Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tech Dress Rehearsal

Friday night, I called Joanne (who was at the theatre, adjusting lights, perfectionist that she is) and asked if we could make one or two adjustments to the lighting for the battle sequence. I knew that to do so would consume a lot of precious time, because that sequence involves a boatload of pre-programmed follow-through cues, all of which would have to be reprogrammed individually. But she cheerfully agreed to soften up the spotlights and lengthen the transitions from snaps to 1 second fades. Very subtle changes to the untrained eye, but she and I both knew that the overall effect would be to "loosen up" the battle, make it look rougher, more haphazard, more chaotic.

And that's what it all comes down to, with a play like this...carefully choreographed chaos. The battle sequence, like the storm in the first half, is meant to occur organically--to deceive the audience into thinking it has erupted unbidden from the underworld (or the heavens) of the play. The last thing you want to do is make the audience break out of the Lear world and think, "Oh my, what a clever battle sequence." But in order to achieve the effect of that spontaneity, you need to exert hours of careful planning and choreography. There's an awful lot of "then" that goes into creating the wow of the "now."

Saturday's tech dress went well, and, although it was a long day, the cast & crew cooperated to make it smooth and enjoyable. Ron and Beverly coordinated a delicious potluck brunch which kept us going all the way till supper--which was pizza supplied by Jaclyn, our production manager. Somewhere in the middle, we ran through the play with absolutely everything in place (except an audience). Melissa fixed Edgar's 4.5 mask at the last minute, so it looks a bit more imposing, and is less likely to fall off during his swordfight. John put a lovely metal "whirlpool" design on the back of Lear's throne. Helen painted the map so that it reads clearly from the audience. Lanterns were lit. Makeup was applied. Sound cues found their final levels. Everything has drifted into place.

The run itself had the same ups and downs as Thursday's (and had almost exactly the same running time). Cues were tight in this scene and loose in that. I can now see that I was extremely remiss in not scheduling at least one Italian run; if I'm going to be this hard-assed about pacing, then I need to provide the opportunities for my cast to improve that aspect of the show. I know it will improve during the run, but likely only gradually; and that's a shame, because nothing tickles critics like a Shakespeare show that just flies by.

I guess I can't really call them "my" cast any more. I'll keep giving them notes after the previews on Monday and Tuesday, but I'm certainly not going to suggest any radical changes; and, indeed, I have already encouraged them to take the play's artistic evolution into their own hands. As I told them, when I come back and see the show later on in the run, I want to see new moments, new discoveries, actors taking risks onstage with the security of a supportive ensemble around them. As an audience member, seeing that energy is by far the most exciting part of theatre. But as a director, it means I'm now officially a fifth wheel.


Blogger cpc said...

Boy, I'm REALLY looking forward to seeing this production!!!! I know I'll be seeing it at least twice (tomorrow night and on the 5th).

As my grandsons are wont to say: one more sleep until the party *grin*.

4:44 p.m.  
Anonymous blindly said...

Gosh, you are not a fifth wheel. You are driving, with consummate skill, an 18 wheel rig, with Helen and others as co-drivers. Your load is a 20+ cast of young and impossibly old thespians, all of whom are willingly knocked about as the truck careens towards its final depot. You are an ace driver, worthy of the Driver of the Month Award. And don't you forget it.

p.s. Why does one have to do that silly spelling thing below? To prove a certain amount of sobriety?

10:38 a.m.  
Blogger Scott Sharplin said...

Thanks for your metaphoric praise; but I intend to trump your analogy on Wednesday by bailing out of the rig while it's barrelling down the highway at full speed.

The spelling test is designed to prove that you are a human being. And that you can see. I don't want no eye-istically challenged types around here.

10:46 a.m.  

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