Saturday, February 28, 2015

Opening Night

Last night I opened my first ever one-man show. And of course, the first ever play I myself wrote. It was in many ways a unique experience.

There are many ways to talk about opening night, but I'll start with the most honest; almost nobody was in the audience. Five people total, only one of whom did not work for the venue itself.

If you've done any theatre at all, you know that performing for a handful of people can be an indescribably mixture between sick and worried, or depressing and dull. It saps an actor's energy not only faster than a larger audience would, but in a different way. A more palpable way that one can feel during a performance, as opposed to during a break or after the show is over.

Combine this with the fact that a one man show by its nature is more tiring than most other types of shows, and you have the makings of an exhausting evening.

I will say, however, that I made no attempts to conserve energy by holding back on my performance. I still gave it as much as I had, and from a performance angle, I am for the most part satisfied. It felt like it went faster than rehearsals tended to go, but I'm not sure because I didn't time it. Perhaps it only seemed faster because at times I was in a different zone; some moments and scenes seemed to begin and end before I was fully aware of them. That may make it sound like I wasn't paying attention, but I was. I just found that some moments were more automatic (not flat) than others. I will need more distance from the experience before I can judge whether or not this is a positive or negative.

I stumbled in a few places during the performance, but I was able to correct the mistakes quickly. My small audience probably did not notice, but of course I did, and I tend to be hard on myself. Hopefully, there will be fewer such errors tonight.

Despite the lack of audience, and the fact that I am the only one on stage, it did at times feel like an opening night. I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation level were as high as normal, but without anyone to bounce those feelings off of, or to share them with, it wasn't quite like that. Nevertheless, an opening night is an opening night, and the actor bits of me deep inside my psyche could still tell.

Honesty has always been my policy here on this blog, and I won't pretend it was an exhilarating way to get started on this project of mine. It was in more way than one, a disappointing opening. Plus, as writer, actor and producer of the show, I bare the brunt of most of that disappointment alone. In some ways the let down has been so sudden and potent that last night, and today I've felt more numb than anything else, and therefore cannot elaborate on the evening's impact with as much detail as I might normally report on a performance. Once again, with time and distance, I may be able to offer more on this experience, but for now I'm still in the middle of it.

I can say, without any doubt, that I successfully presented something on which I alone have been working for over a year. From concept to presentation, I did, on my end, about 90% of what I set out to do so far. And I must also remember that this is simply the beginning. I intend to take this show elsewhere over the keep it in my theatre arsenal as an offering when other opportunities arise. "The King is But a Man" is something for the long haul of my creative life, not merely something to fill the time this weekend. With a little luck and some work on my part, it will have different incarnations and many different times. It will be different things to different audiences in different venues as time goes by. Last night was merely the world premiere.

And of course, I have two performances remaining in this initial run, during which things may improve drastically. I have no idea how many people will come tonight, but I do know I will summon the best I have to offer again.

A few more people in the seats who enjoy the show would be nice, however, I will admit.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Tech" Week

This is it, loyal blog readers. My "tech" week for the one man show!

I put "tech" on quotation marks, however, because it is very much unlike most tech weeks. It is still just me at rehearsal, and I will only in fact be rehearsing twice this week instead of every day. (Once behind last night, once being tomorrow night.) I decided that given the nature of the show, and how many times I have been able to rehearse it twice a week, I wouldn't need to run it every day this week.

And of course, there are virtually no technical aspects to this show to rehearse, anyway. The usual lighting technician at the Black Box was kind enough to program a basic plot into the theatre lights for me the other day, so now I have those. I turned them on myself last night before rehearsal. It took some getting used to, I have to say, as I had only practiced with the work lights up to that point. But that's part of tech week. I don't think it will cause great problems, though. It's different, but not distracting. Plus I have one more night to perform under them. I just need to find someone to turn them off at intermission. Maybe. Intermission will be very clear to the audience when it comes, so if I can't find anyone to switch them off, it's not tragic.

I stumbled over a few lines last night, but once again, I wasn't derailed. If any of my three initial performances go as well as say the last three rehearsals, I'll be doing fine. Things to improve, as always, but I'd have little to be ashamed of if I gave the audience as much as I gave the last few rehearsals. (Though of course I hope to give more.)

I hope I did not "peak" too early as it were. That is doing the show best during rehearsals, and not as well during the performances. But I will have the audience during the performances, which usually boosted my abilities somewhat. I won't beat myself up if this experiment isn't perfect, but I also hope that the performances are of course the best presentation I am to give of the show, out of all of the times I've done it.

On Thursday, my final rehearsal, my goal is to have as much fun as I can with this show. Not that I've had no fun so far. Doing Shakespeare well is invigorating. But I want to finally let go, and worry less about the little things, and give all of myself to presenting the show, so that is the frame of mind I am in going into the weekend. We shall soon find out if I can do that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quick Update

Heat! That is to say the problems with the heating system at the venue I'm rehearsing on have been, for the time being, resolved. Thus last night was my first fully heated rehearsal for the show. It was much more comfortable, but believe it or not required some adjustment. It is of course far better to rehearse with heat than in the sort of cold I've rehearsed in so far, but one's breathing, and body temperature and such naturally change when the heater is on. So there were some energy and breathing issues to adjust to. Plus I may have sweat for the very first time last night while running the show. Not a lot, but it was there.

As to the rehearsal itself outside of the temperature, I can only say it continues to go well. There were still a few places I stumbled over that I attribute to fatigue. I've been reviewing those lines in the script, (and found that I had been saying one of them incorrectly, whoops), and will run them to myself at home, as needed between now and opening. Most if not all of the hitches should smooth out by then, I'd say.

I made some posters for the show. My own printer has no colored ink, so the ones I printed at home were in black and white. Not as eye catching, of course, but all of the information is there. I followed a simple template. As much as I'd like fancy posters, I've not gotten word from those who had said they could work on them for me. So I took matters into my own hands. (Not so odd for a one man show!) I may go into an Office Depot today and run off some color copies, and put some of them up somewhere.

A volunteer photographer may also come and take some pictures during rehearsal in the coming days.

Some friends of mine have been spreading the word about the show, as have some kind strangers via the Black Box Arts Center Facebook page. Between that and some posters going up, I hope to grab the attention of at least a handful of people each night who don't know me, who are willing to come.

Yet first things first. A few more rehearsals to go.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

This Week in Rehearsals...

I opted to cover both rehearsals this week in a single post. Namely because nothing influential enough to affect the overall progress happened either day.

I will say my friend, and executive director of the Black Box Arts Center took some pictures of me this week, in hopes of creating a poster for the show. When that happens, I'll see if I can post it here. She says she isn't very experienced in such things, though is certainly more so than I am. in the end, if the posters exist and have the correct information, I'm sure they will be just fine.

Rehearsal on Thursday felt a bit off a few times. Truth be told, had it been a performance it would have still been acceptable, but I stumbled in places I usually didn't stumble. I was, and am, somewhat annoyed at myself for this, but then I have to remind myself that this is like any other show; there will be less than stellar rehearsals. True, the show goes on in two weeks, but nothing happened in the rehearsal on Thursday that will derail that. It just wasn't my smoothest run through, whether because of fatigue or other factors. I'll review some of the speeches between now and my next rehearsal (Tuesday) and do better.

I admit, because of the cold, and the lateness of the hour I have to rehearse (sharing the venue with another show), I still haven't given myself a full intermission at rehearsals. I "get on with it" after a brief rest between acts. This may not sound like a big deal, but I should by now try to rehearse in the same circumstances that a performance will be in, and the performance will have an intermission. I want to practice resting without gearing down or falling asleep at the half, or something.

The running time of each half deviates no more than two or three minutes each night, even on the night that was a bit off. This is always good news. It means I'm gaining consistency.

I could stand to up the energy a bit in the second half, though, I must admit. (Another reason to give myself full intermission during rehearsal.) I will also probably have to flip the work lights on and off myself, so I'll probably practice that a few times as well in the coming two weeks.

Two weeks!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Smooth Skating on Thursday

I only just now got around to posting an update on Thursday night's rehearsal for "The King is But a Man." It went well, though, and there is not much to report. It was the coldest night thus far in the theatre for me, however, so instead of declaring it smooth sailing, I chose "smooth skating" as the phrase most appropriate.

Heating issues aside however, the play does continue strengthen with each performance. I am in a sense glad I go in mostly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It can be tiring experience to rehearse that play, and the cold makes it more so. Doing ti twice in three days can sometimes be quite the burden, but then I get an ample break between Thursday and Tuesday, so I have time to recover.

I have continued my efforts get a poster for the show together, which I hope to have done in the next ten days at most. I also recently wrote my actor's bio for the program. I think that covers most of everything it needs to, but I will look over it a few more times before turning it in.

There are still a few places in the show's Shakespeare plays that I stumble with. Generally they are the same places, so I may spend extra time perfecting them in the coming days. So far I have been able to self correct during the rehearsals, with one exception, wherein I had to start over. It would not be the end of the world to make such an error in this show, the way it is designed. I still want to avoid that, of course. As Richard II says, "Yet I'll hammer it out."

I haven't yet taken a full intermission between acts when I rehearse, opting for just a short break between. I may this week integrate a full length intermission, however, so I can get a sense of how much my mind and body will have to adjust to a full break. It will also give my throat some rest, which it probably needs between acts. I want everything to feel as it will during performances, (with the exception of the temperature which I hope will be higher for the show itself.)

No decision has been made on lights, per se. If they are to be the real theatre lights, I'll need someone to man them. If just the work lights, I could possibly shut them off myself after my exits.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

More is Less? (For this Blog Anyway.)

In some respects, a productive, satisfying rehearsal is bad for the blog here. It means I have fewer detailed considerations to share with you, my loyal blog readers. It is, however, a good "problem" to  have.

As I said, last nights rehearsal was solid. I can say that in the more passionate speeches I was able to produce more of an edge than I have been recently, without spilling over into melodramatics. Olivier always advised to always "leave something in the tank" during such moments. To not go 100% at any time, lest you risk appearing over the top, or exhausting yourself too early. In that regard, though I'm still tinkering with the dials, I feel I'm on solid ground.

Also going well are the blocking and the props. I still implement a partially improvised movement for much of the show, but more and more specific blocking has presented itself which adds to any given scene. From here on out, however, unless something major comes to mind, I will endeavor to keep the blocking consistent for most of the play. In these final few weeks, I think that's important.

The heating in the building continues to be a bit of an issue. These are cold rehearsals! However, though I'm never ignorant of the temperature, as I rehearse I do warm up, or otherwise become distracted from the chill. The only effect it has is on my voice; I think my throat is more tired at the end of an evening of rehearsing on chilly air than it otherwise would be. Yet I come home to have some tea, and things are right again.

Every week or so I post a video on the venue's Facebook page. Usually it's a brief mention of how things are proceeding or what I'm working on. This time, however, the video was a sample of the product. I delivered one of the speeches from the play. The speech from where I got the title. "The King is But a Man," from Henry V. I paid to boost the Facebook reach for that one. I have no idea if I did that correctly or not. I've never tried it before. Hopefully it will attract some interested patrons.

I was also put into contact with someone who expressed interest in making the posters for the show. I have not heard back from them as of today, but just in case I have made a rudimentary poster myself. I have no idea how to do such things, so it was all guess work. I don;t even know if a printer's shop could print the file as is. But I want to have a back up ready.

Also I heard from a friend of mine who might be able to secure a spot for me in some small, local venue where he lives, so I could perform it there one night in the future. Nothing definite yet though.

Yet that's what I hope for with this show; I hope to take it to other venues for a night or a weekend. Any venue that welcomes me, I'd pretty much be willing to visit and perform in as a guest. A between shows kind of thing. I could even perform this show with someone else's rudimentary set on stage if I had to. I designed it that way.

Exciting things are happening, though. I hope that people will come to see this, as I think they will be entertained. I've put much work into this over the last year, and entertaining others would be the pay off.

The current venue has set the price at $10.00. All proceeds go back to them. Give them a call or check out the link to their Facebook page above, and maybe you too can come see me!