Week 9: Tightening the Wheel Nuts

photo credit: mag3737
Goodness! Talk about feeling dazed and confused. This weekend was the first back after an Easter break, and 10 days away from the rehearsal room floor. To make matters worse, three of our company were absent; one on tour, and the others MIA. It was a difficult call given yesterday’s schedule which entailed working scene transitions and tightening up of crowd work. The understudies did their valiant best, but it isn’t the same at all.

A minor flurry during the afternoon as one of our dancers fell on to her back during a lift, and winded herself. Anxious moments, ice-packs etc., but like the trouper she is, back on her feet and into it after a while. Dancers are tough nuts! I do admire them.

All up, a scratchy, messy afternoon with a hint or two of anxiety from the creative team. Yes, we’re a couple of weeks out now and the pressure’s on.

OMG! The wheels fell off for me. Today was undoubtedly a step up from the last run which was literally 2 weeks ago, and also the horror run you have to have at some time. Better now than later, but I’m not going to tempt the theatre gods. It was actually only the second full run of the play, and the first for me entirely off book. Three of the company are ill and voices are not back yet so the energy fluctuated within and across scenes.

On a personal note, I kept being distracted during the run by everything. I couldn’t concentrate. There was the proximity to the director’s table (edge of stage), my own self-doubt, keeping up with scene transitions¬† … oh, everything! This distractedness meant that I dropped lines, a whole verse of one song at one stage … I wondered why the conductor was singing; bless her, she was trying to get me back on cue. So what else did I do? Changed keys, flubbed an entrance, and all the other stuff that happens when it ain’t happening for you. It was probably a good thing though, when all’s said and done. It pointed up the critical points in the show that need focus.

I was determined to finish the day on a positive note, so whined a bit and got an extra 20 mins in a private session with the beautiful musical director and the singing coach. That tidied things up and restored some confidence. It’s what we all need right now. On a very comforting note, it’s clear that the director is clicking into top gear now; among other things he’s dropping hints of some of the visual elements that will be backing some of the scenes including mine … kinda Brechtian … signalling what the scene is about. Nice ideas cooking here.

But how I do miss the way I’m used to working, i.e., daily rehearsals over a shorter period. I know why we are doing this, but it doesn’t make the process any easier. I can’t wait for the start of full runs on (an almost) daily basis from next weekend. That’s when the acceleration factor kicks in and the tempo-rhythm of the whole play will manifest itself for the ensemble. It’s still bits and pieces being threaded together.

Improvisational Magic: a TED Inspiration

I often use improvisation with my students in acting classes. It is never entirely ‘free-form’ as is often thought. Improvisation bears fruit when allowed free rein within a ‘cage’ of understood rules … what we tend to call in acting the given circumstances or GCs … the who, where, when and what of a scenario. Add an understanding of the character to these GCs and with improv as the tool you have the opportunity for an artist or a group of actors to let rip imaginatively.

Now I know next to nothing about musical improvisation, though I do get jazz. Here though is one musical improvisor who will make your jaw drop. Jennifer Lin was a 14 year old pianist and composer invited to present at the TED (Technology Education Design) Conference in February 2004. I’d strongly recommend that you get to know more about TED and the treasure trove that is the series of TED Talks. You won’t be disappointed.

Anyhow, Jennifer Lin performs, discusses how she composes and then gets into the business of demonstrating improvisation about 16 minutes into the 24 minute video. She produces 7 cards with the 7 notes of the scale (ABCDEFG) and asks an audience member to select 5. Goldie Hawn obliges … TED attracts lots of interesting people … and Ms Lin then proceeds to improvise on the spot a quite lovely piece from Goldie’s selection of 5 notes (her improv ‘cage’). It’s riveting stuff. There’s more on the site about this talented young woman and the selection of pieces in the talk.

I hope she is still working at her music. She must be all of 18 by now!

Clayton’s Won’t Do!

OK, the rehearsal you’re having when you’re not having a rehearsal … more than a week away from the last rehearsals and I’m getting twitchy. Damn this bug! It gets in your system, you have to keep working away at it. So, yesterday trying to keep in the groove by reading the script, imaging the sequences … all by myself. Didn’t think I’d be wishing away a lovely Easter break, but come on, come on … let’s get back to it!

PS Less than a month till opening night.

Another Night in the Theatre … but O, what a night!


Those of us who spend our lives working in theatre are used to the disappointments that come all too often it can seem. One production somewhere is OK, or doesn’t work … quite, despite the best efforts of all concerned; we forgive and perhaps forget. Another somewhere else can be plain awful … and at times like that you sit in the darkened theatre thinking murderous thoughts about ticket prices and wasted time, and whether leaving at interval is the right move. Every so often though a pearl of a production comes along … a joy of an experience that makes the ho-hum, the ordinary, the disappointments fade away. Hell, they can’t all be fabulous after all, you say … and yes, this is why one works in and for the theatre. Continue reading “Another Night in the Theatre … but O, what a night!”