuing on Sunday.

There is more complicated blocking in the second act, it seems, so it took longer at times. But we now have more room on the set with which to move about.

The platform that had been incorrectly placed was moved. Also, the number of entrance/exit points has been reduced from four to two. It was decided that things were getting to crowded at times as it had been set up. (The entrances were formed by two l-shaped walls on wheels that can be moved at will.) These were positioned in such a way that despite their now being fewer places to enter the stage, the stage itself has more open space than before.

To begin with, the "base characters" return for the start of the second act. I have but one line in this section as Frederick, but ideally he should be juggling when he says it. I have never juggled in my life. So one of the set designers who knows how is going to work with me and try to teach me how. I'm willing to learn, but have no sense of whether I will be able to do so. The good news is, if I can't master it, throwing the fruit in some fancy way instead of juggling it will still accomplish the goal of my one line.

Perhaps the biggest blocking challenge will be the Fred party scene, during the shadows of Christmas Present section of the play. It seems that almost any stage rendition of A Christmas Carol has this moment from the novel as one of the longer, more boisterous, and sometimes, more complicated scenes in the entire production. The scene being of a lively party, I suppose that makes sense. But I laugh when I think that in all the productions of this story I have been in, it usually takes the most time to block certain scenes, and this one is always among them.

But aside from blocking, I will be challenged to keep the "Fred energy" up the entire time. Unlike his initial appearance, which is mostly a brief encounter with a specific, though difficult mission, the party scene is long and drawn out. Plus, it meanders about a bit. Here we see a Fred totally lost on joviality, without having to stand up against Scrooge. Not an especially difficult motivation; joy. But it is the energy of the scene which is crucial, and I dare say in many ways Fred's energy will be the driving force of it. I shall have to be at near full throttle for that one. Energy should always be high on stage of course, but it is even more noticeable when a high energy actor is playing a high energy character.

During the word game I also have to have Fred on the verge of cracking up at his selection of Uncle Scrooge as the subject of his word game. I'm not a morose fellow, but I am not often laughing for such a sustained period, so that will be something to remember.

The only other thing on which we worked last night was the Cratchit scene in the present. "God Bless Us All", and that sort of thing. I play Peter Cratchit in the scene, and I have to say I have less of a sense of him than any of the other roles I have for this show. He has few lines, and not given much to do. Plus he is ideally much younger than I am. It is in fact a strange assignment, I think, for the character he plays Frederick Dickens. All of the other roles he is assigned are, or can be, roughly the same age as he. But Peter... I think the key is to just keep him subtle while still suggesting a youthful exuberance. His direct age isn't specifically mentioned, and maybe people won't notice. Or perhaps I can pull off playing a child. I did it before once. I am glad I will not have to put Tiny Tim on my shoulders this time though. I did it the last time, and it wasn't the most comfortable affair for me.

I am also starting to work on different voices for different characters. That is always a challenge, but it's even more so when each of those characters is to have an accent. So my goal is to establish a different British accent, as well as a different voice for each. True mastery of such things can take years of study, and I realize that. But I have always prided myself on doing a little bit more with accents than just pronouncing a few words differently. I can't say they would full a native or any such thing, but my goal is to at least keep them consistent. Dropping in and out of an accent during the course of a show is one of the more common flaws in community shows such as this.

I did find a wonderful resource that may help me out with this. This website is dedicated to archiving and recording samples of English being read and spoken with accents from all over the world. I have looked for this kind of site for years as an actor, and I am glad to have stumbled upon it. I played around with it for an hour when I first found out about it. Try it yourself. It's fun and educational. Before this site I would use British sitcoms as guides. And I will still do a bit of that I am sure, even with this new archive at my disposal.

The next rehearsal is Sunday evening, when we will finish act two and I believe run act one again. But I am not certain, and I was wrong the last time I blogged about what came next, so don't quot me on that. But the better stuff always starts to happen once blocking is written down. Not the best stuff, which is reserved for when everyone is off book, but the focus turns mostly toward acting once blocking is set down. So after Sunday we will be getting into high gear, in a manner of speaking.

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