Letters to Holly

Monday, January 8

Day Seventeen: Molding the Gooper

We're two weeks from opening night, and this is my first Sunday rehearsal. The stage has an expanded set (see below).

You might not be able to see it but the back of the set is not a full wall. The big windows will float in place. The same trick was used in Greenville's Glass Menagerie set to suggest the play is set in abstracted reality. So far, Gooper is the only one who walks behind those windows (as he searches for Big Mama), and I wonder if the audience will see just one actor move there the entire play and think it was a mistake.

We start at 6:30 instead of the usual seven. The theatre is holding auditions for Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing backstage, and we're to use the lobby bathrooms. I remember that book fondly from my elementary school days. While Act I commences, I ask the theatre office manager (with whom I share a high school) about the show and whether certain scenes from the book make it into the play. Big Mama wonders if her son will get a chance to try out; he's currently playing Gooper's eldest son.

I mentally run through my lines as the play continues. Tonight I try some new acting touches in hopes of fleshing out the role a bit. Now that the lines are solid, I got to get to acting. There are two considerations at work:

1) This is Tennessee Williams. It's not naturalism. People say and do things in stylized manners. Yet Gooper is straight-forward. He has no wasted lines, no heavy repetition, no space-staring monologues. So should I keep him a grounded, focused guy, or does he require some arched style to keep him in the same play as the other roles?

2) Whatever I discover works for Gooper has to be set quickly to maintain consistency. We're within 2 weeks of the first show. I can't throw off the actors, and I'd like to have Gooper fully realized by next Sunday's tech rehearsal.

The show goes by pretty well, and the growing set helps. Grabbing a prop or leaning on furniture allows for body expression to work with the lines. Unfortunately, Gooper does little more than pace and stand. And that leaves me with idle hands, and I worry I'll repeat my gestures too much. Hands on hips, fingers kneading the forehead, arms crossed, hands wringing. Except for a moment I improvised early on, Gooper doesn't touch anyone. He is physically isolated. There is a moment at the end where he stands at the bar, and I hope to dramatically slam down a glass to show he's barely holding back his frustration.

Big Mama has stapled two script pages to the wall so she can read her offstage phone calls. I've seen this twice before in my other two county theatres, and it's something I can't do. But then again, I'm not a mother with a full-time job. Whatever gets her through the night, it's alright. There are some calls for line tonight, but we've been away from the stage for two days. This is the time to do request help. Next week, when we're a few days from the opening curtain, we'll work on improvising our way around mind blanks.

We finish about 9:15, and the director gives us notes. We're all seated onstage, and he has detailed instructions for everyone. I'm to slow down my offstage lines, and I can easily do that by getting prepared earlier. We're all told how to pronounce "reverend Tooker" -- it's "took her," not "TWO-ker" -- and Mae and Gooper are complimented on their moment of mocking Brick in Act III (one of Gooper's most dickish, older brother moments).

I make notes about how to move differently in the next rehearsal, hoping it will underscore his frustration with the proceedings. I want him to leave the stage defeated. The play has no concrete conclusion. It ends, yes, but the story is not definitively over. I want Gooper to sell the probable post-curtain story.

Previous entries:
Day One: Reading It Through
Day Two: Act Two
Day Three: Reading Act Two
Day Four: Talking It Through
Day Five: Blocking Act Two
Day Six: Act Two Redux
Day Seven: Reading Act Three
Day Eight: The Da Gooper Code
Day Nine: The Laying On of Hands
Day Ten: Pictures and Pages
Day Eleven: Onstage
Day Twelve: Memory
Day Thirteen: The Quickie
Day Fourteen: The Lines
Day Fifteen: Act III Anxiety
Day Sixteen: Let's Just Get It Right

I spent the weekend hanging out with some Bervard College buddies. One drove into town to meet a date, and the other is a beaming mom of a two-year-old. Much food was eaten.

Eight teams remain, and Your Sis and I have chosen two of the survivors: New England and Philadelphia.

Picture of the Day
The set, it grows.

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