Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Producing Behind Bars

Rehearsing Behind Bars is in full swing now. Then again, it's only two weeks until opening night, so it better be in full swing. That still freaks me out every time I think about it. There's so much to do and a quickly dwindling time-line in which to do it.

There are so many things to be worried about, actually! Our set is... less than ideal, but it'll be fixed up before the show, thankfully. Right now we're working with bunk-beds that are approximately four and a half feet tall. Total. And our football player (he plays center, so he's not small) is on the top bunk. Yes. Good choice, director. We don't have our actual bars yet, but I'm hoping those will come through soon, considering they're sort of the namesake of the play and are a significant portion of our blocking. We're also dealing with minuscule rehearsal spaces. The picture above is from our rehearsals in the lab theatre lobby. Not exactly the greatest space for rehearsal, but we made it work.

Mostly, I'm worried about having enough time for the actors to get comfortable in their roles. These are really complicated parts with intricacies and depth, and I don't want them to feel unrehearsed when it comes time to perform them. This is absolutely not a comment on the actor's abilities to portray their parts, because they're really not having any trouble with that. Thankfully, the cast I'm working with is incredibly talented and they're dealing well with the brief rehearsal period.

The cast is composed of only four actors; John Kish as Jay, Mike Beaton as Cody, Richelle Jean-Bart as Jessica and Thomas Severs as the Guard. This is a relatively new cast to this sort of theatre. There's experience in musical theatre, choir, improv and other sorts of things scattered about throughout the cast, but generally, it's a new format for them. It's exciting to try to teach the conventions to them, though there's really not to much to teach. They're quick studies. I've had fun putting them through the paces with vocal exercises, which mostly consist of taking everyone outside and having them project their lines to me at the end of the lane behind the theatre. They tend to dislike this exercise... but it has paid off, so I'm going to continue to do it and torture them.

Part of the ease of directing this play definitely has to be attributed to the script. The writing was incredibly polished right from the start, so it wasn't like I had to deal with any sort of awkward wording or strange scenes that were out of place. Really, there were only some cosmetic changes that were added throughout the process of work-shopping the script. The characters all have a depth to them that adds so much to the story. For instance, Cody is, in a way, the antagonist. He's leading Jay down a path of racism and violence, which is something that we would all like to stay away from, generally (I hope). However, he has such a great personality! You can't help but like him. He cracks jokes, opens up, and becomes a fast friend to Jay; though, a lot of Cody's likability comes from Mike's portrayal. Even Jessica, who doesn't show up as often as the other characters, has depths for Riche to explore. This script may delve into very serious concepts and ideas, but that's not all there is to it. There are moments where the comedy comes through to the forefront and you're caught off-guard when you laugh. Then again, there are moments when Cody and Jay open up to each other and, frankly, it's heart-warming. Who would've thought?

On top of the amazing script and acting talent, I'm graced with a cast that gets along swimmingly. I look forward to going to rehearsals and seeing these people, which is a godsend. It's always good to work with people you like being around. I do hope it's that way for them... Heh. And, actors, if you're reading this, don't tell me if you don't like it. I'm going to remain blissfully unaware and think that we're all one happy family (as I'm sure we are).

So, I hope you all enjoy the production once it's on stage. I'm sure the hard work of the cast and crew will come through and we'll all have a wonderful time with the One-Acts! I can't wait!

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