Saturday, February 2, 2013

End of Week One

It's the end of week one for me as a cohort. Except I'm learning that theatre folks have different weeks than us regular folks. They work weekends and the theatre is black on Monday. Not sure I have that lingo correct but suffice it to say that on this Saturday morning, the actors are all in the rehearsal room working, while I sip my coffee, still in sweats and slippers, Pandora belting out songs in the background and my kids playing legos and Sims. (This is a true snapshot of my home at this moment but don't be lulled into thinking it's idyllic. I digress. That's another blog.)

I feel that I am being shaped into a Cohort persona known as "Easily Impressed." I have yet to see anything in rehearsal or hear anything in my conversations with the actors that has resulted in anything other than an outburst  of "oh that's so cool!" I feel 15 again. I do confess that usually it is not actually an outburst, but rather an inburst because at 50 years old I don't think it's in my best interest to make those kinds of comments out loud. At least not frequently in one conversation...

On Thursday I walked into a blocking rehearsal, which means the actors are all up on their feet, with scripts, and the basics of the set are in place on the mock stage set up in the Rehearsal Room. They were on p. 36 of the script, blocking and reblocking a kissing scene. Holy cow, it was so cool! Like I said I'm apparently easily impressed. The director liked the kiss just fine, but the moments just before and after needed thinking through. Where would your hand be? How close together are you? Ok, start from the top. Try it standing up now. Ok, again from the top. Try moving center stage and then breaking away when she comes in. Yeah, yeah, that's good, but you have to be stage right to begin, so start from the top.

Hour after hour. They rehearse these scenes so they look natural.

Everyone knows actors have to memorize lines and I see in rehearsal that those who do so quickly and easily move much farther and faster with their character development. It made me recollect working with a student teacher who had a terrible memory for names, although was an otherwise promising teacher in the classroom. I really worried about her success and wasn't sure she'd ever make it, because if you keep forgetting a 6 year old's name, you will get nowhere, fast. If you're an actor and your memory isn't so good, you should also probably hang it up. And actors have lots more than lines to remember. They need a well-rounded memory, for things like their movements, their props, cues, blocking, emotional build, hand placement, impetus for an action, moment of eye contact, beats between lines, on and on. And really no time to jot these things down for future recollection. It's gotta get to the level of muscle memory I guess.

I totally rely on notes, lists, jottings here and there, index cards, and reminder apps to get through my day. As a teacher, I am "on" for most of my working hours, but not like actors. They are "on" as somebody else, their character. They take direction for hours at a time, and it's really important to everyone else's work that the flow keep going. They are all so reliant on everyone else being focused and doing good work. Only as good as the weakest link I suppose.

That's what makes this little ensemble! They work so well together. They look like they are really having fun with each other. I got to spend some time with them outside of rehearsal, and they seem to genuinely like one another. At our coffeeshop social hour, they came together in one van, and were going to a party later together too. GEVA puts them up in apartments near one another for the run of the show. They live, work, and play together. Face it, who else do they know in this town? They just got here from places far away. I'd say it's a good thing they do like one another. This cast also happens to be approximately the same age and place in life, so that must help. Some are married, some not. Learning more as we go. I loved learning that one of the biggest goofs just finished a run of Macbeth in which he was McDuff. Get out!

So I am looking forward to next week. There are a few things that I know are coming up. The scenes will each be worked through in greater detail. The  pundit characters will work with accessories instead of full costumes to see what works. Actors will be off-script more and more. They will see if they can eat lox dip, drink wine and act at the same time; the director mentioned "it might just be a terrific mess, but let's try it out."

I am especially interested in something mentioned in the Rehearsal Notes. After each rehearsal, the entire team is sent by email a Rehearsal Note, which recaps which part of the play was worked on that day and includes specific notes to each part of the production team including costumes, props, electrics, sets, sound, stage ops, and administration. One such note has me on the edge of my seat. It was directed to props and stage ops, and I quote:
"This is a heads up note that we can expect mayhem and/or a mess after Ana freaks out on p. 84. We can deal with this more specifically when we know what we have on stage (food, props, etc) at that point."
OMG This is so cool! I hope I'm there the day they rehearse that!!!


  1. One of the best things about working in theatre is that the 15-year-old "this is so cool!" thing never really goes away (or, at least, it hasn't yet for me!).

    And very close on the lingo, but usually we say the theatre is "dark" on Mondays.

    1. Thanks becca and I appreciate the correction. Keep me honest!

  2. Hi Maeve! I've always viewed actors as athletes. With the majority of regional and certainly broadway artists performing eight shows a week, they have to keep themselves in top shape both physically and mentally. I so respect that dedication. Enjoy your backstage view. May sharing your joy of theatre spark others to try a new experience as well!

  3. What fun, Maeve. In another life I will come back as an actor -- love reading those lines as another person.
    And Becca, do you do community theater? Great.