Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Attacking the Script.

Last Tango in Los Angeles: Attacking the Script.: "There are fleeting, secret moments during the rehearsal of this play in which I think to myself, 'This play is not do-able. At least not p..."

Attacking the Script.

There are fleeting, secret moments during the rehearsal of this play in which I think to myself, "This play is not do-able.  At least not professionally."  Now, of course, that's just silliness, but I still think it.  I was privately thinking it last night in rehearsal.  The music, so dense, so exacting, that to envision taking it to the next step, that is, memorizing it and making dramatic choices and being comfortable enough with it to play inside the music itself, just seems incomprehensively distant.  Again, I know this to not be true.  But knowing something and feeling something are two different things.

Years ago I played 'The Chairman' in a musical called 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' based on the Charles Dickens' unfinished novel.  Later, I believe, the actual name was shortened to simply DROOD! (with the exclamation point).  I remember thinking the same thing about that piece.  In fact, the author of that piece, Rupert Holmes, astonishingly, even writes in the notes for the play that The Chairman will, in fact, 'go up' on his lines at some point during the run and it would serve everyone well, if a 'handsomely bound' manuscript be kept within easy reach on stage so that he might grab it when he 'goes up.'  I have seen that unlikely notation in no other play I've ever done, before or since.  And yes, that character certainly has a massive amount of lines.  I was doing the musical with some real powerhouse musical-theater actors: James Barbour, Mitch Kantor, Jennifer Piech, Paige Davis, and I believe, if I remember correctly, we had a ridiculously short amount of time to mount it, something like three weeks.  We took the advice of Mr. Holmes and did, in fact, make a script available on stage.  And sure enough, about three or four weeks into the run, I 'went up.'  There is another character onstage at all times along with The Chairman, ambiguously named The Stage Manager.  He had the 'handsomely bound' manuscript in front of him.  I remember just going blank at one point, adlibbing a bit, furiously searching my brain-files for the next moment, finding nothing and then simply turning to the actor playing The Stage Manager and saying, "Yes, well.  Pray, tell me, what, exactly, er, did Mr. Dickens have in store for us next?"  He quickly fed me my line and we were off again.  A few years later I actually met Rupert Holmes in New York and had the opportunity to thank him for that piece of written advice.  He said, "Yes, well, we learned it the hard way ourselves when George Rose did it on Broadway.  Strangely, he always went up in the exact same place as you." 

In any event, this is how I feel about 'The Adding Machine' at times.  I can't quite comprehend how we're going to do this.  We're two weeks into rehearsal at this point and I'm not only still on book, I'm still struggling with the notes.  It seems no matter how prepared I think I am for rehearsal I'm still caught off-guard. 

This is not your father's oldsmobile.  Not by a long shot.

Every night on my way home from rehearsal I tell myself emphatically, 'I will NOT be caught off-guard again.'  And the next day I am.  Oy.  Very frustrating.

All I can say is 'The Odd Couple' looks very inviting right about now.

Got a call from Chad Coe yesterday, the wonderful actor that played the lead in my play, From the East to the West.  We're going ahead with the filming of that piece.  The budget is in place, finally, the equipment gathered (Chad has a lot of connections in town), the location scouting done, and now I have to do some re-writes on the script.  The play, incidentally, has been nominated for a Broadway World 'Best New Work' award.  It contains some of my favorite writing.  I'm still not satisfied with the second act, but I like it better now than I did this time last year.  When read in Chicago a few years ago, somehow the press got wind of the reading and a week later this blurb was seen in the theater section of The Reader: "The long-awaited new play from Clifford Morts is called From the East to the West.  This reporter attended a reading of it recently and can only say WOW."  Very nice blurb, but the 'wow' never took place in Chicago, much to my chagrin.  The 'wow' had to wait for Los Angeles. 

Today, it's back to the music before our next rehearsal later on.  We're attacking a huge, nine minute song I have about halfway through the show.  It's called Zero's Confession and to be blunt, it's a bitch.  It's giving me nightmares.  It's also one of the most dramatic and unsettling pieces of music I've ever heard.  I'll listen to the piano part about 100 times before I take it on tonight.  And no doubt, I'll still be surprised.   I'll still be caught off-guard.  I'll still be delighted and frightened all at once.  I'll still wonder what in hell I was thinking when I took this part.  And I'll still think this very well may be the best thing I've done in decades.

See you tomorrow.