Tuesday, February 09, 2016

180 Degrees

Last night's rehearsal had 100% attendance. We didn't rehearse everything in the production, but what we did rehearse went well, nearly everyone off book by now, and finally getting a small feel for interacting with one another.

It felt refreshing to me to be able to do this.

The leader of the company was fairly close to calling the production off. Now that we've sort of j ump started the process, everything seems to be a go. Hopefully it will remain that way.

We do still have a great deal of work, and little time to do it in. We're aren't close to performance ready. But like Churchill said early in World War II, "This isn't the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps it is the end of the beginning."

Being off book is of course crucial to success in a show, especially this late in the process. (Even if the show is not somewhat behind schedule.) But getting a feel for one another is of near equal importance, and for a good portion of last night, that's what it was about. Some scenes were rehearsed without scripts, and a full cast for the very first time.

Thankfully, I don't dislike any of the people in these shows. It's always much more fun that way. But there is also the element of getting a feel for everyone else's performance style and pace and such during a play, whether or not you like them as a person. You can memorize every letter of a script, but until you start exchanging lines with the people playing the other roles, your work in incomplete. You can eventually recite your lines to the empty space of an absent actor, waiting for your cue from the stage manager who is reading the lines, but it's like dumping seeds onto a parking lot; something might take, but nothing will thrive.

The same is true, believe it or not, even when the actor has no lines in a given scene. Their presence has an impact on your performance that is difficult to fake when they aren't there. When my character is aware your character is present, it informs certain aspects of what I'm doing. One may hear that and think that a silent actor is no different than a silent empty chair. But they are world different.

For example in the shorter of the plays I am in, I play a man who has an assistant. My character does speak to the assistant directly a few times, but most of the time the assistant is quiet. Yet, the way I'm playing the scene now, (which is a board meeting), I'm almost always at least partially directing things toward the assistant, even though I'm actually addressing someone else, or the ether. I want the presence of that character to be a part of what my character is doing, who my character is in the scene. I want to use what the actress playing the assistant has to offer in her frequent silence.

This is of course true for any character on a stage who may not be saying anything. But given the particulars of this script, and the way I am seeing the character, the assistant is arguable the most significant presence for many moments.

I don't want to speak on behalf of the actress of course, but if I had to guess I would say she too is getting things to use from not only me, but others in the room, even during their silences, and so on all through the cast.

It is these things that take some time to develop. It is these things that begin to take form when everyone is present at rehearsal. I suppose that in an absolute emergency, such things can be partially replicated in the absence of scene partners, but one would never get as much or as deep a performance for the audience, nor as satisfying an experience for the actor. At least if the actor is me.

The next official rehearsal is Friday, but several people are going to try to meet on Thursday to go over trouble spots, and discuss issues, and I want to be there for that.

So yes, an almost complete turn around in town and productivity from the previous rehearsal night. Here's hoping it stays that way.

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