Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Long and Winding Road

That led to last night's rehearsal. Literally.

I mentioned previously that due to various difficulties, rehearsals for Radium Girls had been moved to a back-up location about 90 minutes drive from my home. I went there last night to get blocking notes. More on that in a moment, but one big item to mention is that from here on out, our rehearsals will be in the Black Box Arts Center, where the show will be performed in June.

The director told us this not long after I arrived. I won't lie about this; I'm quite relieved. Every show and every venue has its issues, but the prospect of that long of a commute twice a night three or so night a week for the duration was to me a daunting one. I found myself willing at first, but after making the trek two times in a few days, I confess my resolve was faltering.

Would I have quit? I doubt it. Would I have had to miss more rehearsals than I like? Possibly. But for now it is a moot point. My commute is back to less than half the length. I don't know what exactly changed to allow it, but I'm happy it did so.

As to the rehearsal itself, it was mostly a blocking session. Blocking sessions, as I mentioned last time, don't generally provide interesting fodder for commentary. I'll mention I need to be in a crowd scene now, that I didn't think I was in previously. It will require a quick shift, as the scene comes right after a scene in which I play one of the two characters on stage. I actually have several instant shifts like that throughout the play. I don't think it will be too bad, once we get into the flow of things, but of course, I'd rather have a longer break between characters. But I have more than one long break in this show, unlike my previous production, so I can't complain too much.

Besides, in the above example, I don't have to do anything but sit down, for two minutes, and clap at the end of a speech. I almost don't even count it as a transition. Because I like to be thorough, I'll probably give some form of identity to the guy I'm playing in that ultra-brief appearance, but he's not my focus for the time being.

It's makes for a good reference, though. An actor should attach something to whatever character he's playing, even background roles such as this one. Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big proponent of everyone on stage any given time having a story to tell. It may be a story that only the actor knows, but a story should be present, to give even the tiniest of performances three dimensions. I've quoted my late stage-directing professor on this topic several times. "You can't put a cardboard maid on stage." Indeed you can't. I'll have more on this item later on, probably.

As for my larger roles, I've been doing character work on them. IN fact I've been using methods for character creation that I haven't utilized in my last few shows. Not that I was lazy in previous shows, but over the years you try different methods and tricks to make more of what you're doing. In this case, I'm writing down some personality traits, and a small bit of backstory for my characters. I use that depth on a regular basis, but it's been a few years since I wrote it down as a visual reference i can review in its own right. I rarely get complicated with this process, but it nonetheless has in the past provided an anchor to performances, especially for small(er) roles. I'm in the early stages of it, but already I feel some of the benefits.

One brief example. There is a famous photograph of a young Thomas Edison, taken after he'd worked 72 hours straight on the phonograph. His exhaustion, frustration and determination are clear. That is the sort of weary persistence I want to give one of my characters at times. (Berry, the court advocate for the sick girls.) The picture doesn't tell his exact story, of course, but it does convey a type of presence similar to the one I wish to project with Berry at certain times. So I can refer to that photo as a general lighthouse of the human experience, calling me to the port of the goals I have for my version of Berry. See it below.

The director told us we needed to start "doing our homework" on such things as building characters, as well as getting off book, because it looks like the entire cast will almost never be together in one sitting before tech week. That is to say, may not have as much time to work on nuance together as would be ideal. The director advised us that if she found any of us going in a totally misguided direction she would pull us back, but in general, she trusted us to come up with things, and that she'd liked what little she had seen of character so far in the blocking rehearsals. (Where character work isn't the main goal.)

So here's hoping I don't need to be pulled back or course corrected with any of my decisions.

It appears I am in goof shape for the character I was given only a few days ago, Flinn. (A scientist of dubious qualifications to make medical statements.) I'm only just now beginning to explore what to do with him in his only scene, but I knew a certain arrogance should probably come through. It must have, as the stage manager moaned several times while I ran the scene and just how much she disliked the character. I pointed out I didn't like him either. But I'm happy that kind of reaction took place, as was the director. So I'd say I'm in the ballpark with that one.

So, some time has been lost, and there have been some obstacles. There will probably be a few more before all is said and done with this show. But it's my opinion that despite some of the difficulties, being able to rehearse in the same venue as the performance will start to smooth things out here and there. We'll see.

Next rehearsal is tomorrow night.

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