Friday, December 16, 2016

Belated Send off to Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story

So it's Friday evening, and the show ended on Sunday afternoon. It's been a sort of distracted week for me, and I am just now sitting down to post the summary.

It was a sold out crowd, just as the previous Sunday was. Yet the crowd was not as enthusiastic as the first full house we had. They were not a dead audience by any means, but they didn't laugh as much or respond with as much to the show, or after the show.

To be fair, I don't think we did quite as well for them as we did the previous sell out either. There were a few trip ups, (I myself made a very minor one) and I think the energy was down.

That being said, it was still a decent, even if not amazing conclusion to a show that in many ways was different.

It began just a few days after Macbeth ended, so in some ways it felt like an odd extension of that show for the first few rehearsals. This is especially true given that everyone but one person was also in Macbeth. The total rehearsal time was only a month, (and coming after a show that had three months to rehearse, that was an adjustment for certain.)

I wore my base costume to the theatre and home every night, since I owned the whole thing.Because of this I was actually rarely in the dressing room. Being in the dressing room is a touchstone of the community theatre experience, and things feel off for me when it is missing. I kept my coat and personal items in there during the show, but that's about it. Never dressed or undressed in there during the show. And while I had my usual picture of Olivier there at what would have been my seat in the dressing room, I never taped it to the mirror as is my custom.

Due to the nature of the show, the only time I was in the green room was before the show, and intermission; nobody was off the stage long enough in this production to relax in the green room during the performance. That too made the whole show seem faster, and less official as well, (though it was the same for Night of One-ders.

Also, I have to say that in some ways, despite the changes in venue, script and cast, it sort of feels like a production of A Christmas Carol is never quite over for me. This was my sixth production of this story in some form, and no doubt there will be more. Many of the lines, and certainly the characters are the same for each one, and so though I still have to get off book each time I help tell this story, it sort of feels like a mere hiatus between such tellings. I've not been in this version of the story before, but once we got started on it, it didn't feel like it had been that long ago since I had been in a version. (Though it has been about three years, I think. Maybe more.)

Which is why I am almost always willing to be a part of this story on stage. The time may come when, for whatever reason I have to decline to be a part of a production of A Christmas Carol, but it hasn't yet. So timeless is the story, so loved by actors and audiences, and so tied in with a holiday that so many people revere that when in A Christmas Carol on stage, I feel part of Christmas as well as part of a show. (And I get to start celebrating the holiday a little earlier than most people when I am in a show like this.)

So, I do bid goodbye to this version, but it is only a matter of time, perhaps only a matter of less than a year before I help tell the story again.

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Home Stretch

For the life of me, I thought I had posted about last week's matinee, but I hadn't. And now here I am only a few hours from this week's matinee closer.

Like last week's, today is sold out. It proved a plus, as usual for a full house last week. They crowd was really quite into singing at the opening of the show, and they gave us a nice ovation at the end. Though to be honest, neither they nor any of the audiences so far have laughed at some of the things I thought they might laugh at. True, it is not a comedy per se, but there are still moments of humor that haven't translated in this production like I thought they might.

Still, the full house on last Sunday was our largest crowd in the small intimate space so far for this production. Just having that many people present is helpful for a show like this.

I also knew several people in the audience that day. The sad truth is that most people I know locally do not see my shows, so I usually know people when they are there for others in the play as well. Always adds a little something when you know someone out there in the audience is a friend of yours. (Even though often you cannot see them.

As for this weekend so far, Friday was tough. Not terrible,but it was our smallest crowd. I think 15 total, which even in a house that small looks, well, small. And they were quiet.

Last night was I think our second largest crowd,and I had family in that one. They enjoyed it. I fumbled a bit in one part of my performance, but I covered well and I don't think anybody noticed.

I'd say that last night's audience, though not a full house might have laughed more than any of the others have. Still not as much as I might have thought, and I don't mean gut busting here. But from my own angle, I think someone laughed at something more often last night than the previous nights.

A friend of mind was in the front row, and I knew I had to mess with him at least once. (Our director said we could sometimes interact with the audience if we wanted.) I had only one real chance. As Topper, announcing he is a bachelor, I sort of play that to the audience. I addressed it last night to my friend in particular, partly because he is married, so I emphasized "bachelor" and pointed at home laughing. (Little did I know, Scrooge later patted him on the head at the end of the show.)

A fun evening overall, I suppose.

Now, one more full house, and we close this production, which in  many ways seems to have hardly started. I'll update that, and  give overall thoughts on the show, later tonight when I get home from the cast party.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Second Night of A Ghost Story

Tonight was a bit of an oddity. I don't remember the last time a first Saturday crowd was smaller, and less energetic than an opening night crowd. But that's what happened tonight.

While opening night was about 30 people in a 50 seat house, I think we had just over half of that tonight. They did laugh at times, and seemed to have enjoyed themselves, judging by their clapping at the end, but overall it felt like an average matinee, but at night.

Some of that is on us; though there were again no major mistakes that I noticed, I think near the end all of us ran out of steam a bit. We weren't by any means dead, but I think we were slower than we normally are for the end of the show.

I do think some aspects did run even more smoothly, though. Once again, not to assume we are perfect by any means, but we have worked out some of the kinks over the last two nights, even if in front of fewer people tonight.

We are in a good place for tomorrow, if we can keep the energy up; it is already a sold out house. Will having a sold out house make for even more energy to improve our performances? Or will the matinee doldrums hit us?

Saturday, December 03, 2016

An Opening Night Carol.

Opening night last night, and I have to say it was solid. Not error free, mind you, but it was disaster free. Free of gaping holes. Unless something happened that I missed while off stage somewhere.

The house holds 50 people for this show. We had about thirty last night. As is often the case for Friday opening nights, (for whatever mysterious reasons) it was a quiet crowd. There was some laughing here and there, but they were quiet during some funny moments. And though I thought we were losing them for a bit near the end of the opening, (lots of narration to open the show) overall I believe they were engaged.

There were some young children in the front row. I feared they might be restless, but for the most part, the seemed to be paying attention. If not, they were quiet about it. When Marley screamed, some of them covered their ears, but none of them cried or ran out of the building. Even an infant in the lobby was quiet the whole time.

We hit some rough spots last week and this week in rehearsing, and it's very important not to assume there will be no mistakes from here on out just because opening night was solid. But solid it was, and it always comes as a significant relief when that first show in front of people is out of the way. There's a reason why a second night is almost always better than opening night.

Truth be told, I wasn't quite as nervous as I feared I might be going into yesterday. Not sure why. Confidence in my contributions, though with humility is probably part of it. We also had a good final rehearsal the night before. (The old superstition of a good final rehearsal portending a bad opening night did not come true in this case.) But everything just seemed more casual on opening night than it is for some shows. In some ways id didn't quite feel like it was opening night. Probably having just over a month to rehearse is part of that.

I must say I felt a bit awkward at the beginning, though. I lead the audience in singing. I'm not that worried about singing, but I'm out there all alone for quite a while, opening the show. I wanted to just get on with the rest of the show about halfway through the song.

The narration with everyone else that opens the show after the song makes me a bit nervous, though it went fine last night. Hopefully I will feel less nervous tonight. (But not complacent either!)

It's hard to judge reactions in a venue and in a play like this, but I think the audience liked Topper, my smallest role, the best of everything I did. I also think they liked my narration, but of course, an audience is always going to pay more direct attention to a narrator type character, I would dare say.

So the opening is behind us, and I am glad of it. Saturdays are almost always the best crowds. Will it be so this time? Perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Present will bless our humble playhouse with a sprinkling of his torch tonight.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A Tech Week Carol

You wouldn't know it by my general radio silence over the last few days, but we have in fact been in the midst of tech week for Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story. Normally I have a bit more to say here on the blog for tech weeks, but I got to thinking that without major developments, most of tech week is the same sort of insider type of night that in general all experienced actors know about, and those outside of theatre would likely find a bit boring to read about. Plus I have been tired coming home at night as you might guess, for this has been one of the latest (at night) tech weeks I've had in a while.

A general overview:

We get out of rehearsal around 11 so far this week. I don't much mind this, since we need the time to get everything set up. Lights and sounds are still being worked out, and I'd rather take the time, than not get them right in the actual show. That's what the week is for, and it's part of the package when you volunteer.

Thus far, I've done pretty good as far as doing my job, I dare say. I've dropped a line here and there throughout the week, but as far as I recall, nothing that derailed the moment. Plus I correct the issue the next day in rehearsal.

I'm not what I call "secondary" off book as much as I would like to be in an ideal world. That is to say, how much information can I pull up to correct a mistake or omission made by someone else in the scene. I've been able to dive in and give a missing line or otherwise put tape over the situation here and there, I'm relieved to say, but in a perfect world I would always knows exactly how to fix something, and I confess, I've not had an instant fix for each mistake outside of my control which has occurred this week. Perhaps I put too much pressure on myself for this. I don't like to see fellow actors swinging out in the breeze though. I like to help if I can. And I have tried to do so. But I suppose there is a limit to amount of things one actor can juggle at a time. I have to remind myself of that from time to time.

Being so familiar with the story, however, does help at times to ascertain the general direction of things should they go awry for a moment.

On the whole, the week has been a bit rough for all of us, to be honest. But last night did show a marked improvement over the previous night.

Things started off with a cue-to-cue, wherein the light booth folks get their timing down for light and sound cues. That took a while. I think it took longer than than director expected. After that we moved into a full fledged rehearsal. Despite some bumps and a bit of fatigue on my part, combined with having a few new costume pieces and props to handle, some of my moments were the best I've delivered so far, I have to say. Probably because despite all of the technical issues, there is this awareness that we open tomorrow (!) and that it's time to home in on some more of the performance nuance.

Tonight is "full dress," though I wore all my costumes last night as well. Plus a few other nights last week. Some of the changes will be a little close, but if last night was any indication, all of them should be doable.

The first three staves of this tech week carol have perhaps not gone as smoothly as one would like. However, the show has gotten better each night this week, and there is no reason to believe it won't be even more improved tonight.