Monday, January 25, 2016

White Out!

I live basically in the bull's eye of the recent Blizzard of 2016, as does the Black Box Arts Center. So the last two rehearsals were cancelled. Today is not cancelled, but given my semi-rural location, my access lanes and such have not yet been plowed. So I am forced to miss today's scheduled rehearsal, which bugs me.

I've been working on the script, though. I am about 75% off book for the longer play I am in. The shorter one, I have not spent as much time on yet, but I will as the week wears on until the Friday rehearsal. (Which I certainly hope will find my street plowed.)

The production already has dealt with a lot of schedule conflicts, so I'm not happy about contributing to even more. But I decided years ago that no rehearsal was worth driving in dangerous conditions. Besides, it's not about dangerous at the moment; it's about I live down a half a mile lane covered in three feet of snow, and wouldn't be able to get out to drive dangerously if I were inclined.

But it gives me some time alone to ponder my character, and the shows in general. It could be a net plus to have these few days away from straight up rehearsing. I'd rather have the rehearsals, but in their absence, much good can and will be accomplished.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Slow Going

I've had two rehearsals since the last post here on the blog. One on Sunday, and one last night. Sadly, last night was called off early, because several unavoidable, difficult circumstances arose which prevented a "quorum" if you will. That is to say, there were simply not enough of us present to work. (Though we did read through the lines of the shortest play as best we could.)

Naturally, I would prefer that schedules and circumstances didn't keep people away so much. I'm not worried yet, however. It;s fairly typical of a community production to have more than a few absences. I'll admit this show has seen more in a shorter period of time than most, but I don't think that puts us in any kind of trouble at this time.

We do need to get off book soon, and I have until the start of next month to do so. I'll have to work at it, but I should be there, especially since someone will be prompting for a few days after that anyway.

About 98% of the time in such situations, things work themselves out. I'm not sure how it happens exactly,  but speaking from my own experience, rare is the show that can't open on time because of problems.

The director of the shortest show (an original script) has suggested we warn audiences about the mature subject matter and adult language involved. There are differing views on this throughout the theatre world, but I came out in favor of the warning, at least in this venue. It's a slightly-conservative area, and the venue itself has for the last few years been home mostly to children's theater. Giving parent the opportunity to make the conscious choice to keep kids away from the show is only good policy, in my view. (Or perhaps for adults who don't want to deal with mature subject matter.) I'd much rather have the warnings than have surprised and shocked people get up and leave en mass in the middle of a performance. (Something that happened at this same venue when it was under different management during a "mature audiences" show previously, if I remember correctly.)

So a warning it is.

In different news, the heat doesn't seem to be working on the venue just now. I had a similar issue last year this time when I was rehearsing The King is But a Man. It's been frigid in this area lately, too. Just have to keep moving.

Heavy snow is in the forecast for our next rehearsal, this Friday evening. So that might get cancelled. Huge pain in the backside.

But still nothing to panic over. Again, such is community theater, especially in an area with rough winters such as this one. The cast is talented for the most part, and right now I see no reason why we can't make it a quality production despite the rough early going.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Tonight was our first rehearsal with everyone in the cast present, as schedules finally calm down a bit.

Beyond that important milestone, however, it was a rather ordinary night of rehearsing for me. We ran both of the shows I am in with limited interruption. (Though we didn't get to the end of Laughter of the Gods.)

The director of the whole production and leader of the company was pleased with how everything went. So were most of the people in the cast, myself included.

Nobody is off book yet, though I am working hard to get there as soon as I can. But setting that aside, some good character moments are starting to develop on stage.

I myself have had a solid sense of who I wanted my character in the shorter play to be almost from day one. I've had a bit more trouble getting to know my character in Laughter but aspects of him are starting to appear, even though I'm still walking around holding my script. I do find Dunsany's lines stilted much of the time, but the more I say them, the less in the way they get of my bringing some kind of character to life.

I also am on stage with no lines for about a 4th of the play near the end. This offers me the opportunity to work on inner monologue, and the ever important performance between the lines. I take particular pride in being able to stay in character and do interesting (but not distracting) things when I am in the background of a scene. I've often found that people who aren't acting when they are silent stick out like a sore thumb on the stage.

That's about as profound or insightful as I can be for tonight. Sometimes it's good news when nothing huge happens, either good or bad during the rehearsal process. I think every show needs a certain number of "steady-as-she-goes" rehearsals, where things just sort of hold their own-that sort of slow, but steady and certain evening of solidification. That was tonight for the most part.

Next rehearsal is Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Three Days of One-Der

Since last I wrote here, I've been to three production rehearsals. They have mostly been blocking "rehearsals," or more accurately, they have been meeting during which the blocking is introduced to the actors. Important, and at times tedious work in any production. It's not the type of work that can be written about in any interesting way. The directors placed the actors in their respective plays on the stage for each page. End of that story. Such decisions almost always evolve and change a bit during rehearsals anyway, as a production wears on.

As a reminder, this is an evening of one-act plays. Three of them, to be exact. I appear in two of this. The first is just under an hour long, the second, and final of the evening is about 15 minutes long.

I do have to make a significant correction at this point. Previously I had said that the two plays I am in were written by members of the company. The scripts and the publicity for the audition that I saw didn't list the playwrights, only the titles, so this was my conclusion.

I was incorrect. The shorter one is in fact written by the head of the company. But the longer of the two plays I am in, called Laughter of the Gods was written nearly one hundred years ago by the Irish playwright Lord Dunsany. The original script is a full length play, billed as "a tragedy in three acts." It has been edited down to a one-act play for our production. (I am uncertain by whom.)

From what I've gathered in my research, Dunsany is rather obscure outside of fantasy fiction circles. (Where he is considered a bit of a pioneer, due to his common themes of magic and divinity.) There is also little to be found about this play, though I did determine it ran on Broadway for just over one month in 1918. The Punch and Judy Theater, for those interested in such factoids.

I found one brief modern review for the script. A consumer who purchased a volume of Dunsany's work on Amazon considered the script "stilted." As I work to memorize the lines of the play, I can say I agree with the assessment. With a handful of exceptions, there is very little poetry in the script, and at times the diction is a nightmare. Still, an interesting choice to stage such a play today, albeit an abridgment. I'm starting to see my character (Ludibras) a bit more clearly now. The director even allowed me to approach a line differently than the way he has initially planned, which was good of him.

I met one on one with the actress playing my character's wife On Sunday before rehearsal. I'm glad I did so. I said in my previous post that a lot of directors don't "allow" that. Our director encourages it. Things will change and evolve as they always do, but I feel I and the actress, (whom I had never met before this show) have a better understanding of both one another, and our respective approaches to our characters.

If you've read this blog regularly, you know how often I say this: feeling comfortable and amiable with your cast mates isn't 100% necessary for a high quality show, but it makes it a damn sight more likely and easier.

The director of the whole company, (and author of the shorter play) did tell me he liked where I was going with my character in that play. That's probably the main "news" to report for now. As I think about it, I don't think I've ever performed any role in front of the playwright who wrote it before. I was an A.D. for a show that a local playwright wrote, and he came to rehearsals. The same thing happened in college, in fact. But I've never been in this situation before.

It's not as awkward as I thought it might be, though it is a short play, and the playwright himself has to appear in it too, I believe, because of the lack of cast members. There's probably too much to worry about for me to feel too awkward about it.

That's been the only major difficulty in this production so far: schedules. We've not had the whole cast together on one night yet. This of course makes blocking and character work somewhat difficult. Yet I feel most sympathy in this regard for the one play I am not in: Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread by David Ives. I was in that same play years ago, and it requires such exquisite precision in both rhythmic line delivery and stage placement that any missed rehearsal is equal to two missed rehearsals in a more standard show.

Plus in this production the director is making use of dance moves, which means a choreographer, who already has limited time to commit to rehearsals. I sympathize with the plight of that part of the production, but I won't lie; I'm relived I won't have to be doing that show again! Once is probably enough for that one.

Next official rehearsal is this coming Friday.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Happy New Year/Show

Welcome back, loyal blog readers. I hope you enjoyed the holidays.

Last night was the first real rehearsal for show(s) I'm in, and of course I will tell you about it.

But this year, as I am in a show for the first time in several, I aim to approach these pages a little differently.

For one, the one-act plays I'm in for this production are originals, or otherwise not yet widely known. So my usual approach of talking about my character probably wouldn't work this time around. If I'm Buckingham in Richard III, there is a built in familiarity among most readers as to who he is, and what the nature of the play as a whole is. I could use that to talk about where I was in developing the character, and my approaches to same. That won't be quite as useful in these shows. That's not to say I won't make any observations about my character development, but I'm going to try to make them broader, and more related to the acting process as a whole, as opposed to the specifics of the shows I'm in for now.

I might also through in some advice/observations about the nature of the company here and there as well.

First off, though, I'll mention, as I have in years past here on the blog, that in some ways January through March is the best time to be working on a play. After the holidays, there is little to look forward to in the dark, cold days of winter. Working on a play provides some regular, natural focus to the less-than-appealing time of the year for me. And while March in this area is generally still winter, through the course of a show during the first quarter of the year, the days get progressively, if only slightly, longer. By the time the shows opens, the approach of spring will be a ways off, but obvious. That's another advantage to a show during these months.

A danger of course, is weather that make travel impossible, as happened to me on the final performance night of my one man show last year. But we will think positively in that regard.

At any rate, one of the best things to do during a cold winter is to come into a warm home. However, a close second is to come into a warm theater out of the cold for a rehearsal. (Though many theaters remain cold, I suppose.)

For this show, we might not have to quite work twice as fast, but time is of the essence; the schedules for the cast are difficult. We will only be able to meet three times a week most weeks until tech week. That's not horrible, but of course the more time a cast has to work, the better. But I've been in tight spots with shows before, and it turned out fine. I have no reason to believe this will be any different.

As for last night, most of the evening was about discussing our characters. Again, right now it would not be interesting reading for me to get into much of that, as these plays are not yet widely known. (And one of them we could not go over last night, due to the director having to attend to emergency family business.) But a lot got done.

In fact, we have been encouraged to get together on our own with scene partners to come up with some ideas about relationships and such. Already I have contacted several of my cast mates with whom I share stage time for this very purpose. I normally would not send personal emails to strangers this early on, but they have a purpose after all. Though naturally any observations from such meetings would need to be approved later, it does give the production a bit of flex time in a sense. Work outside of rehearsal. Plus it will help me get comfortable with people I don't know in less time than normal; that's a huge plus for a show, as I've often said.

I have worked with a handful of directors and actors that don't allow this. That is to say, they've gotten angry at the suggestion of discussing the play outside of rehearsals when the director is not present. Thankfully, this has been the case most of the time, and isn't this time. But I actually confirmed last night it was acceptable, even after the director made the suggestion. I've experienced, here and there, some nasty responses to doing such things in the past. I didn't wish to repeat such things.

(Incidentally, as a director I also have no problem with casts discussing and experimenting on their own, as long as I'm made aware of what they've come up with.)

So that's how this year and this show begins. more to come, of course, but it's been interesting to get back to acting under someone else's direction as opposed to my own. Stay tuned.