Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Nature of the Beast...

As is par for the course, I was the only one still carrying the book in our final run-thru before we began the difficult Q2Q process this past weekend. In my defense it is a rather large role. Nonetheless, after some serious and highly concentrated work all day yesterday I think I'm now book-free. And today is all about solidifying that. Angie, as usual, has been the portrait of patience during this.

This is shaping up to be a huge production. The sets are massive, the lighting impossibly complicated, the costumes detailed and slyly period, the orchestration (although still not in the mix yet) unbelievably powerful. It's turning into quite a to-do.

I slept very little last night after stuffing the lines into my head ad nauseum all day. Just couldn't turn it all off. That's par for the course, too. The most dreaded time of rehearsal for me, the time when the book is not within reach and the lines are in my head, but self-doubt is constantly rearing its ugly head. It's a time for performance modulation. After 100 plays, give or take, on the professional stage, I've long learned to trust my instincts at this juncture.

As is often the case when one is doing a 'big' one, the focus now is centered primarily on 'transitions.' That is to say, getting from one scene to the next with as much fluidity as is possible. The book doesn't make this terribly easy: it goes from a bedroom to an office to a prison to heaven itself in a matter of minutes. The design team is pulling twenty four hour shifts in an effort to make it all work.

As is the recurring theme in the film 'Shakespeare in Love' somehow it all works. Usually. There was one time it didn't work in time. Some years back I played Horace in a very large production of 'Hello, Dolly!' and the opening night actually was delayed an hour to put the finishing touches on the tech aspect of the show. Only time that's ever happened to me, in fact. Oddly, the audience is usually very appreciative and forgiving in moments like that. They certainly were that night.

Now, I don't foresee that happening with this show, but nonetheless, it is painfully apparent that the focus is now very much on the transitions. I was talking to a buddy of mine, an actor that's been in many, many musicals, in fact carrying some of them on Broadway, and he said, oddly, that he LIKED Q2Qs. Said he found them calming. I asked why. He said, 'Because for just a few hours, the pressure is off me.' Hm.

I remember talking to Nathan Lane, an actor who's done a few musicals in his time, about Q2Qs once. He said he always takes a silent vow beforehand to not say a single word during this time unless spoken to. He said he just turns his mind off and allows himself to be a puppet for about two or three days. He told me the Q2Q for 'Guys and Dolls,' which he did on tour and on Broadway in the early nineties was a particularly long Q2Q for him and it was then that he realized how important it was for the actors to stay placid and let the designers do their thing. Tension was running high in that one, he said.

I hate it when tension is running high. I hate the feeling it creates. Understandably, everyone is jostling for his or her own specific piece of the puzzle. The poor director is in the middle trying to stay true to a vision and yet at the same time manipulating the staging like a crazed traffic cop. Tried and true business is sometimes casually tossed aside in favor of necessity. It's simply the nature of the beast.

Having said all that, however, ours is going quite smoothly, albeit somewhat slowly. Again, just the nature of the beast.

This play opens with a long 'interior monologue' featuring myself and the wonderful Christine Horn, playing the role of my long-suffering, never-fully-realized mistress. The lines are written in such a way that often they make no sense in a linear way of thinking. Those are the lines that trip me up the most often. And it's absolutely crucial that they are all said. They kept me up last night. I finally just got out of bed in the middle of the night and opened the script again and started working. Oy.

The rest of today is set aside for more repitition. The nature of the beast. Can't be helped. Must be done.

There are some stunning moments in this play, simply stunning. Musically and otherwise. At the risk of cliche' I really do simply buckle up at the first chord of music and simply hold on. Do the next action in front of me. Don't think ahead. Stay in the moment. Serve the text. Yada yada yada. It's the best I can do.

See you tomorrow.