Letters to Holly

Monday, February 5

Day Thirty-Four: Slapstick

It's a gamble to skip a line-through between performing weekends, even if you've been off-script for a month. I believe it's been a month to the day since we started rehearsing without the scripts. The concern isn't so much that you'll forget lines (although it's inexcusably possible) so much as you'll forget the rhythms. I mentioned last week that even though my brain could accept that no time had passed between performances, my muscles knew better. Tonight is a night we must chalk up to five days away.

I didn't look at the script since last weekend, and only then because my mind somehow forgot the word "eventualities" while I was reciting lines backstage. I don't like looking at the script as my mind takes new photographs of the script pages and erases what I had saved and used before. This smooths over the grooves in my head that allow my mental record-player to produce the lines. I also haven't run my lines since Sunday's show. My mind would start them during the time away, and I would turn the channel to anything else.

When I awoke today, though, I knew I needed to dust off those grooves, and I hit the shower and ran my first two acts' worth of lines. This takes less than two minutes. I didn't want to go through my Act Three lines until I was backstage and repeating my normal performance routine. Don't jostle the jukebox. Don't reinvent the wheel. Acting is habits.

After a surprise dinner date with Your Sis at a local burger joint, I went to the theatre and handed out the magnets. They went over well, I think, and people asked how I made them. The kid wrangler stated I had too much time on my hands. Yeah, I s'pose. The time away had left the kids with a surplus of energy, and they are virtually exploding with antsy volume. I feel pretty blase about going back onstage to start this last weekend. I feel no anxiety nor do I feel senior-itis to end the run. If I had more to do, I might feel the pinch of obligation. Even without reciting my Act III lines, I can feel them at the ready. You know the gangster movies where someone thumbs through a stack of bills and feels confident all the loot is there? That's what I feel like. But the time away, like I said, can make old movements feel awkward, and things go awry.

First, Big Mama has a door problem. She makes her appearance by trying to barge into Bricks bedroom. She grabs the doorknob and complains that it's locked. Before Maggie can unlock it and let her in, Mama walks around to the other bedroom door to enter. But tonight, Mama grabs the knob and the door jumps open on her. She doesn't manage to wiggle the knob in place. I'm standing offstage with her for my shouting lines, but I can't see any of this. I only know something's off when she tip-toes by and whispers "the fucking door came open." When she comes back offstage, she says it ruined her concentration, but she sounded fine to me. I try to reassure her.

When I get onstage in Act II, I see just how small a crowd we have. The snowy weather has kept folks away, and this is our smallest crowd since we opened. I get my lines out, carry the cake OK, and get off with no problem. I even finish my Tom Wolfe novel. But the crowd is detached from us, or rather we don't have the zest to win them. Big Daddy doesn't get the usual reactions. Our timing feels off, the show feels slow. Mae slips a line and says "Did you call for Big Gooper, Daddy?" That leads to some off-color jokes. When Brick falls to the floor in Act To, his glass breaks for the very first time. Daddy scoops up the pieces without missing a beat, but Victoria asks me to warn everyone backstage to be careful. We're somewhat used to watching the floor by now; we've stepped over ice puddles for two weeks now. By the time Act III rolls around, it feels like we're wearing Jacob Marley's chains.

First of all, someone in the sound booth goes crazy with a microphone and fiddles with the volume. This causes waves of hum feedback coming from the fake radio onstage. It's obvious to everyone in the theatre. We're practically yelling over it. We're all shooting looks to figure out how we can walk over to improv a reason to disconnect it. It's all we can do to keep ourselves from stopping the show cold and asking them to fix it. No one does, and eventually it dies down. But it rattles Mama, and she drops a line. Mae covers well, and we move on. But the show feels like it has no life despite our proper projection and emotional marks. And when we take our bows, and the curtain closes, I'm ready for hard liquor.

I do have to mention though that the reverend and doctor nailed their lines tonight. It made the murmured onstage banter between the three of us a little lighter.

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
Day Seventeen: Molding the Gooper
Day Eighteen: Goopercalypse
Day Nineteen: There Is Not A Doctor In The House
Day Twenty: Back to Words
Day Twenty-One: Getting Technical
Day Twenty-Two: We're Ready When You Are
Day Twenty-Three: Socks
Day Twenty-Four: Our First Audience
Day Twenty-Five: Calamity
Day Twenty-Six: Opening Night
Day Twenty-Seven: Second Night
Day Twenty-Eight: The Show You Saw
Day Twenty-Nine: Brush-Up
Day Thirty: Back to Work
Day Thirty-One: A Spreading Plague
Day Thirty-Two: Cast Party
Day Thirty-Three: The Cast Gift

No comments: