Monday, June 6, 2016

Overall Impressions

I apologize for the extremely late posting of all these blogs, however these are records from various rehearsals and conversations with actors.

From start to finish, this has been a great experience for a multitude of reasons. I really find it difficult to explain what this show has done to and for me. I cannot thank everyone involved enough.

From the off, I dealt with complications that usually I see the directors deal with, but have never fully experienced myself. The biggest was trying to make a rehearsal schedule. Brad was booked in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Max had Dam Jam coming up, and Mike was, and still is, in the marching band. Unlike a main-stage production, I did not have the ability to say, “These are our rehearsal times, please adjust accordingly.” There were three weeks when Brad could not rehearse during the times that the others were available. THREE WEEKS. I knew that when I casted him, but once we got to that period of rehearsals, I was worried. I was concerned. However, Mike and Max were ready to go as soon as Brad’s schedule cleared up. That was great that they put in their work even though we did not have rehearsal for a long amount of time.

Our first rehearsal was so much fun. We did walking exercises, and I asked them questions about their characters that can be seen in the blog posts. I ask those questions in order to get the actors thinking, but then ask later once they have a solid answer. The goal of the first rehearsal, for me, is to begin them thinking about the overall production, what they bring to the table as an actor, what their character brings forward, and what they are able to do/restrictions they may have. For example, it was a chance to further see Mike’s French accent. In the first rehearsal, Brad brought something that I did not even think about: a voice for Riverman. It was great to see someone take an unprompted stride toward a strong show. Obviously, we workshopped the accent, but to have something brand new presented to me was extraordinary.

After our first rehearsal, we suffered a set-back. Max fractured his ankle and would be in a cast for at least four weeks, or to put into terms of the production, he would be in a cast until the Tuesday before we opened. Immediately, I began going through the possible ways to correct that; what if we gave him a cane? Or maybe crutches? What about a wheelchair? But that will change all the blocking. Or maybe, we play it up that he’s an injured goon. I plowed through the possibilities. Max came to rehearsal in his cast, we worked around his limited mobility, and then Max told me he believed we would not have to change the blocking. That was a great thing to hear, but would it be true?

Once Liz was able to come to a rehearsal, I was extraordinarily nervous. Not for the guys onstage, but for myself. What if I am not giving them blocking that leads to their best performance? What if my notes have been unhelpful or have steered them the wrong way? Liz gave me notes, obviously, about what could progress further. The biggest was that she felt the guys were not listening to each other, which made total sense to me. Truth be told, our off-book day was two days before she watched, so they were still concerned with memorizing lines and blocking at the same time. At that time, I did not feel we were at our strongest, and that is probably true of all productions. Once actors go off-book, I think there is a minor step backwards as they call for line, or are in the wrong spot so we have to stop and reset. It is a difficult rehearsal the first they are off-book, and I am sure Liz can attest to that.

Once we got into regular run-thrus with the rest of the cast watching, the guys were able to finally learn about holding for laughs. The first run-thru, Liz commented to me that she did not hear half of the lines after a joke because the guys did not wait for the laughs. Obviously there were the general notes about projection, enunciation, and keeping eyes up, but the guys were making strides. After each night, they would ask “Can we do this?” My response was always the same; “Let’s try, and see what happens.” Most of the time, we kept what they tried because it added further detail and excitement to the story. We changed stuff even on the night before opening because something new came up with the costumes. It was a luxury to be able to discover more even at that point.

The performances went well. We were the closing play, so the guys had to bring the energy each night. The audiences enjoyed the show, I believe. And the guys loved acting in it. The smiles on their faces as they took their bows were awesome.

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