Monday, November 29, 2010

A Better Than Average Sunday

If you have read this blog with any regularity, you will know that I am no fan of matinees. Theatre just seems to belong to the evening. Like football belongs in the cold weather.

Energy is often low for matinees, both for audiences and for the cast. Fewer people tend to come to a matinee, and those that do tend to skew towards the elderly in age. The size, and age of the crowd for today fit that description. But thankfully, the energy factor did not. It was a warmer crowd. The even laughed at a few more things than the evening crowds did. (Despite being half of their size, or about 25 people.)

In turn, I think that gave the actors more energy, which seemed to carry throughout most of the show. In some ways it was the best performance of the show so far. So prepared have we been for the last two weeks that I think for a change the play will peak before the final performance. If we hold on to what we had today in fact, the entire second weekend has the potential to be optimal.

It is more than a little ironic than that the very first moments of the show were almost quite problematic. The sound monitor we use in the green room to listen for our cues was sort of fading in and out there for a while, and the moment of my entrance was upon me much quicker than I am used to. I was in place in time, and I entered on time. But I literally went from the rest of the green room, through backstage, and right into my place off right, and thence to my first entrance, in one long, brisk and unbroken motion. So that made the first few moments exciting, given that I didn't get my usual time to collect myself.

Maybe it was that unexpected excitement that led to some of the energy of the show as a whole? I doubt it. At last I doubt it had much of an impact passed the first few moments. (As important as they can be.) And it wouldn't account for the energy of the others.

Whatever the reason, both the crowd and the cast were unusually into it for a matinee performance, and as a result, I was able to "feel it" more than I otherwise might. Still not the height of internalization that I reached in that one rehearsal, at to which I was close on Friday night, but a fair amount of it was there.

Our choreographer was on hand again today, and she mentioned that not only was she saddened by the break up scene, but also got chills from the moment before it. She couldn't offer details, but she felt them when I stepped out of the waltz with Belle. It is a point that is surreal, because it is not an actual moment in time. It is symbolic of Scrooge going from being the warm Scrooge, to the beginnings of the cold one. At that moment, the present day Scrooge dances with Belle's shadow, as I make my way to the other end of the set, in preparation for the break-up scene.

And the scene itself felt good. "Belle" still feels that opening night was our best for that scene, but I continue to think it goes just as well every night.

The party scene at Fred's gets better each night, though. The choreographer also mentioned how well that scene was going, and applauded the chemistry. I am willing to agree with her assessment, now that the lines are coming easier for everyone. Plus I didn't have as many nerves going into it as usual. They were there, but I think they decrease a little more each night. It is one of those scenes that community players notoriously tend to lethargic in. To our credit, i think we keep the very high energy level going throughout the entirety of that eight minute scene. And that is not always easy to do. I am proud of how much it has evolved.

I am also proud that I have now gone three nights in a row without dropping something at the end of the Old Joe scene. (Another scene that continues to go very well, though there were some tiny hitches in it tonight.)

So at the end of the first weekend, I give the cast of A Christmas Carol at Full Circle a very solid B+, with moments of Grade A material. Here is hoping that we can achieve the overall A for the second half of the run.

But first we must hold on to what we have learned for the next three days until our pick-up rehearsal on Wednesday. If we show no signs of rust for that, I predict a a very strong total run.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Oil On the Machine

Well, we moved the choreographer to tears tonight. And not because the dance was bad. (It was the break-up scene.) So I would say that the night had quite its share of fine acting moments.

Indeed the whole night was even better than last night. The crowd, though slightly smaller was a bit warmer. More responsive. Which is good, because I think we gave them some of our best stuff in more than one place tonight.

The top of Act One, which tends to suffer from dragging, had more energy tonight. It just felt like there was more pop in some of the speeches and exchanges. It was the most vibrant that my Frederick Dickens had felt in a while. Part of that may have to do with the fact that I was able to get a half an hour or so to myself before getting dressed; an option I did not have in the rushed madness of being late for opening night. But an equal or greater part had to do with the conspiracy of a warm crowd and a group of actors that are obviously very much at ease now with virtually the entire show.

There were some minor flubs here and there. I got tongue tired for a moment once or twice. A line here and there was dropped but quickly covered. What I call "invisible" flubs, because they get covered well and fast enough that there is no way an audience would know any better without a script in front of them. If there were any "visible flubs", I was and remain unaware of what they were.

So, going through things in order. The opening I have already talked about. The first scene with Fred, which has never really suffered from any major problems continued to feel near perfect. My exit got laughs again, and I imagine it often will.

The dance, both the fast one and my waltz went well. I feel we have the group dance nailed down, though it is probably still a bit low on energy.

Then the break up scene. (Which as I said, moved our choreographer.) It continues to go very well. I get the feeling my opposite was more happy with her performance last night, but I have no complaints about it whatsoever. Never have, actually. For my part it continues to feel more and more natural. I have had to walk a line with the scene. Scrooge must be the changed, shallow and greedy Scrooge. That is why Belle is leaving him. However there should still be a palpable sense of loss, and a bit of surprise on the part of Scrooge. Confusion and some disbelief over the fact that this engagement, this life plan which has been in place for so long, borne out of what was once love, is coming to an end. He perhaps feels sustained by the memory of a feeling, more than any actual feeling at this point. At least that is how I have been trying to play him.

Which means he can neither be totally cold and mechanical as he is when an old man. But he can not be a blubbering heart broken fellow either. Perhaps he wishes she would have changed in the same way he had, and is lamenting that as well. Either way he must still show some humanity in the scene, in the way we have been playing it. I think in the last two nights I have taken a step or two towards the man with some remains of emotion, as opposed to the man who has none left. And I think the choice had added the depth to the scene that perhaps had been lacking in some of the later rehearsals. (To my end of the scene, that is.)

The first Cratchit scene is still just...there. Not much to tell about it, really.

The second Fred scene is the one scene that I admit still causes me a slight case of nerves right before I go on. My longest scene with the most moving parts if you will, there had been a few potholes in that scene in the last few rehearsals. It has my longest sustained speeches of the entire play, and some of the quickest dialogue between several characters. There was a minor flub in it today which was covered, but for a moment I admit to being afraid we might spin out. Thankfully we did not. But there would have been little I could do. All of my lines are the result of questions in that scene. The other must course correct when needed.

Otherwise that scene continues to improve, despite my slight nervousness before hand.

At long last the Old Joe scene, which for whatever reason was one of the last scenes to become totally processed in my mind, feel totally natural for me. I now even have a system for taking all of the stuff off stage at the end of it that works. Everything about the scene, (which I think most of my scene partners don't care for) is smooth sailing for me now. Plus there is a slight ham-factor involved. I have to say I enjoy the scene a lot.

I made an effort to put more emotion into the second Cratchit scene. (In the future, when Tim is dead.) Tried to make him more weary, and lost in his grief than I have previously, when I was playing the "brave-face" Peter. I think I like the dazed and mourning one better. I think I will keep it.

Such are the main moments for me. (Though a minor moment wherein I use a hand gesture at the end of the play did get a few laughs.)

As one of my fellow actors so rightly told one of the children in the show today, there is no such thing as a perfect show, and there isn't. But most everything went right today and yesterday, and I am starting to really get inside the show, to coin a phrase. It doesn't always happen on the first night, as much as we wish it would. But on the other side, sometimes it doesn't happen at all. I am glad it happened earlier for this show. I will not be complacent for the final 4 shows by any means. But I am going to try to enjoy the high comfort levels we are all experiencing.

Matinee tomorrow, then a few days off before pick-up rehearsal.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Christmas Carol: Opening Night

Tonight was it. After two days off, we opened the show. But you wouldn't know we had two days off, as smoothly as it went. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there were no major mistakes at any point. A few minor things, mostly involving props falling off of tables. But any previous problems spots to which I have been a party went well tonight. And I heard no mention of major speed bumps anywhere else.

And what of my much talked about "internalization"? Was it present tonight? Some. Not as much as the final dress rehearsal. It may be due to the natural ebb and flow of such things. It may be because, due to traffic I was later in getting there than I wanted to be. (I am always early, but not tonight...) Whatever the reason there was a bit more distance between myself and the characters in most places than is ideal to me.

That isn't to say, however, that there were no such moments. Despite an annoying costume issue on my part, the break up scene was probably the best it has ever been. I think we delivered it a bit different tonight, as the crowd looked on. It has more energy, and I think both I and my opposite were more emphatic in our delivery. Less casual in some places, and as a result more poignant. She even said she almost felt herself tearing up a bit. I rarely do that myself, but as I said, it was better. My natural is the best way to put it. It felt less like a presentation than it sometimes feels like. Maybe because I played Ebenezer as a bit less brooding, and a bit more confused about the turns of events. Not crushed exactly, because then he would not have been dumped in the first place. But tonight it just felt right to play him a bit less cool. And I think it paid off.

The Fred party scene, complete with word game, also felt more natural than ever before. That had suffered both from my tendency to be too fast as well as feeling a bit mechanical during rehearsal. Tonight however it was warmer. More fluid. Engaging. And it got a few laughs here and there. Not as many as it might have, but I can't complain too much.

And I believe I have at last mastered a system of organizing all of the crap from the Old Joe scene that allows me to easily carry everything off stage. I didn't drop anything. And that's twice in a row counting the final rehearsal. So, (knock on wood), it shouldn't be a problem anymore.

The crowd itself I think was more into it in Act Two than in Act One. But the second half is much more dynamic and moves a lot faster, as I have mentioned here several times. And though they did enjoy Act One, (I got some laughs as Fred in that first scene, whilst needling Scrooge with a "Happy New Year!"), I think ti took them a while to warm to this unique version of the story. So not a bad crowd, Just a bit cold at times.

Hopefully my half/vest with the dry rotted elastic belt will not give me as much trouble from here on out. I safety pinned that sucker during intermission. Hopefully it will not unbuckle again as it did during the dance scene. (Which also went well, incidentally.)

So we have proven that we can perform this show as smoothly as we have rehearsed it. We just need to keep doing that, and make it a little better each time. I generally enjoy Saturday performances the most. Will this weekend be the same? Check back tomorrow to find out, loyal blog readers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Countdown to Black Friday

And I don't mean for the shopping deals. I mean because it is our opening night, and there are no more rehearsals between now and then!

It is strange. I have on occasion gotten the night before opening night off for rehearsal, but never before have I ever had two days off leading into the first performance. I don't anticipate any major problems, so long as everyone goes over their lines and blocking at some point during the break. Still, I think that come Friday night, the nerves might be at slightly higher levels as we approach curtain than they otherwise would be for me in a show like this. It may feel like we are ever so slightly cold going into the first night. Or at least, lukewarm.

But what of tonight and the final rehearsal? I have to say, not as good as last night. I almost expected that to be the case. We really hit a stride on Monday night, with costumes, make up, lights and sound. The novelty of having everything together probably drove the energy up. The realization that we were getting close contributed as well, I believe. But tonight there were no costumes. The result I think was a decrease in energy and expectation. As well as a few more mistakes.

Last night, one of the kids totally missed their entrance due to playing around too much in the green room. That also happened tonight, though it was a different child actor this time. And I dropped a line in the Old Joe scene myself, though thankfully it wasn't a direct cue line per se. The other person just needed to hand me a prop with their own motivation, as the moment is a tone change of sorts. Still I felt bad for forgetting to say it. I didn't drop any of my stuff when I exited that scene this time, though.

The game at Fred's house scene went well, though. As did most other scenes I was in, as far as I could tell.

Even the dance feels on track. Mostly.

The break-up scene didn't feel as good overall as it did last night. But the ending felt good.

I wasn't without my moments of internalization tonight, don't get me wrong. But the were more sporadic than last night, when they were almost universal and uniform. But perhaps it is good that this happened. Having had a taste of what I know is there, having two days off my provide just enough distance, and hence incentive to focus  on each aspect of the performance.Perhaps this will help me internalize as it did when sickness forced me to be ultra-focused a few days ago.

Speaking of sick, I have felt better the last two nights than I have felt in about a week and a half. I still have some head cold issues, but they have become far more manageable, and I certainly hope they stay that way for the remainder of the run.

We also rehearsed the opening moment, wherein we all sing for a moment backstage. We did this after we had rehearsed to full show. And then even later, we rehearsed the curtain call, which is a very simple affair.

So, a short entry about the final rehearsal. But there really wasn't much to report about this nondescript evening beyond what I have already provided here. Though the more I think about it, the more I think having this average final rehearsal two days before opening is a good thing. Not because of the common belief that the worse the last rehearsal goes, the better the opening night goes. I have never totally bought into that one. But because the absence should set off just enough of a spark upon our return on Friday to motivate us into getting it down. Had tonight's rehearsal been out best yet, the two days may have acted as a downhill slope for us to coast into Friday, and lose energy. Or, if this mediocre rehearsal had been the very night before we opened we may have found that inertia would have kept us from hitting the ground running from the start. It may have taken us a night or two. So, according to my theory, the combination of a lackluster rehearsal being two days away from opening could work to our advantage.

This seemed like one of the faster rehearsal periods for any show I have been in for a while.I think it is due both to it coming immediately after Thurber in the same building, and my familiarity with the script from two years ago. Either way, it has been one of the quickest and (mostly) smoothest rehearsal periods in the last two years or so for me. Now all we need are the crowds to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

If you are in the area and would like to come see what I have been referring to the last few months, visit the Full Circle website, and get yourself some tickets today.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Suddenly, Penultimate

Tonight it was made official; there will be no Wednesday rehearsal. Ergo, we have but one rehearsal left before we open.

Tonight was a dress rehearsal, and all hands were on deck again. Though not fully recovered, I myself was feeling better than I have the last few evenings. In more ways than one.

I think this was my best rehearsal so far. Things were clicking. Connections were being made. Nuances, by nearly everyone were more frequent in all of the performances. I have waded into the Rubicon of internalizing my characters now. I have not crossed it totally yet, and sometimes you don't totally cross it until the audience is there. But this is as close as I have felt the entire time thus far.

I have to give at least half of the credit for this development to my cast mates. Nearly everyone else also seemed to be more intensely involved in there performances tonight. Seeing as how I cannot read their minds I don't know if they too felt things were more internalized today, or if indeed that is a goal of anyone else but me. But I can say that many people had what appeared to be a keener focus tonight.

I have been acting for over ten years, and blogging about it for over five. Yet I still have not found the best way, or even a practical way to describe in words these moments. The best I have ever come up with, as my loyal blog readers will know, is the highly cliched and only partially accurate, "click". And I don't mean the usual use of the word in that everything went smoothly and without mistakes. (We were not without mistakes tonight, which I will address later.) But click into place, so to speak. When what I am trying to personally accomplish as an actor "clicks into place" with what is going on around me. You never quite know when it will happen. Sometimes, it just doesn't. But tonight it did. Not my most definitive clicking ever, but it was there. Even my costume felt natural on me.

Is this a moment within me, or within a show? Or a combination of the two? Most phenomena are combinations of several things, and I would venture to guess, (without being able to prove) that the "click" is no exception.

From here on out, the ideal is that it will feel even better, and equally good throughout each scene I am in. Practically though, oftentimes one scene feel better than others. They all felt good tonight, but I felt Old Joe was the best example. I really like all that I did with that one. Especially the effect of slinging my coat around my shoulders, to get more mileage out of the same costume.

I dropped something on the way out again. But that didn't ruin the whole scene.

And the break up was almost as good. In some ways better. Even my scene partner admitted that it finally felt better to her tonight. (She has never quite done what she wants to do in the scene. Not that one can tell from watching her excellent performance. But each person has their own metric, naturally.) The whole scene has felt better to me ever since the suggestion was made for me to take a small step towards the departed Belle, before turning to leave. As though I almost go after her, but do not do so.

The party scene at Fred's went better than it has the last few nights. No mistakes in the word game, which had given us some trouble the last few evenings. One thing about it, which I remember from the last time I was in the play, but as a different character, is that Fred doesn't really have much leeway in regards to feeding lines to the others in the event of a mistake. 99% of what he says is either "yes" or "no" during the game, because he can only respond to questions. It is the other three that have to be most on guard, I dare say, for chances to cover a mistake. Yet tonight we proved that we have it down, we just need to relax when we do it.

I have to main performance things to work on. "Frederick Dickens" still needs to be a bit less generic than I feel I am making him. I'd like to develop a distinct look and sound to him that is not yet there to the degree I want. I have some things I have been working with, but he still needs a bit more. The character isn't lost, and perhaps I am doing a better job at setting him apart than I thought. But as I said earlier each actor has his own metric, and according to mine, I could do a bit more. Yet after the good feelings I had tonight with so much of the play, I feel confident something will emerge.

One final rehearsal. No costumes this time. Some directors have costumes all tech week, some do not. I'd almost rather wear mine, but I do not think I will do so. I would feel out of place with everyone else not in costume, and feeling out of place doesn't help a performance.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One (and a Half) Men Down

What does my cryptic title mean exactly? It means that last night we were missing one actress. (Which makes the "men" thing inappropriate I realize), and I myself was continuing, as I am tonight, to fight this cold/fever thing I have had for a month or so.

It's not as bad as it may have sounded, though. I was in some noticeable discomfort Earlier in the evening, which flared up a bit as time went on. But during the constant motion of Act Two, I think I became too busy to be worried about some of my ailments. That, or the small amount of medicine I took had some effect.

Despite these setbacks though, I have to say that in places, I actually felt more in the zone mentally last night than I have in most of the previous rehearsals. Before anyone jumps to conclusions about it being an effect of any cold medicine, I will point out I took nothing so strong as that. Really, just a regimen of cough drops. Yet perhaps my being sick did contribute in a way to those at long last more internalized moments. In order to get passed the illness and fatigue, I had to really be mindful of everything that was happening onstage to a degree higher than it otherwise might have been. Of course I am always paying attention, but last night I had a physical need to just absorb the actions of the scenes, or else feel too run down by the work to get through it. As a result, the much awaited internalization of a few moments.

Oddly, one of those moments was the break up scene, though my opposite in that scene was not present. It just felt like at least I was owning some of the lines when previously I was just saying them. At least some of them.

I also felt more in tune with some of my Fred moments later in the play. That too as more difficult because of the missing actress, but nonetheless my condition forced me to slow down a bit and process what I was saying. I have blogged earlier this month about how for some reason that scene has sometimes gotten away from me. But not last night. It was aligned well, if I do say so myself.

I am hoping to take what I felt last night, and apply it to tonight, while not having to feel so lousy in so doing. And to apply it with the missing actress, who plays an important role in almost every scene in which I appear.

Not wanting to jynx anything, I will say that last night felt like a possible turning point inside my head. I still have some work to do, but I can suddenly see some of my goals on the horizon now, whereas before, I was still waiting.

I also has a few more little costume pieces, and was given permission to take off my coat in one scene if I wanted to. This gave me just enough of a feeling of being a different character in each scene that it too may have contributed to the internalization that was happening here and there for me. I will know more tonight when I run those costume mini-changes again.

The director told us that if we did well enough tonight (Monday) and tomorrow, we may get Wednesday off. The play as a whole truly is progressing nicely, and we shall see soon enough if it has earned us the night off on Wednesday.

But Monday and Tuesday first, and there is still much to do.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cue to Cue

Not much can really be said about a lighting/sound cue to cue rehearsal. They are very important for the technical crew, but for the actor they tend to be tests patience/endurance or both. Some theatres do not even have actors present for them. But the theatre being so small in this case, we were there to go over, (and in fact to learn ourselves) when and how the light changes and sound effects would take place. So it wasn't a pointless night for the actors by any means. It just didn't lend itself to be the source of a particularly interesting post here.

Though I have to say, ironically, that we were in and out of that rehearsal slightly faster than some of our performance rehearsals. The director begged our patience the night before, and warned that it could be a very long evening, but in the end it was at most the average length of time for a rehearsal.

Most notable about the whole evening was that I think i set a record for most cough drops consumed at one time. I basically kept them in a constant feed. Despite having shaken most of my cold symptoms two weeks ago, a different set of them, in some ways worse than the first, have returned to plague me for tech week. I really hope they are mostly gone (again) by the time we open the show.

Tonight is full dress.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Warm and Crisp and Even Keel.

When a rehearsal process goes by without any major hitches this late in the game, I am starting to realize there may be less to write about each night. No doubt this is a good problem to have, at least from the standpoint of the show. Perhaps not for this blog.

Yet it is true. No major mishaps, problems or concerns have been present in our last few rehearsals. Today was no exception. A stride has very nearly been hit by us all.

We did have some light cues tonight, as well as sound. No costumes required tonight.

One different thing about tonight was that the director mentioned she would only be paying attention to and pointing out the negatives, or the things that needed work during notes. Yet even with that plan, she didn't have to say much, and truth be told she still threw in compliments anyway.

My only error was very nearly tripping over a trunk on stage while trying to back out of the room as the Ghost of Christmas Future. I never quite go totally backwards, so I have never had any problems exiting before. But I wasn't injured, so no harm done.

I mentioned previously that I didn't think I was internalizing all of my scenes as much as I wanted to. Tonight I think I noticed that some moments are more internalized than others. The first scene with Fred certainly is very nearly. Tonight, the Old Joe scene felt as though it was very much the closest to being as internal as I like to be. ( I even threw in an extra moment of wiping my dirty hands on one of the other actors in the scene at one point.)

I still need to work on getting the sometimes chaotic party scene to feel more real to me. There is a lot going on in that one, and the word game has gone a bit rough the last two evenings. We covered well, but it still has some road blocks. I may be sacrificing internal energy of character in order to be ready for possible mistakes, and I shouldn't do so. Not in that fashion at least. I think I am not alone. The other three in that scene also proceed with a bit more caution than is ideal for now. We have six more time to get it right, however, so I am not worried much.

The break up scene with Belle is getting closer to being internalized for me, though not quite there. "Belle" herself has thus far not felt totally satisfied with her part in the scene. Though I have no complaints as her opposite, the scene will go better if both parties feel that they are nailing it. Again, there is plenty of time to get it where we both want it to be. (Which for me means, again, feeling it internally as well as externally.)

It really is time for me to be artistic as opposed to technical with some of these moments. I sometimes have a tendency to spend more energy on making sure my performance is technically flawless than I do on making it feel real to me. That ratio almost always becomes a bit more balanced the minute I step in front of an audience, but it should be closer to equal long before that. I suppose sometimes it is the fear of lines being lost or something. I don;t have it for every show. But I have some of it for this show. Who knows why? But no more excuses for me. It is time to fine tune, and give those extras I know are within me for these roles. It is time to polish, even if a few technical aspects are closer to 90% as opposed to 100%. I am promising you, loyal blog reader, here and now, that I will be doing exactly that in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Tonight we started tech week. Pursuant to that, we had sound, minimal light cues, and most different, costumes.

I have always said a little something extra kicks in when costumes show up.

However I think i shall have to add to mine somehow. To begin with, I cannot button the coat and be comfortable. Too tight around the middle. That however won't be a problem, as I was told in casual settings many men would leave them unbuttoned. Most of the scenes in the play take place in casual settings, so I won't have it buttoned most of the time. Maybe for the short scene between Fred and Scrooge at the beginning, because he just came in out of the cold at that point.

I am basically wearing the same thing for every character though, and that is a little bit bothersome. For while our base characters are portraying the characters in the story, I find it a bit hard to get into each of those characters individually if they all lost mostly the same. (Other than a hate here and there.) I had planned on just taking my overcoat off for one of the scenes, but the problem with that is that the vest I am wearing is not a real vest. It's a fake one. It has no back to it. So removing the coat would spoil that illusion.

I talked to the costume person (a friend of mine) and asked if there were any real vests available. She is going to look. If so, I can just shed my coat and throw on a scarf or something for a scene. But tonight she did secure an additional coat. A really heavy, gritty one that I think will look well on Old Joe. So at least for that scene I will look considerably different.

I also wear an ascot. Those things are weird. But it seems that they were tied in any number of ways in the 19th century, so I can't screw it up.

The show was surprisingly high in energy and low in mistakes, though I did make one. I have a throw away line, followed by an important line, and there is no connection between the two at all. Total tone change. I forgot it a lot in earlier rehearsals and I did tonight. I must pound that one into my mind.

But the good news is, that was my only mistake tonight, even including the technical aspects. So I am happy about that. In fact, there were not many mistakes that I noticed. (Though the toilet seat door knocker has to be replaced due to damage!) Because we were not stopping nearly as much, the whole play went faster than ever before tonight.

On a different subject, my last few shows I have been a bit rushed to the finished line, so I haven't been able to get as deeply into the characters as I would like. I have had some more time in this one, but I still think the residual effects of being a bit more shallow are present in places. I am hoping to internalize a few more moments than I am now. Having all the extras will help. Having an audience sometimes helps as well. Now that my tech duties are going smoother, hopefully I can spend the final week going inward a bit more.

I welcome this tech week.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Full Run at Full Circle

Last night we ran both acts of A Christmas Carol for the first time. Given that, it was a satisfactory rehearsal, though there were several mistakes. I myself made two of them, at least.

Act Two has become less rushed in the last few rehearsals, but it nonetheless is still the more complicated of the two halves. There is still much to do, and less time in which to do it as compared with the first act. I think there may have been some fatigue on my part once we got to Act Two, having done Act One before hand. Not permanent fatigue, as of course, I will be ready to perform the entire play eventually. But it being the first time we had Act One to do right before the complex Act Two may have something to do with why I was off later in the evening.

To begin with, I once again forgot to set Tiny Tim's stool, which is my job. A minor flub, but still something I am annoyed with about myself. The second moment where I was below par was not a screw-up because I fixed it, but it still showed how off I was. I almost did not remember I have an entrance as the Ghost of Christmas Future. I did get into costume, and I made the entrance in plenty of time, but I did not remember right off that that was my next duty.

The other actual mistake I made was missing a line during the Old Joe scene. I skipped one, and went right to the next. I knew something was off but wasn't sure at first what it was. It dawned on me though, and if I had not told the other actress I was sorry, (something I realized later I shouldn't have done), my mistake would have probably gone unnoticed, the lines being so similar.

So I am not happy about those things. But there is this consolation; I will now put extra effort into fixing those very moments I flubbed last night. Of course that is no guarantee of perfection from here on out, but it decreases the odds of making the same mistakes.

The mistakes were the exception for me though. And indeed for most of the cast, most of whom continue to improve each night. The "break-up" scene with Belle continues to feel better each time I do it. I must be careful in the scene to not fall back on affectations, which is easily done when working with uber-familiar material such as this. That has been something to resist from the start. In some scenes I have succeeded more so than other in that mission. Yet I would surmise that having costumes, lights and sounds effects in place starting Wednesday, thus giving it a feel of a full-on production, will help align me, and deepen my performances. Tech week almost always has that effect to one degree or another, anyway.

I did feel better about Fred's party scene last night. I feel I am starting to slow things down, and make that Fred more like the Fred at the start of the play. For a while they felt like different people. I am not sure why. Perhaps because there is a lot more going on, with different people than in the first scene. But either way, the gap is closing as I take more command of all of the dynamic things happening within the scene. I'm going to start experimenting with those lines on my own, I think, now that they are memorized.

All and all, I think the show needs more energy. It does seem to fall a bit flat and quiet at times, especially in Act Two. And that is not due to any one particular person, but rather the entire show still feeling it's way. But, just as with my own personal moments, I can't help but believe getting all of the extras in place this week will improve things. That tends to happen most when a show is well prepared to enter it's final week of rehearsal, and honestly, I think this one is in very solid shape, all and all.

And so ends the last of the "regular" rehearsal updates. Starting Wednesday we enter technical rehearsals. Rubber, prepare to meet road.

Addendum: I just got an e-mail from the director stating that lights will not actually be in place until Saturday. Tech week does begin Wednesday, but the polish won't show up until the weekend.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"I Say This Could Be Fun"

That's one of my lines in Act One, and it could apply to this show as a whole. For we are now getting to the fun parts of being in a show. Blocking solidified. Everyone off book, (mostly). Props in hand. The real fine tuning of a production begins about two weeks out as we are.

Tonight we ran Act One. We even tried to run the dance, and remembered most of it, but not enough to warrant doing it the second time. The choreographer will be back on Sunday, and I am sure she will set it all straight at that point. We almost got it anyway.

The Fred/Scrooge greeting continues to go well. In many ways that scene has gone well from the earliest point, as compared to the others. It feels 100% natural the entire time for me. I really feel I am starting to tap into the charitable notion that is Fred's treatment of his Uncle. Truly viewing the man as a lost, (but retrievable) soul. Fred mentions in Act Two that he "could be angry with him if I tried", and I think that sums up well what the scene should be, and how I want to play it. And how I have been playing it. A religious conviction of redemption without proselytization. Just poor joy and compassion. To that end, I have begun smiling off stage before I enter, to build up the right amount of joy.

The so called "break up" scene gets better each time. The scene proceeding it needs work. It is supposed to be a party but as a cast I don't think we are quite hitting a high enough energy level for it. It seems to drag on a bit too long, and is a bit too quiet. I bet once we get the dance mastered it will give the scene an injection of energy, but even then we can do better. "Belle" and I though seem to have mastered our waltz for said scene, however.

I don't say much about the opening scene in the attic, with Dickens himself and his friends because that hasn't warranted a lot of commentary to tell you the truth. It too could go a bit quicker in my opinion, but really seems to be on an even keel. I know I could use a bit of work on making the character if Frederick Dickens a bit more distinct, but I am not certain how to go about it just yet. I think a gesticulation and a back story may be in order. (Though it's harder for him because he was a real person.)

Our next rehearsal is Sunday, and we will be attempting to run the whole show for the first time. It truly is getting quite close. Running the whole show for the first time in one night always hits that point home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting There

I don't know which is more stunning at the moment. That Thanksgiving is two weeks from today, or that we open A Christmas Carol two weeks from tomorrow. But since this blog is about my acting, and not about food, I will comment on the latter.

And may I say that last night's rehearsal was one of the smoothest and most productive we have yet had for Act Two. The director admitted that the second act is a "complicated" one, and she is right, but the rough edges ended up being smoother last night than I would have expected them to be.

To begin with, I am feeling much better about my technical duties than I did a week ago. The location for the furniture has been spiked, so the guess work is gone. And with the addition of sound cues for scene transitions last night, we now have more time to accomplish the set changes than I initially believed we would have. The pace is still pretty constant, but there wasn't as much rushing as there had been before. It was not as frenzied as I thought it would be previously. I still don't get much down time in Act Two, but the pace of all of my duties is quite palatable, if they remain as they did last night.

One technical thing that I keep screwing up is the end of the Old Joe scene. All of the stuff he has just bought from the scavengers must be bundled into a large sheet, and carried off stage. The first time we tried that, I dumped half the stuff all over the place when I exited. But I managed to get it all off stage the second time around. Hopefully whatever I did then can be repeated.

Everyone seems to be off book now, as well. Which means I was able to explore some of that nuance I have mentioned here previously. Mainly with Old Joe, though some with Fred. I still must work hard to slow down my delivery of Fred's lines in the party scene. I must balance exuberance with being intelligible. I have not been given a note otherwise, but I sense within myself that I could very easily deliver those lines too fast. It is my biggest scene in the play, so I want to make sure I articulate. I want to make sure I do that in every scene of course, but that is the only one I feel myself going to fast for. Oddly enough, I don't feel I go to fast during Fred's other scene.

Despite my work on Fred, I feel that the Old Joe scene has the greatest potential to evolve between now and opening night. I have several ideas, and the character is just teeming with possibilities for traits and quirks, both subtle and obvious. While Fred is more at the polishing and occasional addition stage, Old Joe still has some actual carving left. If that metaphor makes any sense. But who knows? Something new about Fred may hit me in the final weeks. It has happened before, loyal blog readers.

Tonight we run Act One. It is not as stress free as it previously was, given that we now have the dance. I should point out however that the dance has not, so far, been as stressful as it could have been. I actually think I remember it, for the most part. I don't know if the choreographer will be there tonight or not, but I think I actually remember most of what I need to remember.

That aside, the first act remains my favorite, and not simply because it is technically easier. It is because my two most fulfilling scenes are in Act One. Fred's greeting of his Uncle at the office, and Belle's ending of the engagement. Both scene are short, and from a script standpoint rather simple. But they are two of the most famous moments in he story, and both reveal a lot about the characters therein. I don't have the precise words for it, but I enjoy performing them is a different way than i enjoy performing, say, Old Joe, (my favorite moment from Act Two, no doubt.) So I look forward to that tonight.

Some hitches and obstacles remain. But two weeks out, we are in very solid shape, it seems to me.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Shall We Dance Again?

Last night the choreographer came to teach us all the dance for the Fezziwig party scene in A Christmas Carol.

I know. Loyal blog readers who kept up with my experience in A Thurber Carnival are probably already cringing as the prospect of reading about my experience with formal dancing. But rest assured, this experience was not like the previous one. For several very important reasons.

To begin with, I have known this choreographer, as well as her daughter, for several years now. Though I have never really been instructed in dance by her, she has been part of the same theatre scene in which I have traveled for years. Just being familiar with her as a person helped.

Secondly, she did something from the very start of the session that the previous choreographer would never have thought to do; she told us to make our own decisions about how our characters would enter the dance. In other words, she showed some respect for the acting part of all of this. Instead of presuming she had the authority to make acting decisions for us, she let us think about those moments. It was refreshing to be in a dance scenario where I knew that I was respected as an individual, as opposed to being treated merely like a large chess piece for her to enjoy in any way she pleased any given moment. (Which is what Thurber's dance was, in the end.)

Perhaps the biggest change of them all between the choreographer of this show and my previous show, was that if something wasn't working, she was willing to change it somehow. In other words to actually observe and teach, instead of letting her ego issue commands, and bitch when the vision in her head didn't pan out. (And she didn't blame us when it didn't.) Night and day compared to the last choreographer with whom I had to "work".

Don't get me wrong. I am still overwhelmed, nervous, and unlikley to master all of what I need to do for the dance. Not with technical correctness anyway. The very concept of formal dance still is a nerve wracking one to me. But at least this time around there is humanity and respect involved. That makes my worry easier to handle. (Though I did have to ask people to please be quieter during the instruction. Nobody seems to ever understand that I need to concentrate on those things. Dance rehearsals to a lot of people are an excuse to screw around, for some reason.)

Aside from the dance, (which actually did go better by the end than I thought it would), we ran Act One. That continues to go very well. A few snags here and there, but by and large the first half of the show is becoming quite polished already. Very few line calls this time from anyone. None from me this time.

I do need to slow down a bit. I always have the tendency to speak a little too fast, but for whatever reason some of these lines increase that tendency. Is it because some of the characters, like Fred, are so boisterous that I feel a subconscious need to go quickly? Is it the latent familiarity with some of the lines? I am not sure, but I have made an effort in the last two rehearsals to slow down. Especially with Fred.

Some sound cues were in place last night, as was some spike tape, though we didn't need the latter last night. But we will on Wednesday, and I am relieved that it is there. I don't think I ever placed the furniture in the correct place during my set changes, no matter how many times I tried to commit it to memory. The techie stuff in this show is throwing me. I hope that the far more frantic Act Two will become smoother with every repetition from here on out, now that books are gone, and blocking is solidified.

It is my own fault that I haven't spent as much time on characterization as I intended to by this point. I am going to make a concerted effort to do so. I think I will right some character back stories, to give some depth here and there. This is not a practice of mine for every show I am in, but on occasion it is quite useful in filling in the blanks. Especially in shows where little is provided by the script, and shows when time seems to be of the essence. Creating that framework separately and using it as a reference can yield some positive results, and sometimes I just have to do it. The "right" moment to create them may never come. But the sooner I come up with some metaphorical handle bars for the characters, the sooner I can add the nuance I have been meaning to add, but haven't had the time for yet.

As I mentioned, the next rehearsal is on Wednesday, when we run the hectic and frantic (for me) Act Two.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Bit of a Cluster...

You know what.

Last night was not a disaster. But it was very confusing to me, and I was not feeling as well as I had been the night before.

It turns out that I was wrong about what our goal for the evening was. It turns out we ran Act Two from the beginning last night. And then with what time we had left over we moved into Act One. So between Wednesday night when we tried to run Act Two twice, and last night, certain segments of the play had been run three times in two days. We probably needed it in some ways, though as I said, I probably wasn't at full capacity for much of what we did last night.

I say that because Act  Two is the most labor intensive act for me. Nearly too much so, in fact. Literally 100% of my time for almost the entire act is constant motion. Nearly all of what would be my off stage time is totally monopolized by the need to move furniture and/or props between every scene I am in. And I am in nearly every scene. As a result, the time I have to collect my props and change costume pieces between scenes is cut down somewhat, and everything is a rush. I essentially do a scene, run around pretty frantically to accomplish some technical task, and turn right around run on stage and assume another character. No real time to get into character at all.

This was a problem two years ago as well, even though my role was different. I felt then, as now, that the script tries to do far too many things, with far too little resources in too small a time frame. Certainly with too few people. The worst example is probably the 30 seconds during which I play the Ghost of Christmas Future. That takes up just enough of my time after the boisterous party scene with Fred to prevent me from taking a breather. Given that two different people play this role in the script, and given that the costume obscures the face of an actor so doing, I think it would have made more sense to have one of the female characters come out in this outfit for the brief moment. Nobody would know the difference.

But aside from that, I just have many items to set, move, place, alter, etc. the second I am done in a scene in order to prepare for my next scene, that I feel a bit overwhelmed at times. Ideally this show would have a running crew. But then I suppose one misses out on the "a bunch of people putting on their own show in an attic" feel the the playwright, Paller, was going for when he adapted it.

All of this is by way of saying that I don't yet feel as connected to my character's in Act Two as I'd like to be. My belief is that I will actually have to nail down all of the set changes and technical responsibilities I have first before I can feel totally at ease with the performance aspect. I will have more to say about characterizations then.

We did end up running part of Act One last night, complete with the Prologue. (I talked about that in my previous entry.) I got one more of my major hand props for it. The gift Fred gives to Scrooge.  Act One is far less complicated from a stage craft standpoint. Few changes in setting. (As well as set.)

We didn't have sound last night, but the sound guy was there for a few minutes before we started, running some of the effects. They sound pretty good.

Sunday is our next rehearsal. We will be learning the brief dance. And I feel confident that unlike my most recent production "brief dance" will actually mean a brief dance.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What's the Name of the Blog Again??

I am off book. I still think I will probably have to call for a line here and there, but perhaps not. Either way, I am off book for both acts now. No small feat considering that for most of this weeks I have been combating some kind of cold/fever.

Which brings me to Wednesday's rehearsal. I once again had a bit of a cough and some aches to deal with while practicing, but with two days off during which to heal, it seems, (knock on wood) that I kicked most of it away. I am not 100% well again, but I have no fever, and the aches have diminished today. I slept better last night, and I seem to be on the mend.

As for the show, it has some mending of its own to do.

Not everybody was able to be off book for last night's Act Two rehearsal, despite it being the deadline. So there were some books out. A minor problem, really. At least at this point. As an actor during rehearsal, I would rather have everyone else on stage able to deliver most of their lines without struggles so I can deliver mine, then having to have them call for most of their lines during a scene. The off book question at this point is more of a director's concern than a fellow actor's. So it is what it is. I am only responsible for my own progress, and I did get through the act without calling for any lines for the first time.

Many that were off book though did call for lines, or otherwise needed some time to recall them. Because of this, I have often noted that despite it being later in the process, the first off book rehearsal regresses a bit when it comes to impact and actual performances. A step or two backward as people adjust to not having the books in their hands. The adjustment is usually made quickly, when all hands are dedicated, so I don't expect it to have a lasting impact, but it did make some exploration of nuance with and between characters less accessible to us all that night.

But the bigger issue for me last night was the rearranging of some furniture. It does clear up some sight lines, which is good. But I know I missed several of my furniture moving responsibilities during the scene changes last night. In Act Two I seem to do the lion's share of the furniture moving for a certain stretch and it is a lot to commit to memory. Obviously I have not done so successfully as of now. But it should be easier now that I am not also trying to commit lines to memory as much every day.

We didn't run at full speed for the entire act, as there are still issues to be worked out. I am however getting enough of an idea as to where my props and costumes need to be back stage in order to pull off my transitions on cue.

We began to run the act the second time, but ran out of time. The plan tonight is to run through those parts of Act Two we did not get to during last night's second run through of same, and then flip to the top of the show and run all of Act One. Which I welcome, due to it's more relaxed pace.

That pace in fact will be even more relaxed today, because one minor, mysterious character has at last been added to our regular rehearsals. A boy, and figment of Dickens imagination, is part of select scenes, including the very opening. The actor playing this role has heretofore practiced with the actor playing Scrooge during separate sessions. But from here on out, he will be with the entire cast during rehearsals.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Two and a Half Missing Actors

The two were the only adults women in the cast, who called just before rehearsal to say they couldn't make it on Sunday night. The half was yours truly, who was, (and currently still is) fighting a cold/fever situation.

But it was Act One, which is my shortest act, and I got through it. It's always harder when people are missing, and there have been people missing for all but two rehearsals thus far. Nevertheless I am off book for the first half of the show, so that wasn't a worry.

The choreographer came to observe the scene today wherein we will need to dance. (Thankfully, it is not the same choreographer as the one from A Thurber Carnival.) By next Sunday she will have a short dance for us all to do during the Fezziwig party scene.

A few more props were added to the set for this rehearsal. Each will be stored in a conveniently labeled bag back stage. (Thanks to the stage manager.)

One thing I still need to work on is making Young Scrooge more sympathetic. As of now, it seems that I am appearing too cold for the director's taste. It is probably a matter of me trying to have a similar voice as the actor who portrays Scrooge; something I opted to do simply for the sake of accuracy. I pay close attention to those little nuances. But perhaps I won't be able to do that and still seem like a slightly different person. Perhaps in duplicated his voice I am duplicated his personality? (Which, one could argue, is worse than it was even when Belle dumped him.)

I am going to continue to try to find the right medium between the two though.

Wednesday is our next rehearsal, and it is off book, Act Two. I have one scene I need to get down by then, and then I will be good.