Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Dress Rehearsals and Tech Nights...

Another tech last night for Sanity 2.  Eight different short plays. Oy.  Lots of tech and lots of quick scene changes.  I must say I'm really impressed with Karesa's good-natured attitude as she guides some of the feckless actors (ME!) through the process.  I've known directors to go a tad crazy during tech week.  With all the chaos at a fever pitch last night I only heard one "Quiet in the house!" bellowed.

Got the full rehearsal schedule for Praying Small yesterday, too.  My mind is eased a bit knowing we have an attack plan.

When tech stuff goes wrong in a performance, odd things happen to actors.  Usually it falls into one of two camps:  those who go with it and adlib their way out or those that panic and freeze.  One of the most famous stories about tech gone wrong is the off cue phone call with Olivier.  He was doing a Noel Coward play in the West End.  Onstage with a young actor.  Phone rings off cue.  The phone is not supposed to ring for another two pages.  Both actors stop and stare at the phone.  Finally Olivier walks over and answers it.  "Hello?  Um, yes.  Yes.  I see.  Uh-huh.  Yes.  Why, of course, he's right here.  (turns to young actor)  It's for you."

I once did the play Wait Until Dark in Florida some years back.  I was doing the sociopathic killer, Roat, in that play.  In the climactic scene where the blind girl stabs Roat with a kitchen knife, I stalk her.  Cat and mouse.  Roat knows she can't see him and is toying with her.  Suddenly she reaches into a drawer and pulls out a long knife and goes for him.  That's the way it's supposed to work.  Dress rehearsal.  She makes a dash for the drawer.  Fumbles around in it forever.  I could have killed her ten times over in the time she spent searching for the knife amidst the silverware in that drawer.  Goes on and on.  Dead air.  I'm just standing there watching her.  She's staring off glassy-eyed in the distance, acting "blind."  More time.  She pulls a spoon, discards it.  Then a fork.  Then a ladle.  Then a spatula.  Finally, from the house we hear a booming voice from the director.  "YOU'RE NOT REALLY BLIND!"  She looks in the drawer and gets the knife.

The first time I did A Few Good Men was at Mill Mountain in Roanoke, VA.  After an eight week run there we transferred the whole thing to Wayside Theatre up the road in Middletown. Wayside, a smaller theatre, didn't have the resources Mill Mountain had and thus some adjustments were made.  Huge blacks (curtains, for the uninitiated) were hung to frame the stage.  During the climactic courtroom scenes in the second act, one had to negotiate through a series of hung teasers (small, thin curtains hanging down) to get onstage.  It was like a maze.  Kind of like walking through a funhouse in pitch black darkness.  Dress Rehearsal.  Full costume, which means we're all in our military dress uniforms.  As each character's name is called to testify, there would be a flurry of curtain punching and under-the -breath cursing as the actors tried to get onstage.  Finally, one by one, the actors would find the entrance and emerge, hair mussed, wild-eyed, staggering slightly, realize where they were, smooth their hair and walk sternly and seriously to the witness chair.  Would have been funny if it happened once.  It happened to every single actor.  The actors onstage were a mess.  Church giggling.  You know.  When you try not to laugh in church and that makes it all the funnier.  Finally my turn.  I get lost in the curtains just like everyone else.  I finally make it out.  I've dropped my hat.  I come out facing the wrong direction.  I trip on the last teaser and fall to one knee.  Everyone to that point has just gone on with the play as though nothing happened.  I look up and see the whole cast staring at me (about twenty men on stage).  "Broken Arrow!" I scream.  Cast loses it.  Director not happy.

Another time I was doing Sondheim's Company in Connecticut.  I was working with an actor that would talk and yammer and chit-chat endlessly right off stage before making his entrance.  Each night he would completely forget to listen for his cue and I would have to interrupt him and say, "it's your entrance."  Dress rehearsal.  We're standing off stage.  He's saying, "...and then I asked them if I could get a discount on the shoes because they were just simply too tight.  I called the manufacturers, I called everybody.  They wouldn't let me exchange them.  I wrote them a letter saying..."  It was about ten minutes before he was supposed to enter.  I stopped him and said, "It's your entrance."  He charged on stage and started talking.  Hehehehe.

Hundreds of other memories about tech nights and dress rehearsals.  Every actor has them.  I suspect we'll have some confusion with this one, too.

And on another note.  The new medication for "the silent killer" is working.  I feel like a new man, or at the very least, a slightly used one.  BP down, more energy, better outlook on everything.  The foot is still numb making me walk a little like the kid in Jurassic Park when he gets blown off the fence, but I'll learn to compensate eventually I'm sure.  Angie is devouring online recipes for diabetes victims.  She did, however, say something last night that alarmed me.  She said, "you just have to get used to thinking of food as fuel rather than an event."  Well, I don't think I can ever do that.  A good meal, prepared with care, presented with aesthetic forethought, each dish and course complimenting the other, color coordinated...well this is the mark of a civilized people as far as I'm concerned.  For me, regardless of my diet, food will never be "fuel."  We'll just have to figure this one out.

The puppies are frolicking.  The next door neighbor's rooster is punching his time clock.  The sun is up and benign.  And I'm getting married someday this year, if the rumors are true.  Things are okay.

See you tomorrow.