Tag Archives: hell week

Tick, Tick, Boom!

11 Feb

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You know how in every spy movie there’s a point with a bomb detonator  clock ticking away, and Hero-person needs to cut the wire, but doesn’t know which one, and then while you’re yelling at the screen to, “Fucking do SOMETHING!!,” they finally do…it goes *snip,* but the clock still keeps ticking on…because that’s the rules…and they’re sweating and crying, and you’re sweating and crying…and then for no apparent reason but the magic of cinema, the clock ends up stopping at the one-second mark?

…Yeah.  That’s what this show feels like.

I have felt that clock ticking away since literally day-one. I prepared myself the best that I could for it, and I have been working my ass off. We ALL have. Yet, I have never had a day where the technical aspects settled down so that the acting could have a chance to happen naturally.  I’ve never had a day where the tech, the props, the blocking, the fight choreography, the rehearsal clothes, the sightlines, hasn’t been the real core of what fueled the scene, rather than the situation of the education at hand. And frankly, going into Hell Week, that scares the living shit out of me. 

This is the point already universally recognized as where the Tech takes over and goes center stage, adding the gloss and paint to the show.  Problem is, it’s been tech non-stop already for like two months, and now we begin piling on more.  I’ve already ripped petticoats, torn the soles from my shoe, de-boned my corset, broken a fountain pen, annihilated several chairs …eaten piles of cold eggs, potatoes, and bacon, and racked up 150,000 bruises all over my body.  We’ve had to stage and re-stage so many times for sightlines and set adjustments, that just remembering what version we’re in now is starting to soup up the mix as well, and some of our key-most props and set components are still pending.

Listen, it’s a monster show for everyone here, from Design Team down to the Actors. And none of us are Wizards.  Things take time.  But for every second that ticks away, my body sweats a little bit more, my mind fights to hold onto the things that I CAN control and am responsible for, and I wait…

…I wait, and wait, and wait…

…And fight, and fight, and fight…

…Mutilating this second pocket-sized copy of the script with excessive repeated reviewing…trying really, really hard to have faith that the Theatre deities are going to step in on that last damn second on the ticking clock from hell I have running against me right now…

…And that, for no apparent reason…other than “Theatre logic” …

…We will Open, in nine days…

…Without going, “Boom!”

Fight on Team-Miracle. Lets please live up to the name!

~D

 

 

Back To The Book

7 Apr

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Neat thing about theatre, #586:

…It’s a living, breathing being of process.

Unlike film, there is never a day where the Director yells, “Cut! Print it!”, and that scene is set in stone for all of time.  Sure, you get the occasional “Post” work, but the concept and action and tone of the piece has already been set.  It’s in the can. 

…The only time that happens in the theatre is at bows on closing night.

…It’s one of the frustrating and delightful wonders that you can go 25 performances before you finally get that damn joke dead on and nail it, or find another link with something someone says about your character in Act One. 

Unless you totally close yourself off from being open and playing and connecting with the other actors and audience, you will find a million subtle differences from Opening night to Closing…in simple deliveries with a breath intake here instead of there, of covert covers for skipped lines, and new stresses on words which changes so many meanings, to silent expressions, differently infused energy, someone’s bad day which hasn’t fully been left off stage…to the average cold.  We take all these influences and run with them, which depending on what is thrown in, is what makes the “stone soup” of that specific performance, which will always be different from tomorrows and yesterdays…because live theatre is like that.

…But aside from this technically obvious difference from our film friends, we also get a full rehearsal process not always granted to the camera kids. 

Different Directors rally the cast and run the process as they desire…there is no “set” way, ‘long as the through-line point is to discover the characters as the playwright intended them to come to life, to be true to the text, and mine it for hints and foresight into themes, plot, intents, reasoning, and supporting the piece as a whole.  The Director’s job, is essentially to point towards the destination of intent, and guide you in your work to get to it by rehearsal’s end.  Not because that means, “it’s over,” but rather, “here’s where we congregate in the piece’s space.”  A Director has to be able to not only enlighten and inspire, but goal-keep and referee…encouraging you to take initiative, explore the possibilities and work at unpeeling the onion-like layers of character to be discovered,  while also kicking the ball back in bounds when things go all to hell, and making sure we play fair.  

…Which is where an “out of town” Opening comes in.

The big boys…like Broadway and some of the seminal Regionals do this.  In film terms, it’s the same as a “sneak preview.”  It’s means a soft, limited opening in a less prestigious town, or venue, across several weeks or months. A limited number of seats are sold, used as a tester audience to see where the laughs are, what scenes are too slow, which need a reworking or edit, and when all else fails, when it’s time to start looking at re-writes and more work-shopping.

…For the smaller houses around the country, we usually get one day to do this, which is the day directly before Opening (good, bad or otherwise.)  As you can imagine, this allows very limited alterations to the piece before it’s out there for the general public (and critics)…unless you want to risk freaking out your actors forcing them back into their heads less than 24 hours before there are paying butts in the seats…or a radical intervention is deemed necessary.

…Sometimes, however, this natural stream of events can change in drastic ways as early as Tech, the week leading into Opening. This is when all designers and Artistic Directors and general Top Brass, will be seeing the piece for the first time as a cohesive unit, and this frequently leads to what we call, “clusterfucks”…or “Hell Week.” It is so termed because everything seems to be thrown at you: last minute changes are swapped here and there without ceremony, props come and go and come again, costumes flip and flop are added to and taken away, last minute light adjustments mean blocking changes, re-spiking because of new set pieces, all while you’re breaking in the wobble in your new heels (last worn by a bow-legged cowboy?), rework hair and makeup, adjust to new props arriving nightly…remember lines, and the newest version of blocking…while being fucking hilarious, or tragically horrifying, as the case may require…while pages of changes to all of it, are passed onto you nightly.

…And sometimes those adjustments, three days before Opening, require such a significant hoist of alteration, that you have to go back to the script, take out a pencil, and relaunch into a slam-study session, like a last second finals exam.

It’s good. It’s tight, but the time is there. This isn’t Preview. The answers you are looking for will be there…and the new direction you’ve been pointed is usually not a panicked random adjustment…but often introducing a linchpin that will lock and load that final element that has been missing. If you’re “game,” this can be a final layer-building key, gaining access to that illusive something you’ve not been able to grasp up to this point.

…It can also, because of it’s drastic change in nature, scare the flipping hell outta you.

…But if you think of it like the roller coaster climbing the last clicks to the top before it just lets go out from under you, it helps. The more clicks, the higher you go, the further the free-fall, but the more awesome the overall ride…

…Provided you don’t piss your pants or barf all over the place…

Fortunately, I’m a whiskey-gut from way back. So, “bring on the work, bitches…am totally good for it.”

~D

Paper Tech

7 Jun

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The best night of Hell Week, is technically the first one.

Paper Tech.

…Where the show’s sound, light and cues are plotted and planned by the design and run crews. 

This mean: Actors- OFF.

…It’s usually the only night we get, ‘tween now and the last performance of Opening Weekend.  A fairly brutal run of everythings added onto everything else and slammed up against tons of new toys and clothes and props to side-track you, and not quite enough sleep to process it all.  Tempers sometimes get short, a zillion tiny details you might not have thought about or planned for are suddenly right in your face with immediate answers needed, everyone is hot from too many lights and no air ventallation…and for reasons I will never understand, this makes everyone like everyone else a lot more.

…It’s that old “Band of Brothers” adage.

So tonight, while our tech crews battle on paper, and our costumers battle with needle n’ thread, we actors battle our lines (some more), before tomorrow morning’s first call.  Costume Parade, followed by cue-to-cue, followed by (one hopes) drinking.

…Personally, I’ve just finished fighting the yoga ball, after spending about two hours listening to Benny Goodman and figuring out some hair styles that’ll work with my super-awesome hats (one of which Mdm. Costumer let me take home for just that occasion.) 

We are going to look so ridiculously delicious, it’s just ridiculous.

…And now: I’m off for a shower, and some read time before the Zzz’s take me.

…Take me HARD.

I hope they leave me no mercy.

Long days ahead.

~D

A Memorial Day

8 Apr

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From sun down yesterday to sundown today, sits the observance of Yom HaShoah…Holocaust Remembrance Day.

…Separate from the January 27, UN designated “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” “Yom HaShoah” has been selected and was launched by the Jewish state itself, built three years after the end of WWII.  Its purpose is to mourn, memorialize, and educate…raising political awareness and activism to prevent further genocides from happening both now and in the future.

…And with that: prayers, private observances, public groupings, readings of names, visits to memorials, and silent moments to contemplate and pay respect.

Tonight, our version in the theatre will most likely be awry with havoc — light adjustments, quick changes, prop placements, cue-jumps and any number of personal frustrations that come with Tech week, four days before opening a show.  But I’m giving myself a pointed requirement tonight, regardless of the circus that is bound to explode all around us. 

…Tonight, I’m going to mine some little pocket through all of it, and make a specific point to be especially aware of what the lives of these people mean, who we are portraying, as 8 representatives in 6 million.

…At some point, I promise myself to really listen to the siren blares from the house speakers, consume the frustration of trying to fit and move in small, cramped quarters while sweating next to everyone else equally sandwiched in, find the humor in their eccentricities, give into the horror of their fears, and push to the front of my brain the actual extraordinary feats they daily undertook, just to stay alive.

Tonight, even though it’s mid Hell Week, I’m not going to let the technicalities of how one puts it all together on a stage for people to watch, obscure the reason WHY we are telling this story to begin with.

…With special, intimate, dedicated and personal thoughts of Auguste Rottgen van Pels : a fierce woman of great humor, style, and ball-breaking will…to push me forward.

~D

Shakespearean Saturation

3 Nov

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Two evenings off, going into tech, and I’ve put The Bard on, in love story succession. 

Tonight: “Loves Labours Lost,” and “Much Ado.” 

…The words ring in my head…some sticking for a while to stay and rest there. Ideas and plot lines I know as well as the back of my hand, being reintroduced in new ways only cuz I’ve been living in the headspace of it for little over a month now.

…Great feats of wooing, and anger, lust, jest, mock, and clowning.  A sense of humor is necessary for the journey…and a balance of it and the drama.  Finding the perfect give and take to engage.  That, I think, is the secret and separation ‘tween “well done” Shakespeare, and “not.”

…Then: the lines.  Comparisons, metaphors, sworn oaths, and poetry…some set at a pace, some slow to chew…

…In Love:

“…And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs;
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility.
From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world:
Else none at all in ought proves excellent.”
~ LLL

“I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”
~ Much Ado

“I would forget her, but a fever she
Reigns in my blood, and will remembered be”
~ LLL

***

…In Anger:

“Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman?
O that I were a man! What, bare her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander,
unmitigated rancour,
–O God, that I were a man!
I would eat his heart in the market-place.”
~Much Ado

***

… In Metaphor:

“Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise,
Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affectation,
Figures pedantical; these summer flies
Have blown me full of maggot ostentation: I do forswear them.”
~ LLL

“Is it not strange that sheep’s guts could hail souls out of men’s bodies?”
~ Much Ado

” He hath not fed of the dainties that are bred in a book;
He hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink.”
~ LLL

” Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
-One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.”
~ Much Ado

“Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.”
~LLL

“O, she is fallen Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh!”
~ Much Ado

“Therefor brave conquerors, for so you are
That war against your own affections
And the huge army of the world’s desires”
~ LLL

***

…In Insult:

“They have been at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.”
~ LLL

“O, she misused me past the endurance of a block.
She told me, not thinking I had been myself,
that I was the Prince’s jester, and that I was duller than a great thaw,
huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance upon me,
that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me.
She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.
If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her,
she would infect to the North star.
So indeed all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follows her.”
~ Much Ado

“He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument.”
~ LLL

“Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamper’d animals
That rage in savage sensuality.”
~ Much Ado

“Your wit’s too hot, it speeds too fast, ’twill tire.”
~ LLL

***

…In Comedy:

“Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till
I were married.”
~ Much Ado

“A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hears it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it.”
~ LLL

“For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?”
~ Much Ado

“The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen
As the razor’s edge invisible,
Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen”
~ LLL

“I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much
Another man is a fool when he dedicates his
Behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at
Shallow follies in others, become the argument
Of his own scorn by falling in love.”
~ Much Ado

***

…In Drama:

“Every one can master a grief but he that has it.”
~ Much Ado

***

…Cue-to-Cue tomorrow…(or today, by-the-clock.) A long weekend ahead, but the company is excellent, so onward into Hell Week…with gusto!

~D

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