Letters to Holly

Tuesday, December 12

Day Five: Blocking Act Two

Your Sis and I have exchanged a bug, and I felt a little icky yesterday. I called the director and asked if he wanted me to stay home. He said to do so if I felt infectious, but said it would be an early night for most of us as he was going to block Act Two and its long scene between Daddy and Brick. Gooper appears for the first time here but exits within 12 pages. The act continues for another 40. If it was going to be an early night, I thought I'd be OK to go. Because I work just minutes from the theatre, I stay at the office for an extra two hours, eat supper, and browse online. I always lose weight during rehearsals because I eat so little for supper and don't have the chance to snack heavily as I usually do.

I get to the theatre and shoot the breeze with Daddy and Mama and Sonny, one of the Gooper children. We got an email earlier in the day that the Reverend Tooker role had been recast, and sure enough, there's our new Tooker. The other guy never showed up. The audition room is now marked off to represent the stage. There's a small bed made up of some benches, a row of chairs to approximate the couch, a stool with some glasses and a bottle to make a liquor cabinet, and a bench for a coffee table. Signs marked "DOOR" are taped to the floor on either side of the stage floor. This area is much smaller than the the actual stage, but this allows the director to determine how we'll move around. All the play takes place in this bedroom that Brick and Maggie use.

Before we start, we meet the new artistic director of the theatre, a gal who took the job a month ago. We introduce ourselves and who we're playing, and she promise to learn all our names by the end of the show.

The full cast is here tonight for the first time. Daddy and Brick have blocked their scene, and now we'll construct the movement of the family around that. The family gathers to give Daddy his birthday cake and presents. Gooper and Tooker stroll in talking about items people have bought for the church, including memorial windows. This pisses off Daddy, thinking the two are suggesting a new window might be dedicated for him soon. The kids sing to Daddy and Mama. Mae reveals that Margaret had to buy Brick's present for Daddy. Daddy barks at the women to shut up, annd that sends him over the edge into Rantville, and everyone leaves him alone to interrogate Brick. And then they talk for about 40 pages while people pop in and out of the room.

The kids have done a good job learning their songs already, and the Mae actress is right next to them walking them through the lyrics. This is one of those rare stage moments where you can actually do what the characters are supposed to. The kids don't have to leanr the song perfectly. The stage directions call for the kids to linger a bit longer in the scene, but the director makes them exit early to avoid as much of Daddy's obscenity as possible. We're not so much worried about the kids hearing it; they already have many times. But audience members -- especially the perceived gentile older patrons -- might blanche at the sight and cause a stink. So off go the kids. During this, I will improv some unheard dialogue with the Tooker and Doctor actors while we stand in the background.

Blocking this helps me in two ways. First, I can memorize the lines better. I have many more cues and marks to help me remember what I'm supposed to say. I have a very hard time remembering lines if I just try to learn them off a script. But if movement and gestures and an aural flow of dialogue is included with the lines, I pick them up almost immediately. My mind plays back the scene to me, and I have a better idea why my character says such-and-such.

Second, we move and react to each other, and that builds my character for me. I can work on posture, physical reactions, unspoken responses to the other characters, maybe some shared looks of concern with Mae. In this act, Gooper has to bray twice. Once during Big Daddy's vulgar ribbing of Brick and the other offstage. Because I have to laugh "loud and false" as the directions command, I find myself leaning back and forth from the waist as if I'm expelling the laughter. It physically makes Gooper look like a jerk, and it's something I never even thought about before. I'm keeping it until the director says otherwise.

We slowly block the scene once and then run through it at a quicker pace. The kids are excused for the night as are some other actors. Mae and I are starting to buddy up to each other, and we should to foment that conspiratorial bond. Those that pop in during Act Two stick around and make their appearances, and we end around 9:30. It's not the early night I was told, but I got to watch Daddy and Brick's movements (and their nice), and I sketched them going through lines.

Previous entries:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four

Picture of the Day
And here 'tis.

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