Letters to Holly

Thursday, October 25

Countdown: Six Rehearsals

So here's how the night starts. My tummy is all like "abandon ship," and the clock is all "you're running late for rehearsal," and my theatre reflex is all "Immodium sandwich, now!," and the wife is like "are you OK?," and the little Italian guys who man the switches and levers in my head are like "mama mia! Mrs. Fields cookies are home-baked a-death-a." So I Immodiumize* and drive like the wind and get to the warehouse in record time. And there's no cop or PI, both necessary Act One characters. Turns out the PI is home sick, but this was to be the first night of our young cop, cast just a week ago and not seen since.

*When I did shows in Greenville, I popped an Immodium before every performance. It staved off concerns of onstage discomfort, but I wonder what it did to my innards. In any case, Immodium is an actor's best friend when he's onstage for a half-hour at a time.

We're told the Sunday night rehearsal will be at night at the courthouse, and then there is discussion about who is supposed to make sure we can get in there. We might have an attorney there to help our protocol, and I think I know the guy. I'll be comfortable asking him for details, but, then again, what might be accurate might not be right for this show. Because we're performing in a courthouse, it's hard to say what balance between reality and art we can strike.

Also, we'll have a cast party immediately after the last show, and that means it won't be at our place as the wife had hoped. We'll need to give the names of our final rehearsal guests to ... I'm not sure. The box office? The courthouse security? It's unclear. I don't expect anyone to attend for me except maybe the missus. Or she might stay home and protect the home from Halloween vandals.

I start my opening argument with a clogged throat, and the director asks me to really sell the phrase "disfigured mass" when describing the defenestrated cadaver. We later joke about my wiping off the sole of my foot to pantomime his consistency, and then we riff on the jury or clerk getting sick and out would walk Carol Burnett's maid character. There's a lot of chat offstage, and it's distracting. And a tad rude, to be honest. I stop my argument to halfway turn to the noise, hoping the folks might notice and stop, but they don't. I take a breath and continue. Louder. I glance over to the director later in the rehearsal and see the first guy who rad for the cop last week, the one who improvised wackiness. And I hope he isn't here to replace the young guy who we haven't heard from. The medical examiner reads for the private eye.

Just as we're getting to his scene, in walks the young cop actor. He walks to the witness stand without his script, and I start the scene. And damn if he doesn't have it memorized. Not totally. He has about 90 percent of it. But still! In one week, he hammered that script into his brain. The judge hasn't done that with his month of rehearsals. The cop shakes with nerves when I hand him the prop letter (a fake suicide note, perhaps), but it only helps the character. He asks for lines a few times, but it's clear he knows the lines; they're just nestled deep in the memory. The scene ends, and he walks back to his seat, and I give him a "good job." I'm genuinely impressed and relieved. He stepped up for us. Unfortunately, he leaves before the second run-through. The widow actress works off cards in a few lines, but she has more dialogue and was given the part only a few weeks ago. She's doing fine.

Between practices, the Act One maid tries on a costume, the bailiff and I talk about the annual Halloween 5k. He was there last year, but neither can make this year's run because of rehearsal. He tells me I'm doing an "amazing" job with the attorney, and I thank him. He's also the line reader, so he knows how well I stick to or stray from the lines. I miss two lines tonight.

I really want to wear a suit jacket starting Thursday to work on my posture and gait. I worry that I fidget with my hand choreography. I play with line delivery to play up exchanges with different characters. And I do very well in the second run. The second is always better, whihc means i need to get into my groove earlier so the first run can snap too.

Unfortunately, as I leave, the director pulls me aside and tells me that I was "stale." And this is a surprise jab. She suggests I play with inflections, and I offer that I'll wear a jacket tomorrow to help me stay in character. But as I drive off, I'm steamed. And as I type this, I'm still steamed. I won't be a diva about this, and flat practices are common as opening nights approach.

Having said that, Jesus Christ, I'm doing some heavy lifting with lines, I don't have a full cast to work against, I'm acting opposite people reading off scripts, I have to pause to remind the judge to say his lines (who restarted his five-line monologue three times at the start of the night), we've done Act One seemingly three times as often as the other acts, we open in a week, and maybe she's misreading my low-key delivery as a symptom of boredom. Act One is drab. It's all set-up. The fireworks come in the later acts. I can't hit high notes for the entire play. I'll be shrill and irritating to the audience.

Maybe she's trying to shake me up to give a knockout practice tonight. Maybe. I'll carry that notion today and see if it helps. But I'm still steamed.

Official play website

Countdown: Seven Rehearsals
Clock is Ticking
My Big Speech
Punching a Cop Is Bad, Right?

Act Two Redux
Friday Through Sunday
Getting Serious
Our First Friday
Act Three Lines
Dusting Off Act One
Line Trouble
End of Second Week
'Go and Do Likewise, Gents'
Script Work
Walking and Talking
Marking the Floor


First Night
Second Night
Third Night
Fourth Night

Picture of the Day
Maybe I can be a robot lawyer.

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