Letters to Holly

Wednesday, December 6

Day Three: Reading Act Two

Because another theatre group is using the building for their Christmas Carol, we move a few blocks over to the Arts Council office to rehearse. I've had a week off while the Act One folks design their stage movements (this is called "blocking"). Gooper is only heard in Act One. He strides the stage in Act Two briefly, but again becomes one of the Greek chorus voices during the Brick/Big Daddy throwdown.

All three acts occur with not time passing during intermissions. Act One starts with Maggie telling Brick the family is walking into the room, and Act Two starts with them entering. In this act, Big Daddy hits the stage, owns it, proclaims his philosophies, confronts Brick about his drinking, and learns he is dying of cancer. Our Big Daddy actor is making his third run at the character and is already performing during this, our read through. We're seated at a small table, intimately arranged and going through Act Two like a radio production. The director reads stage directions aloud.

We still haven't seen the person cast as Reverend Tooker. He hasn't appeared at any rehearsals, and I assume it's because of lingering family illness. I hope he would have told someone if he planned on dropping the show. Speaking of dropping, Cory (Big Mama) shows us a calendar of actors from a recent area production of The Full Monty. She tells us that one actor quit the play in the last weekend because he thought his sister was treated shabbily by the theatre. She brought a small baby to the show and was told to sit in the far back so she could remove the kid if it made noise. She took offense and left. He took greater offense and quit. The theatre was in the right. I've tried to act over screaming kids in the audience. All you can do is wait for them to inhale so you can get your lines out.

The reading goes well. We eat some of the cookies Victoria brought, and after the read we discuss the act. The big question concerns the brothers: Just why does everyone hate Gooper? He was their first child, he's eight years older than Brick and should be a shoo-in for primogeniture. But he's a dick. Big Daddy says repeatedly he hates Gooper (and his wife and kids) and manages to admit he respects Brick even as he's yelling at him about his marriage and drinking. It could be anything really; Williams offers no hint as to why Gooper is bad, and I prefer it that way. He simply is. We know that he's closer to Mama but that even she prefers Brick and calls him "her son" to the exclusion of Gooper more than once. It does explain why Brick feels such weight; he's expected to make up for Gooper's churlishness.

The actress playing Mae suggests Gooper is a bit queer in every sense of the word, and she makes sure I understand she means the character not the actor. I laugh it off. I don't mind giving Gooper a degree of softness, and I even think it's needed to contrast with Brick. There is a direction that Gooper utters a high, shrill laugh offstage, and I've already thought of imitating that of Big Mama, to underscore his (relative) closeness with her and show that he takes after her while Brick takes after Big Daddy.

There's some talk about what the brothers would have done on the estate, all 28,000 acres of it. Leslie estimates that at 45 square miles. What could they have done? Act as overseers? That reminds me, Big Daddy has already dropped That En Word from the script and now refers to the fieldworkers as "field hands." We still don't know if we're gonna smoke onstage as the script demands. Gooper lights up a cigar early on, and it will kake for a great props. Cigarettes are the best friend to an actor. You can use them to dramatically adjust your breath for line delivery, and it gives you something to gesture with. I've smoked onstage before for Glass Menagerie, and aside from a brief period of smoking with my college girlfriend (she thought it was sexy), I don't smoke. But rehearsing it didn't give me an addiction, and I chucked my last pack when Menagerie ended.

But audiences lately have become downright bitchy about smoking onstage. Even dry ice will induce some folks to cough, and worse, exaggerate their coughs as a form of protest. Theatres nowadays will post warnings in the lobby about smoking, alongside notes about nudity or language. Do we use fake cigars? Do we just not light the ones we carry? This decision will not be made by me, but I can go either way. I've never smoked a cigar and don't know how much different it is from the Camels, Basics, and bongs (again, college; they did nothing for me) I've puffed before.

My concern now is practicing that laugh.

Previous entries:
Day One
Day Two

Her Teams
New England (9-3), NY Jets (7-5), Oakland (2-10)
Philly (6-6), Detroit (2-10)

My Teams
Miami (5-7), Pittsburgh (5-7)
Philly (6-6), Carolina (6-7)

Carolina may need a new QB as Delhomme is throwing it unwisely and giving away points. They have to win this week's game with also-shaky New York to have a prayer of making the playoffs. But if they don't fix the QB, they shouldn't bother. New England remains the best out of our picks, but they are not even in the top three teams in their conference. That would be Indy, Baltimore, and Cincinnati.

Moving Picture of the Day
This is good. Liu Kang and Ric Flair have a whoo-off.

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