Wednesday, November 09, 2011

"Sink or Swim"

These are the words the director used at the end of rehearsal last night. It is how she summed up our current status and what we need to accomplish for the remainder of the week. I would agree with the assessment. We are falling a bit behind at the moment.

This week's rehearsals have been rough, I won't sugar coat that. It is very difficult to run tech week rehearsals when nearly all of your tech crew is absent. The light and sound guy up in the booth was not available, and neither were the drummer, the pianist, and the singer. Each of those positions is crucial to the timing of what we will be doing, and at this point we have yet to practice the show with all of those individuals in place. Nor will all of them be there tonight. (Wednesday.) So trying to time cues, lines and my own fake duties as the stage manager character have been a rather confusing endeavor this week. Needless to say, I would have much preferred more than a single rehearsal with all of the elements in place. But I won't get one, and of course, neither will the rest of the cast, so at least it is even.

Last night we ran the very top of the show first, wherein everyone makes their first entrance. Then we spent the rest of the evening running Act Two. (Wherein I play a lead in both skits.) As with the previous rehearsal, it was stop and go. Yet the second act is so much shorter than the first that rehearsal last just over an hour. I thought at first we would be going back to run the entire act once more, but we did not do so.

I appear first in a drama, than in a comedy/fantasy. I have mentioned before that the comedy/fantasy is the skit I most enjoy being in. The drama, "The Cask of Montillado", based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, is a bit of a drag to me. I don't like the pacing, the writing, or the characters. I suspect this is due to the fact that unlike the other plays, which were created specifically for the radio back in the day, this play is an adaptation of a work not intended for the radio. As such it feels very forced and unsatisfying. There is absolutely no plot to it. It simply begins, and all of a sudden, it ends.

My biggest problem though is that twice I must refer to everyone acting "gay". Given that this is an adaptation, and not a straight reading of Poe's story, I wish we would could just change the word. That context of the term is now archaic, and people laugh every time I get to the line. As will members of the audience no doubt. It's not a laugh worth giving them, either. Especially in the midst of a drama.

Which brings up another quick point; a lot of people in the cast feel that anything we do in any part of the show is acceptable, including screwing up badly, so long as the audience laughs. I am inclined to disagree with this sentiment. There should be funny moments within the skits, but the production as a whole isn't slapstick. And even if it were, excusing any decision on the basis that someone might laugh has never been my approach to comedy in any play. Yet especially not the dramatic moments in this one.

As for the actual rehearsing, The Cask of Amontillado went well, for what it is. Most of the problems related to sound cues for the foley guy. (The one who creates live sound effects, as opposed to them being played digitally from the booth.) I think this skit has more sounds effects in rapid succession than any of the others, so it requires some doing. When the foley technician has his partner back for opening night it should be easier for some of those sounds to be made on time, I would say.

The comedy/fantasy, John Whiffle Concentrates went on with few hitches. We did have to stop and start a few times for director notes, but most of the sound effects are from the booth on that one, and the booth was empty last night. So we just kept going. As I have said, I feel most comfortable with this skit, and have the most fun with it, despite it being a bit too long for what it is trying to do. It lends itself to high energy more than the Poe story, that is for sure. Though it does present one formidable challenge that is unique within the show.

There are a series of six lines, to be spoken by "bystanders" in the story, which the director wants members of our audience to deliver as part of the play. The nature of how to select these audience members each night, how to get them in place to deliver the lines, and how to cue them as to when to do so remains up in the air. At first the plan was to have the actors step aside from the three microphones, and have the "announcer" bring the pre-selected people up on stage at the appropriate time, and then guide them off stage back to their seats for the remainder of the skit. It was decided however that this would be much too problematic.

The suggestion was made to have the audience members deliver the lines from their seats during the production. Physically easier, but logistically problems still remain. Such as when and how to cue each audience member to say their line. How to get them the line in the first place. Raising the lights in the house, normally dark, so the audience members can read said line. (They of course will not have a full script, and hence won't know when to deliver their lines.)

Then of course there is the idea of selecting the people in the first place. It looks like the "announcer" will be doing that either before the show starts in the lobby, or during intermission. My one contribution to this conversation was to give the entire process plenty of time, in case people don't want to do it when selected. This I think is a real possibility, as I find that traditional audiences often do not feel comfortable being a part of a show they have come, and paid, to see. Some will of course be willing, yet we should be prepared for the likelihood that they will not be.

One of the performers proposed that the three actors not currently in the scene be the ones that deliver these lines. I agreed with the suggestion, but it received no response from anyone else. So we will have two days to work out how to get these three audience members into the scene. Which is tricky, because it cannot be rehearsed, as the audience isn't going to be there for any of the rehearsals. Again, sink or swim. There is much work to do.

The plan tonight and tomorrow night, (Wednesday and Thursday) is to do full dress, and run the entire show, top to bottom, without interruption for the first time. It hasn't been timed yet, and the actors have not yet had a chance to experience the normal pacing of the scenes and transitions. It will have to be done without the crucial musical interludes at this point, but hopefully we can approximate their duration when the time comes. I admit that I am still not certain when all of them occur. It will be an intense two evening leading into opening night. But also hopefully a productive two evenings as well.

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