Thursday, May 20, 2010
A really good, albeit somewhat abbreviated, rehearsal last night. A run thru of act I. Or at least as much of act I as we could get to. I worked on the lines all day for the act. By the time we starting rehearsing most of my panic had subsided and I actually felt comfortable with huge chunks of the play. I still don't know what the hell comes next most of the time, but that will sort itself out eventually I trust.
I remember once in the Chicago production a young actor named Joshua Venditti was doing the role of Sam Dean. The way the theatre is set up the bathrooms are around by the side of the stage. I was using it and came out at the exact moment that Josh had stepped off stage for a second. Just the two of us standing there. I was a little confused because I knew that Sam never left the stage. Josh looked at me for a beat and said, "Any idea what I'm supposed to do next?" I said, "I think it's the cop scene." He nodded and casually stepped back on stage and began the cop scene. It was funny and surreal at the same time.
On Thursday, June 10, the day before the official opening, the theatre is doing a big, invited-audience-only kind of thing. Just close friends of the playwright (me) and the actors and a bunch of financial heavy-hitters that support the theatre. That is exactly three weeks from today. Oh, boy. Every time I think of that a little panic creeps into my gut. I'm bringing in my few close friends in Los Angeles - Jim Barbour and his beautiful wife Dana, John Schuck, John Bader, Joe Hulser, Jim Petersmith. And a couple of young actors that are now in L.A. that did the play in Chicago - Jason Daniels and Theo Stephenson. It should be a fun night.
Last night I was once again reminded of the quantum leap a play takes once the books are gone. We actually started to play a bit last night even though it was a stop and start rehearsal.
We also blocked the opening montage, the short dialogue-free pieces of business that set up the start of the play. I like it a lot. It's all done to a song Kyle Puccia wrote specifically for the play called "Falling Apart Again."
The wonderful actor, Rob Arbogast, who is playing Roman in the play came over and worked lines with me yesterday. What a giving, secure, relaxed actor Rob is. He's doing the lead in another play of mine called Bachelor's Graveyard that will run in tandem with Praying Small. Both plays are lucky to have him. Rob played the title role in the huge hit, Dracula, last season at NoHo Arts. Sold out six month run. I didn't see it, obviously, but I'm told it was a beautiful, haunting piece of theatre. In this play, Rob plays a very tragic figure: Sam's best friend Roman who doesn't escape the ravages of addiction like Sam does. It's so much fun to work with Rob onstage. He's always looking for a new way to do something. Making it connect emotionally and intellectually at the same time. He's got a piercing stare onstage that can be a tad disconcerting sometimes. Quite an intense actor. In addition to all of this, he's a tremendously sharing kind of actor, always asking, "Is this okay with you?" A real pleasure to share the stage.
Today, act II. The big emotional moments for my character. Oy.
I didn't think it possible that I could be so excited for the show at this point in the process. A couple of weeks ago I was almost certain it would fail. Fail for me, I mean. Because I just didn't see how I could learn the lines in time. Now, of course, all that fear and pessimism is gone. The words are starting, miraculously, to actually stick in my addled brain. It truly does make all the difference in the world.
So another day of pacing and learning lines. Repetition is the soul of art. So says the late Sir Ralph Richardson, one of my favorite actors of all time. Indeed.
See you tomorrow.