Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tech Week Begins for Radium Girls

Tech week is often called "hell week," and each show I am in, I ask myself if it's going to be hell.

My answer for Radium Girls, based on the first day with all technical elements and costumes in place is, not yet. A bit hot under the collar, maybe, but not quite hell at this time.

I have never been a technical person. As an actor, I know when something technical has not gone correctly. Such as last night when a chair I was supposed to sit in wasn't set. Or when lights do/do not come on as they are supposed to. I can't say exactly what can be done to correct most technical problems. I only know they exist, most of the time, and the issues, particularly with the timing and cues for the lights continue to throw some road blocks at the show.

I don't want to speculate. There are issues with the lights and sound, and some with the running crew, and that's all I'm going to say about it. It has been frustrating at times. But when there are problems such as these, all one can do is work extra hard at one's own job, and hope for the best. Adapt to what happens as it happens, and continue with the scene. (I grabbed a chair from elsewhere on the set and sat in it for my scene, in response to the missing chair I mentioned above.)

My biggest issues are all my own, from a non-acting standpoint. Costumes, specifically. I have several quick-bordering-on-instant costume changes to make through the course of the show. (Mostly in Act II.) I've been experimenting with a few methods, and none of them have been perfect. I have to leave a jacket in the middle of the floor, or a prop on a set piece when I exit. Yet I have permission to change one or two things here and there, which I think will make it easier from now on. I will try them tonight.

I admit, I don't at all like having to try new technical things this late into a process. We open officially on Friday, with the possibility of a donation-only audience on Thursday. I like everything to be happening by rote almost by now. This is the second show I've been in this year with a lot of changes happening in order to catch up in the final week. I won't lie and say that it doesn't concern me at all.

Yet in the end, I know I am about telling the story. Playing the character. If in the end I forget a hat or put on a wrong jacket, but convey to the audience a living, memorable character, I will be for the most part satisfied with that. Not all of the delays are my fault, and I won't drain energy from my actual performance to feed some of the other issues that have arisen. If I find a smooth fix in the next day or two that doesn't tax me too much, fine. But if not, I am putting my focus on character, and letting that speak for itself. I consider that the actor's ultimate responsibility.

And believe it or not, that aspect felt solid to me last night. My character work, my presence in scenes went well. In some moments I felt better than I have thus far during the rehearsal process. I hope of course that stays, and continues to improve my performance in fact.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Last night was by far our longest rehearsal. We got done at about 11PM. (After a few minors with restricted driver's licenses had to leave early.)

I haven't had a rehearsal that long and that late in years. But I have been involved in plenty of them, and judging by what was done and not done at this point in the production, I have been prepared for the possibility of a late one or two.

When things are getting accomplished, I don't really mind late rehearsals. And when a show is somewhat behind, as ours is, I welcome just about anything that will catch us up to where we need to be. All by way of saying, I wasn't too bothered by how late we were there last night, but I do think ti would have been better if we had been able to avoid it.

Yet there is so much technical stuff to do. We only had a set of any kind to work with two days ago. (Though we didn't rehearse that night...it was spent standing still on stage while light cues were programmed into the light board...something I believe the director didn't realize had yet to be done.) Plus our lead actress having missed so many rehearsals because of her schedule and such. Yesterday was the first time we had a running crew assembled, a partial set (they were still building it when we walked in), lights, music and sound. It's the sort of thing that has to be done correctly.

The tech crew, after all, was only just learning what their assignments were last night, as well. Important stuff, but time consuming.

I'd say most of the actors remained in good spirits about it though. Sometimes it required the aid of a little bit of goofing off, but that to me is okay. In fact, I think when kept in check such things can improve cast morale in difficult times, and make everyone more comfortable with one another, which in turn usually leads to better performances.

There is something to be said for being in the trenches, plodding through the same boredom and trying to work around so many other issues in a process like this. I don't want every night to be like that, but a few can loosen the gears a bit, and I think the last two nights have.

The key is that it can't be allowed to go too far for too long. We are in the final week of rehearsing, and it's time to have fun, yes, but also be aware of how close the hot seat is getting. (We open for a public preview one week from today!)

In theory tonight the set will be done. The light crew, and the running crew are at least familiar with their assignments. Nobody is allowed to call for lines anymore, as of tonight. Time to show what we are made of in this show. (Though tech issues I am sure will still slow us a bit.)

One fun thing to share about last night: I got a hat. Actually, I found a pile of hats the director had brought for us to look at. During a break I tried a few on, and came up with one I liked. (and one of the few that fit my melon of a head.) I'll be using it when I play the reporter character. (My "biggest" role, by stage time measures.)

I'll try to get a picture up for future updates.

For now, some dinner, and later we'll see how a lot of the elements I've talked about are coming together.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Best Week So Far

Radium Girls has a lot of work left to do, and not as much time to do it as any of us would like. That being said, the last three rehearsals were our best in many ways.

Our lead actress missed this entire week, and has only been present for about four official rehearsals. This has been problematic, to say the least. But over the last three days, by having someone read her lines off stage, (as well as those of other actors who are still absent any given day) we began to find a rhythm. That rhythm will of course change once everyone is attending all of the rehearsals, but not drastically so. Besides, I find that it's easier to move forward on some kind of rhythm, even a temporary one, than it is to have no regular pattern to what's being rehearsed. It's also often easier to make adjustments to a new rhythm when called upon.

Repetition and lack of interruption. When a rehearsal process has those two things going for it, the play gains momentum, even when holes remain to be filled, as they do with this one.

Sense of character and place are forming now. So is a rough estimate of how long I have between my scenes. (Though we have skipped certain scenes all week.) But now I at least have a ballpark notion as to how much time I will eventually have between one appearance and the next. I hope to start working on a few more nuances, and small aspects of the performance. I just like to add smaller, but impactful things to my characters when I can.

The manager of the venue pulled some props from the house collection for us to use. Most of the cast  hasn't used anything yet, but I've already adopted a small notebook for my scenes as the reporter. I've scribbled in it a lot during my scenes, to give it that well-used feel. Still feels a bit too new, but I'm sure it won't after tech week. When i have a hand prop, I like to keep it in my hands as often as I can, to give it that "extension of my character" feel.

Tried on some costumes this week as well. The director settled on a suit for me. The first I tried on, in fact, since it fit well enough. I have some rapid character changes in this show, so I won't be able to make full costume changes. Pants, shirt, and probably tie will stay. I'll flip through jackets and in one case a hat to distinguish characters. My usual stage shoes. (Which I may have to replace after many years of fine service in the near future. But not before this show.)

I still trip over a few lines here and there, but I am in fact off book. Part of it may be how often I have to play a scene to an empty chair, I don't know. But I continue to review everything, as usual. The director did mention me as one of the people who are most off book, so I suppose I am doing something right in that department.

My understanding is that the next time we all meet for rehearsal at the BBAC, our set will be mostly built. (The current show ending this weekend.) That will be one of our biggest adjustments, as there are many platforms involved, and we've been on a flat, unmarked stage for most of this process. I usually adjust to such things with minimal problems, however.

Despite the bumpy ride this rehearsal process has been, I feel in a good place with my characters. As I said, I hope to add a bit more dpeth to them, now that we're entering into the "true" performance rehearsals. (As opposed to the building rehearsals.) There's still some shoring up I could do with that. I may or may not make the connection on every level that I hope for, but I already feel I will be closer to the target than I was in my previous show. (A Night of One-Ders back in February.) Why? It's part of the mystery that is acting sometimes, I guess. Some shows you connect how you want to, others not quite.

For this one, I'm just "getting there" faster. (Especially for my role as Berry, the lawyer, despite it not being my largest role.)

I now look forward to seeing not only my own characters, but those of the rest of the cast evolve and become more polished as everyone's schedules at last start to improve in our final two weeks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

(Kind of) Top to (Kind of) Bottom

Despite our lead actress having to miss the entire upcoming week of rehearsals (!) we ran the show for the first time from the start to the finish last night.

Almost, anyway. We did skip some scenes, because not only was the lead actress gone, but so was one of the actors with whom she shares scenes. As you can imagine, this makes scene cues more difficult to commit to memory. But it is what it is.

There was still a benefit to rehearsing though. I gave all of my lines in one evening foe the first time, outside of home. I only had to call for line once or twice, and I recovered almost right away. I'm in good shape, there.

At one point in the play, I'm in three consecutive scenes, playing a different character each time. I made sure to know when that one was coming, though I did forget about one such transition. That will come with time also, as we have never run the transitions between scenes.

Still rough rehearsals at times, but I'm working on little nuances now, those little extra things that make a character alive. I hope to come up with a few more tonight, when we run the same sections, I believe.

Props have also arrived, from the collection of the venue. They are up on a table as of last night, but we didn't use them. (Though I grabbed one for a scene as part of a last minute idea.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Off Book vs.Off Track

I am effectively off book for act one, and nearly there for act two. That is to say, I should be able to recall any line I have to call for quickly from now on. In theory.

The off track part? It may be an exaggeration, but I am sad to report that there are several more frustrating issues concerning the production of Radium Girls.

To begin with, someone quite the show at this late date, forcing other actresses to take on even more work at last minute. I don't know the reasons for quitting, but if it isn't an emergency of some kind, it was a lousy thing to do.

As to the others issues...I think it's best to be discreet about them at this point. I can be honest in this post about how the show is going, without getting into specifics. Specifics would only be something like gossip, anyway. Concerns would morph into complaints, and I don't want that.

Suffice to stay that there are various different kinds of difficulties going on at the same time. The impression I get is that I'm not the only person involved in the show that would concede this. Different things bother different people, and there may even be one or two things that bother only me. Still, I'm probably not taking a big leap when I say that it's bothersome to almost everyone on some level.

Any given person could have made different choices to have avoided any given difficulty, but it's impossible to declare one person responsible for 100% of the bumps in this road. Blame doesn't change anything anyway.

I'm glad I that I've gone over my lines more often, and in an more immersive way than usual, though. Being off book (which as I say, I almost am for the whole show) makes up for a lot of issues, insofar as the creation of performance is concerned. As I stated in a previous post, sometimes an actor has to reach inside further, not just when performing, but when building a performance. I'm there now.

I don't mean nobody else matters. I want to make things go well for my cast mates, if I can. I remain open to going over scenes in another room, or staying late to get something right. I'm still a team player. You have to be. But when things are a bit of a mess, you have to approach your team, and your joint project from an alternate angle, and that requires more reliance on instinct and adaptation to the situation, as opposed to diving head first into the environment.

We did have the whole stage last night, as we worked on scenes from act one. The set of the current show is portable, it would seem. I am relieved to have been on stage at least. And I didn't have to call for line too many times. A momentum shift always begins after I've performed a scene off book for the first time. Character work and other things begin to happen faster.

And the venue itself is mostly cleaned up not from the recent remodeling project, so it's less claustrophobic than it had been.

Plus I used one of my own business cards as prop for my character's business card, and one of the actresses was impressed by that. Has nothing to do with the quality of rehearsal, but it made someone smile. No small thing among cast mates.

How many smiles tonight, as we work our way through scenes in Act II? I'll find out in a few hours. At least some more satisfaction on my part, I would guess, because my favorites scenes for myself are all in Act II. Looking forward to getting to rehearse those in full, at last.

Friday, May 06, 2016

A Week In the Life

I didn't think that a post after each of the last few rehearsals would be an efficient use of time for either myself, or for you, loyal blog readers. The last three, were in many ways the same, in good ways and in bad, so I'm posting an all encompassing update on the show, sort of.

To begin with, because our show, and the current show at the venue are running almost concurrently, the tiny space is quite crowded for our rehearsals. We are for the first hour or so confined to the small lobby to eek out rehearsal, and practice some blocking. (Which at this point I believe is set.) During this time, the current show that has the stage, a kids show with a cast of 40 (that's forty) is preparing to leave. To be more accurate, parents are entering at about this time waiting to pick up said kids from the show's technical rehearsals. So we have a cast, and a half, plus a group of parents waiting in the lobby of a small building while our rehearsal is going on.

Needless to say this is not ideal. I'm unsure how the scheduling came about like this, but there is no point if getting too annoyed with it; the kids show is the current show, and as far as I am concerned, the space is there while they are present. I'd expect no less if my own show were the current show. The overall fairness to them doesn't, however, make our rehearsals any physically easier.

One night, once everyone from the current show was gone, we did make use of the stage, though it of course has their set on it. We had permission to move what we had to move, but our director opted most recently to continue our rehearsals in the lobby anyway, finding it easier for her to concentrate there than on a stage with someone's elses set on it. I of course would rather be on the stage than in the lobby, but that is far from my call. So, as far as Tuesday was concerned, (the most recent rehearsal) the lobby it was.

Than a five day hiatus for me, and a four day hiatus for most of the show. This is the second week we've been off for at least four days in a row. I won't lie; I'm a bit concerned about that. Those who followed my last show know that I had my concerns because of the large number of days without a rehearsal, and it looks like it's happening again. My previous show did make it to opening night, and I imagine this show will get it done somehow as well. Almost all shows do. But it certainly;y makes the rehearsal process more challenging and a bit less enjoyable for me.

I have sensed that at least a few others are unhappy about it, within the cast, but I am not a mind reader.

All this by way of saying that I have had to do a lot of creative work at home, on my own. (I've said this in earlier posts as well about this show.) That is for the most part coming along well. I've only gotten two corrective notes per se from the director, so I imagine most of my choices are working for right now. She says she likes what I'm doing in more than one scene.

Sometimes community theatre is like this. The chaos and the minimal rehearsal. It by no means has to be like this, as there are community theatres with more space or more open calendars. Those that have been established for longer periods of time and can count on certain support that newer ones perhaps cannot. It's not at all fun to rehearse under such conditions. Yet it is the essence of acting, in some ways, to own what one is doing, and to internalize it to such a point that most outside circumstances don't detract from a performance. Circumstances such as these that I have described require that sort of focus on individual effort to be sharper and come earlier than it otherwise might, but it is always part of the acting craft. It all starts with one's own character, the sort of show within the show of every play.

Don't get me wrong, it is worlds easier on certain levels to be on a quiet stage practicing for as long as possible. Muscle memory and such. Even one's acting work, and creative process runs much more smoothly under a conducive environment. But one thing remains true for the actor at a time likes this; we have basically 0% control over a building, or a scheduling snafu or noise. We have a great deal of control over how we play our character, and the professionalism we display. Yes, even those things are easier under the right circumstances, but we are never 100% powerless over how we as individual actors proceed. We can and will get annoyed at times, but we must always move forward, and seek to tell the story we are tasked to tell, through the characters we are assigned as best we can.

This cast has just under a month to be ready to do so. No reason to suspect it cannot be done.