Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walking Picasso...the prequel resumed

Note to readers:
This post marks a return to a series of posts I began earlier. It's out of sequence and maybe out of date, but it's part of the historical record of our project.

Friday, May 15

Tonight is the speed-thru at 7:30 p.m. followed by the cue-to-cue for light and sound effects. There is a music event in the McKenzie this evening so we're meeting in the Green Room before going somewhere else, where exactly I'm not sure.

The weather is gorgeous. Seeing the sun and the blue sky causes me to imagine an afternoon without the play. What did I used to do? I've got three hours after work until rehearsal. While getting dressed I ask my son, Colm, if he'd like to go golfing with me after school today. He nods vigorously. It's a date. Tess chimes in; she's coming too.

On my way to work I enjoy imagining being on the golf course with the kids, giving each of them turns steering the golf cart. It occurs to me that I need to have a more concrete plan for tonight's rehearsal, but I am unable or unwilling to focus on anything except the sensation of soft warm air washing over me through the window of my VW camper bus.

After work, I hurry home, collect Tess and Colm and my golf clubs and we drive to Buffalo Peak Golf Course. I feel like I'm playing hooky, like I should be at the theater doing something, but the happy chatter of my kids chases those thoughts away. I haven't had a weekday afternoon with them in a long time. Besides, the play opens tomorrow. There's a limit to what I can accomplish with my cast at this point in time. The ball is pretty much in their court.

The kids and I get around nine holes without incident, no golf cart mishaps, no lost balls, and no squabbles. On the drive home, I am last able to focus on the upcoming rehearsal. Last Wednesday's rehearsal had driven home to me the critical need for better pacing and articulation; Thursday had provided evidence of some progress; tonight needs more of the same, only this time in a different venue. The progress we need to make will spell the difference between a run of the mill high school production, the kind only relatives come to and even then fight to remain awake during, and something impactful and impressive. The thought that this show will be little more than high schoolers dressing up in their parents' clothes scares me. That's when I have an idea.

I gather the cast in the Green Room and give them their marching orders. I gesture toward the exit. You're going out there, you're going to run your lines out there, together; you're going to take a walk together. Here are the rules: you must all walk together; if you have a line you must try to deliver it from the front of the group; if you have a monologue, you must lead the group while reciting it; if you are in dialogue with one or more persons, then all of you should be at the head of the group; lastly, you may walk anywhere outside on the campus that cars are not allowed. Focus on pushing cues and on articulation; figure it out and come back when you're finished. They look at me. Go, I tell them. I'm not coming with you. We'll begin the cue to cue when you return.

They file out the door. I follow them to the sidewalk and then watch them stroll off into the campus of EOU, my quirky little troupe of actors. The group as it migrates down the walk and under some large maple trees coheres loosely, like some amoeba. They don't know where they're going, but they're going there together. They have things to say to each other, and they have things to listen for and to imagine which should make the time pass quickly. They should be gone for just about an hour. It will be getting dark then. Then we'll come inside and experiment with light and sound in a darkened auditorium.

Before the kids come back, Sam is able to get in the light booth and begin programming light cues and gelling instruments. There is no way he'll be finished in time for us to begin the cue to cue on schedule. Pizza will keep the actors occupied for awhile. It's delivered to the Green Room and is waiting for the cast when it returns. The actors' cheeks are flushed from their early evening stroll. As they eat, the light and sound crew continue to try to get a handle on things. It's after ten o'clock when we finally are ready to begin. There are only about seventeen light cues in this show, and about half that many sound cues, but the pace is slow. Again and again we restart scenes until we're satisfied that we've got it.

Some of the actors who've never experienced a cue to cue begin to show signs of impatience, not overtly, nobody is short with anyone, but their body language discloses a weariness that is getting close to the bone. They don't realize that the tech crew need repetitions just like actors do.

As the cue to cue drags on towards midnight, actors begin draping themselves over tables and curling up under the bar as if trying to steal a wink here or there. What with the empty liquor bottles and ashtrays (props), they look like bedraggled urchins.

The final cues which constitute the most visually dramatic moments of the play take a long time to sort out. Choreographing the transition of the art slides with Elvis' pelvic thrust proves to be a tricky proposition. First we try manipulating the powerpoint transitions in an effort to match up better with his gyrations but after burning valuable time we listen to the actor who has been suggesting all along that he can cheat upstage and coordinate his movements with those of the slides on the scrim. After that, it goes much smoother. We finally finish the cue to cue after midnight.

Tomorrow morning we have a tech rehearsal scheduled for nine o'clock in the morning, followed by a break to get in costumes and then the dress rehearsal. Hopefully we'll be done with dress by two in the afternoon. The show opens at eight that evening. Get some rest I tell them. As they straggle out, I wonder if they will. We're done walking Picasso; it's time to run it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the process. Always interesting in any endeavor, group or individual. The amoeba stroll seems like it could be transferred to other group projects. Sounds like it not only worked to help coalesce their individual cells/egos into one fluid entity whose leader was going to soon be in the audience, but it gave the rest of you tech time. Good way to loosen the training wheels.

8:31 AM  

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