Letters to Holly

Monday, October 29

Countdown: Three Rehearsals

Skip down to read the Saturday post first, yo.

I spend Sunday watching the NFL's much-ballyhooed regular-season game in London's Wembley Stadium, the final location for the zombie movie I rented Friday night, coincidentally. This game saw the winless Miami Doplhis and the New York Giants execute the most broign game I've ever watched in front of a sell-out crowd. Because the pitch is cut differently for soccer, running was tricky for players used to lush grass or astroturf. The rain made the field extra slippery, and the game quickly became an endless succession of small-yardage run plays followed by tackles that ended after players slid 15 feet. People were cheering for pass attempts, that's how bland this game was. Miami lost, dropping to 0-8.

I drove to the courthouse for the first time since buying the wedding license. The courthouse renovation is still under way, and as I walk in, the bailiff is installing the new metal detector. I find the coutroom, walk in, and am bowled over by the expanse. It's obviously meant to double as a public forum. The audience section tilts down to see the court, and it's a handsome wooden facade. The space is comparable to what we mapped out, but there are two large stations for the clerk and stenographer. The latter is right between the attorney table and the witness stand, and this greatly dismays the director. We can't move it.

We do move the attorney stations, tilting them inward and moving the chairs so the lawyers and defendant face the audience. The audience has the old style chairs to sit on for two hours. The wooden seats you'll find at small baseball stadiums and elementary schools? Yeah, it's those. But I get a swank leather-ish swivel chair. And the table is huge. We could recreate Frankenstein's monster with these things.

We're joined by the newly appointed defense attorney for the region, a guy I've met socially. We both have lazy eyes, and I later joke to the missus that we manged to both stand in the other's blind spot. He walks up to me and asks what he's supposed to do tonight. I tell him he's to make sure we don't break protocol or courtesy in our attempt to balance theatre and reality. He mentions the lawyers facing out, and the director notes our concession to art. Then he notes the prosecutor should be the one siting near the jury. Again, the balance skews to art. We have a conflict of script vs. room vs. adviser vs. habit.

Let me cut to the punchline here: He leaves after the first act becuase we're virtually doing nothing realistically. And that's fine. See you later, thanks for playing. I'm not sure we should try to alter our protocol this close to opening night anyway. we're already adjusting our movements becuase of the new floorspace. The bookend clerk and stenographer stations form a cul-de-sac ending with the judge's bench, and we've rehearsed standing between the witness and the jury, a bit of choreography that's trickier now. I have to squeeze passed the defendant and her gangster love whom I hate with the hate of a thousand hating haters. Not realistic, but again this is theatre.

We have a three-person jury, made up of friends of the director and the defendants's real-life son. The jury box is right next to the defense table, making us stand behind those folks while talking to the jury. The new digs are intimidating initially, but I get the feel for the room and its great acoustics within two acts. I unfortunately really have to pee after a noontime grande pumpkin spice frappuccino.

Most important, for the first time ever (and we open in five days), we have the full cast. The cop even has fingerprint proofs to hand me, and this throws me. It's never happened before. I have to ask for a line. Everyone has a bit of line trouble as we adjust to the courtroom, so I don't feel too bad. Let me also note that this is the second appearance by the cop actor, and he's got his lines down pat. I like this kid. I dressed casually so I wouldn't fidget with a suit while making new footwork and projection patterns.

We practice out entrances and exits times with lighting, and the actor/photographer/back-seat director complains about the casual air as we wait to go "onstage" for Act Two. His efforts to be professional would carry more weight if he expressed them in a more professional manner. During Act One, as I'm running my lines, I can clearly hear him talking in the very back of the audience space. I give him a look, and I think he catches on.

The jury laughs at the right times, and they intently heed the lawyers as we talk directly to them. I wonder how much they're performing too. They're not distracting at all, and I appreciate that. The gangster seems to blossom on the witness stand, and he could very well steal this play. He could even change the jury's minds if I'm not careful. The third act has a palpable emotional flow, such that I'm just trying not to derail it by overacting. When I get to my closing argument, it comes out like a song, like an aria, and part of my head is sitting back and watching and enjoying it. I can again feel the room focus on me; the air is different, the room is intently quiet. It feels great.

As the witnesses take turns standing up to recite their key lines, and give the jury time to deliberate, the first batch face the judge. The back-seat director is livid and barks out "jesus christ, we're supposed to face the audience," and I'm biting the inside of my cheek. I say this without exaggeration: I've never seen someone demand professionalism in such an unprofessional manner. It's inexcusable. When he's onstage, he's a pro (if prone to ad-libbing to fill what he sees as dead air), but off-stage, he's becoming an asshole. He tries to dilute his comment after, saying it's the obligatory rough night before we open. And yes, had these people been at more rehearsals, this section would be tighter. But you don't loudly complain about other actor's delivery while they're still delivering their lines. That's horseshit, and if I didn't have to share a lawyer table with him for seven more nights, I'd light into him. As it is, this guy, more now than anything else I've seen, will keep me away from this theatre in the future. He won't share the sandbox, and he doesn't play nice. I won't subject myself to two months of this attitude again.

The jury votes guilty, but the son wanted to hang his mom, I'm sure. Doc and I agree to start counting the decision beginning with the open dress rehearsal Wednesday night. That will give us seven total juries, meaning one of us will be a clear winner.

We pack up after the rehearsal and reset the courtroom. As I've heard nothing from the costume lady, I'm bringing in my five-dollar suit on Tuesday. We ran the show within two hours tonight, a fine running time, I think.

Official play website

Countdown: Four Rehearsals
Countdown: Five Rehearsals
Countdown: Six Rehearsals
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
When Your Sis drove back home, she hit the package store and bought us beer and cider. A whole LOT of beer and cider. On the left, you'll see two 64-ounce jugs of Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Your Sister is a good wife.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that is quite a bounty!