Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Dreaded First Run-thru...

We ran the play last night. It was everything I expected it to be at this point: sloppy, slow, tedious, ugly, dishonest and chaotic. Aside from that, not so bad.

I was particularly bad. I'm wearing several hats on this one: actor, writer, director, producer, sound designer and cheerleader. The only thing I did well last night was cheerleader. That may have had something to do with the short skirt and matching sweater with the embroidered "E/W" on it that I chose to wear. I wanted to just wear jeans but Angie said the cheerleading outfit brought out my eyes.

Years ago I saw the great George C. Scott onstage with John Cullum (also a fine actor) in a terrible play called Boys of Autumn. It was about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer grown up. Huck (Scott) was an old hermit and Tom (Cullum) was on the run as a child molester. Talk about beating your sacred cow. Anyway, the play was pretty bad; talky, uneventful, full of rambling monologues. But, hey, George C. Scott. Wouldn't have missed it for the world. Scott barely moved a muscle during the performance. Stood like an old oak in the middle of the stage while Cullum walked around him most of the night. His performance, even in this dreck, was mesmerizing. And that growling, tender, scary voice of his.

That's my role model for Harry (the character I'm playing).

The problem is that he's George C. Scott and, well, I'm not.

We haven't even begun to plug in all the technical stuff - lighting, sound, props, etc. So that was bothering me. Also, I'm beginning to second guess myself. This doesn't come as a surprise. It happens in every play. But the thing to do, and this comes from a butt-load of stage time, is to remember that there is a reason the first choice was settled on to begin with. Trust that choice. I'm trying to.

My buddy, John Bader, watched it last night. And for a few minutes we discussed the play at intermission. Amidst all the gobbledygook (that's what I heard, anyway, cause my mind was a million miles away) I heard him say, "What are their objectives?" That stopped me. Wow. It suddenly occurred to me I had to go back to Acting 101 again. Indeed. What ARE our objectives?

It is the little things I miss, as often as not. It is sort of like attempting the triple gainer before you've learned the cannonball. As a director I have skipped over a few things, not because I didn't know they were there, but because I just assumed everyone knew about them. And what is it they say about "assume?" Heavens.

So Johnny is right on this one. Wrong on some other things, I think. But dead on with this comment. It is the lifeblood of the actor's work...what do you want? That's the building block for everything...what do you want? What do you want? It informs everything, every choice, every reading, every nuance and shading, every movement. What do you want?

I also learned last night that I don't have the stage stamina that I once had. In a role this large and with this much emotion involved, I pooped out. I got tired at round five or six. I didn't have the whole fight in me. This will come back, I'm sure. But it caught me off-guard last night.

As always, I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night because I was thinking of a thousand things that needed fixing. We still have 12 days left to put it all together. But the rubber is meeting the road now, the idealism of the rehearsal process has come to an end. We have reached the "put up or shut up" moment.

Fortunate for me I have some really fine actors around to make me look good. To make the play look good. To rescue this dismal business. I'm only joking, of course. But a part of me is really wary right now. Can this be done? Will anyone be the least bit interested in all this yammering? Can we fascinate? Are we on the right path? Does anyone even care?


See you tomorrow.