Saturday, November 26, 2016

Topping Things Off

Our final non-tech week rehearsal was tonight. Difficult to believe we are there already, but I have to remind myself that we only had four weeks total for this show in the first place.

There's some work to do next week. It's a bit rough in places, though not as rough as it was on Wednesday night, during our previous rehearsal. (Though we had someone missing for each of the last two rehearsals.)

I myself made two or three errors. One or two others times I choked a bit on lines, but improved my way through to the right cues. But the rough spots for me personally are specific enough that focused review between now and Monday should be enough to fix things up.

My character with the fewest lines is Topper, who is a guest at Fred's (Scrooge's nephew) party during the shadows of Christmas Present. He is mentioned in the original book, and often, but not always shows up for a throw away line or two in most stage versions of the tale. I have played him in more than one version, myself, including this one. There's always a word game of some kind involved in the scene. I actually have less to say in this show than I have in previous incarnations of Topper, but I enjoy the scene nonetheless.

In fact, the scene for me was a highlight of tonight's rehearsal in some ways. I work hard of course on Cratchit, and I like bringing something a bit new to the Ghost of Christmas Past, (the director is pleased with my take), but that tiny scene with Topper and his few lines just felt so natural tonight, (other than one actress being absent today.)

I get to play around with Topper, and, as I have before in other shows, make him a bit rogue-like , though mostly harmless. I described him tonight as a "watered down Lord Byron." Probably a bit drunk in the scene. Probably a bit drunk all the time...but not useless. I feel I play off of the actor playing Fred quite well in my brief few lines, which I play up for all they are worth (and perhaps more). I don't think I'm scene chewing. I hope I'm not. But the whole short scene feels alive with character and relationship, even though everyone but Fred is a minor, one-off presence in the show.

That's the stage for you. Sometimes it is the smaller roles that allow a bit more freedom. With more freedom comes more creativity, and more creativity brings life to a role, and makes it one the audience will remember. That is of course the goal of all of my parts, and I don't for a minute mean to suggest that I lack freedom in my other roles. I have plenty. But there is more weight to Cratchit. People come to see any version of this show with a keen sense of watching Cratchit. That's partially true with Christmas Past as well. But someone like Topper, who in many ways is just there, for whom the audience generally lacks expectations, the process can feel much more natural in much less time.

If Topper were a main character would I feel the same way? I might, if I could play him like this. But because of the brevity of his presence, I can try things, (which the director allows) that I might not otherwise be able to try, if he were a main character. Things that may or may not wear thin in a greater quantity than are present now. I have some more work to do with Cratchit in the final week, and to a lesser extent Christmas Past. But I could perform Topper as is tomorrow if I had to.

Remember, that's acting too. It's all acting. If we ignore the smaller moments, we might as well ignore the larger, because you can never be sure what moment might speak to you as an actor, or to the audience. Not every line of every role you have will be a gem, but always go for it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

WHOLE Lot of Catching Up!

I'm back, loyal blog readers, and you may wish to shame me with how little I have updated, vs. how much has been going on. But let me get the facts out of the way first.

Since last blogging here, I have had half a dozen rehearsals for Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story. This concise but somewhat meta interpretation of the classic tale will go on at the Black Box Arts Center (where I have done everything lately) during the first and second weeks of December. In fact we will have had just over four weeks total on this show, when Macbeth had over three months. So, it's a bit more of a tight squeeze. It will be close, but a lot of it is right from the Dickens text, so a general familiarity with the tale is helping memorization go faster for more than one person. Certainly for me, though I am not off book yet. I expect I will be in a few days, though. I am about halfway there as it stands, rough estimate.

During the same period since my last post I also had the first read through of David Mamet's Glengarry Glenn Ross. (Also at BBAC.) I'll be appearing in that play as Williamson, come February. Yes, that's a lot going on, but it won't really be simultaneous rehearsing; that initial read through I mention is the only time during Christmas Carol that I'll be doing anything with Glengarry. The rest of the rehearsing will take place after this show is over, so I don't feel overwhelmed just now.

As for the Christmas Carol rehearsals, there wouldn't have been much to report of interest yet anyway. Mostly it has been blocking. This has been tricky, as we are working on a stage that is not the shape of our final performance area. (Since the remodel of the space, stage area's are not more flexible.) But we will get our house layout set up by the time Monday evening roles around, as this is the final weekend of the current kid's show now on stage.

I have been in some version of a Christmas Carol, including staged readings, about six times I believe, all but one of them in this same building. (Though previously when it was under different management and going by a different name.) It's always hard to resist being in a production of this. And performances always bring big crowds at Christmastime. (Though this year several local theaters are doing some version of the story, though nobody else is doing this one, I don't think.) I don't doubt our  numbers will still be strong, though.

In this version, each actor plays  multiple roles, including that of narrator at any given moment. Bob Cratchit is my biggest role in the story, followed by Ghost of Christmas Past. I also play Topper, the party guest at Fred's and one of the businessman in the future talking about Scrooge's death, and having lunch at the funeral and so on.

I've even been each of these characters in previous productions over the years. I'll admit that while each show is different, I am calling on some of the nuances I have used in previous performances. Mostly in voices I use.

With the exception of Scrooge, everyone in this show was also involved in Macbeth.

So, that is where I am now. I will post more regularly as the show goes on now, but I don't promise to post something for every rehearsal, as there probably won't be as many insights to share on such short notice. But do stay tuned anyway, I may just find something new I have to say!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Malcolm in the...Finale.

Last night we closed Macbeth at the Black Box Arts Center.

I didn't update this blog on the two pick up rehearsals we had. It seemed sort of pointless and inside-baseball. So here I am to wrap up the experience.

To begin with, I'll admit I had my doubts about the level of interest a performance on Halloween night would inspire. Even our director called it "a gamble." But for the most part that gamble did pay off; we were at about 3/4 house for the show, with a good audience. (Many of whom were dressed in costumes to partake on the offered discount.

Overall, I'd call it our second best night, actually. Our first Saturday, for a full house was no doubt our best, but some moments from last night rivaled it. Plus I threw in some extra flare in places, to send things out with a bang. (Such as using the fake blood for the first time, at he very end, after my character has been in a battle. Weird stuff.) Check out this shot in the greenroom right after curtain call.

Good stuff.

Only major problem was one of my speeches was skipped in the big scene of 4.3. My scene partner jumped ahead. I'd like to say I was unfazed by it, but to tell the truth, for about a second I wasn't sure exactly how to proceed. I have no idea if this confusion projected into my performance for the audience or not. But after the quick moment of fog, I just jumped to the next line that would have followed the speech my partner gave, and the scene proceeded at normal from there. That was honestly the only major problem I recall ever happening in that scene during the seven performances.

I enjoyed that scene, but in a way I am relieved I don't ever have to do it again. Lot of thick dialogue there. Lot of speeches that, as I have said on this blog before, aren't as deep or motivated as other speeches in Shakespeare. Yet I was allowed to give the scene, and the character life and depth which is usually missing from both.

In college I was in a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged. Because we rewrote many of the sketches in our own image, we started the process quite early. And then we took it on the road for four shows.

I didn't keep exact records, but I know that was the longest I was ever involved in one cast with one show. Macbeth was very close to the same length of time, give or take a week, probably. So I've been a part of this show possibly as long, maybe a tad longer than the longest ever for me. After a while, it's as much about the people as it is about the performance, especially since technically you spend a lot more time with a cast off stage than you ever do with them on stage.

Add to that the remodeling of the venue taking place during much of our process, and you have some unique circumstances.

To the very best of my knowledge, nobody fell in love with each other during this show, nobody ripped each other's throats out. No major clashes. (And thankfully our pregnant cast member did NOT give birth during the show!) Still, there is an intensity not just to a show such as this, but to being in such close quarters so often for so long. Now that there are no more audiences for this Macbeth, in a way the show no longer is about them; it's about us, those that were in it and made it happen. The feel of it. When something like this is over, you look back on an experience as much as (if not more than) the performance.

How will I do so? I will not lie and claim I was never annoyed. I was. Some things are just a pain in the ass. Some things, when you get amateurs together this long working this hard, getting this tired are bound to cause friction. However, there was not much of it, given the scope of this show. I've been in shows that lasted half as long and pissed me off four times as much.

All be way of saying, I am satisfied with my actual performance of Malcolm, despite his difficulties. But I am also satisfied with the overall experience of the entity that was this production. Taking the sum, from first read-through in June to last night's Halloween/cast party, it was a net plus. I will look forward to working with some of these folks again.

And I won't have to wait long...for I am in a production of a Christmas Carol at the same place, that with one exception stars people from Macbeth. We meet for our read through Wednesday.

But that is for then. For now, I close chapter of my theatre life out. We, the actors, like Malcolm and his troops behind the branches of Birnam Wood have thrown down our leafy screens, as Malcolm said, and shown like those we are-actors who did a good job in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

I guess I need to start calling it the Scottish Play again...