Monday, February 15, 2010

On Quirky Choices...

Last night we did a moment to moment run and then went back and did a full run. Not a bad night overall. I enjoy sitting back and watching the other actors work and coming up with quirky little behavioral things to do. We found a few last night. A lot of people don't like this sort of thing, other professionals, that is. They don't understand why it is being done.

I remember acting and directing a play by Lanford Wilson called Redwood Curtain in Rochester, NY, about a decade ago. I was directing it and acting the role of Lyman Fellars, the disenchanted Vietnam Vet in it. At one late rehearsal we were going from moment to moment trying to find some quirky things and the AD, a dimwit administrator who had no business being in charge of a theatre company, said to me, "Well, you can't just be eccentric for eccentricities sake." And I remember turning to him and saying, "Ah, contraire. We can and will do that. People spend their lives being eccentric for eccentricities sake." All anyone has to do is walk out their front door right now, right this very instant, walk down the block, see a few people outside, watch them closely for a few minutes, and see that people are mind-bogglingly odd. Their behavior patterns, even when dealing with the mundane, are often times just incomprehensible. Every character in every play ever written should reflect exactly that.

Here's a truth. The moment the audience gets ahead of the actor and director, the play is dead. And by "gets ahead," I mean the moment they can subconsciously guess what is coming next, it's all over. Why watch anything you know the ending to? We do it all the time when we watch TV. We call it getting bored with the show. Nope. What is happening is, we're ahead of the writers. We know, more or less, what is going to happen next.

It is the job of the writer, director and actor to NEVER let that happen.

Well, after picking some quirky, behavioral moments, we ran the show. Not a bad run, still some technical stumbles, easily fixed. My lead actor, Chad, is carrying a ton of weight. It is an enormously difficult role and he is straining mightily with it. But he's good and smart and I'm not worried. We "froze" some moments. That is to say, we liked them, ran them, worked them and I said, "Freeze it." Cause that's the best we could hope for.

I've added a line here and there. At the suggestion (a very good one, I might add) of the AD we actually cut the last line of the play. We're getting used to the music in the piece - I'm a HUGE fan of LOTS of incidental music in theatre. This play is using everything from Johnny Cash to Nick Cave to Tom Waits to Glen Campbell.

So I'm not too worried. Tonight we have a few invited guests. Tomorrow we open.

Oh, and doing my first camera gig today since coming to LA. A short thirty second industrial thingee over in Culver City. Should take me about a half hour. That might be fun.

All is exactly as it should be. I'm rather odd when it comes to impending plays. Rather than get introspective and nervous, the closer opening night looms, the more relaxed and loose I get. There are actors that like to isolate, concentrate before a show, lose themselves in thought. I've never felt that way, even with the big, dramatic roles of theatre. I've always felt if I didn't have the damned role under my belt by opening night, all the druid-like isolation in the world won't help me.

This is gonna be so cool.

See you tomorrow.