Letters to Holly

Saturday, November 10

Fourth Show

After a four-day break from performances, the script now seems so small and manageable. The physical distance from the courtroom is paralleled by a mental distance. I see the forest instead of the trees. I have a deep sense of calm and habit, and it's so comforting that I refuse to question it and dredge up the anxiety. This is how you're supposed to feel in the second week of a show.

The DVDs of last week's shows greet us as we walk into the legal library. I put the remaining magnets and the Ayn Rand book next to them. There's also a sign-up sheet for the Sunday cast party, and the hostess (the first housekeeper actress) is fretting over who brings what. The director is here tonight, and she wanders backstage a few times, forcing me to hide the book. She also apparently has words with the stage managers over the absence of the light stands.

It was my understanding that a) she had washed her hands of the show once it opened, as is common with directors; and b) she had agreed with the consensus that the lights were both useless to the audience and distracting the actors. We did at least one show without them last weekend, but I'm told they are coming back by Liz's decree.

I find out after the show that Liz was furious about the lights and hounded the husband stage manager about them before we started Act One. According to him, she demanded to know who had chosen to remove them and suggested it was the back-seat director. It's possible that guy suggested we remove the lights initially, but the way I remember it, the managers (who designed and set up the lights) asked us all what we thought of them. Unsatisfied with his answer, the director went after the wife manager between acts one and two to such a degree that she later said she'd never work with this theatre again. After the show, the back-seat director tried to assuage the managers, asking them to come to the cast party regardless of the director's presence. And then he said that she wouldn't be involved with future shows because she's not part of the theatre.

It's not a phrase I like to hear from a company. Now, yes, I believe he's taking a liberty by speaking for the theatre as a whole, and he may have been merely trying to calm the guy. But, you know, I'm not part of this theatre either. If what I hear is true, the director and I have done one show with this group, and this is it. So, technically, I'm not a part of them. Don't get me wrong; I'm not looking to be defensive, and I am already on record as saying I won't come back. But that kind of exclusive mindset isn't healthy for a company this size, and it's yet another unattractive attitude I've heard him display. Even if the director was a bad choice to direct, even if she won't be welcomed back, he'll be there, and the confrontations between them also took place during shows with other directors.

I don't think there's clean side to this, nor one I need to stand on. Neither is brimming with maturity. Nothing I say is going to jolt them into changing their ways, and those crusading efforts can be used better on things like cleaning out my workshop or finally tackling the painting for the living room.

The stage manager husband also says something to me that blows my mind. He said about my performance that he had never seen anyone do something like this. This number of lines with virtually no prompting. From even the limited degree of experience I have, what I'm doing is a given. I have a healthy role in a 90-page script. Secondary Shakespeare characters would have more lines than this attorney. But this isn't the kind of theatre that would try a Shakespeare, I realize. This is a company content to be literally a little theatre, to mount shows small in scope and script, and the role I have might seem daunting to them. But they do big shows in the summer. They just did Fiddler, they did Oliver! last year. Huge casts and large roles. I don't in any way look down at the cast and crew of this show. They've, in general, put in the time and effort that would be asked from a larger theatre. Because of time or initiative, this company isn't doing what might be considered heavy lifting. They've mounting larks. They're having fun. That's no sin. But in that casual air may come a casual ethic, and certainly I've seen an unprofessional one.

The show tonight goes well. The audience is d-e-d, dead, and we can only rouse them with the Swedes and some tension in Act Three. The stage manager from Cat makes the jury, and we make friendly eye contact during my closing argument. I later learn she voted for "Gooper," part of the minority four votes in ultimately a "not guilty" verdict. I'm terrified that everyone can her my starving stomach throughout the play, and I can't quiet it with all the water from the tabletop pitcher. There are tiny line stumbles throughout but we all know the gist of our lines even if the exact wording falters.

After the show, I meet an audience member who played my part during the 1970s production. Turns out, he had two weeks to learn his lines when the first actor dropped out. He admits he used note cards, and this might be what the back-seat director has misremembered. He said attorney notes were a precedent from other productions and more credible to the audience. Maybe he forgot (or maybe not) that the cards were a necessity in a last-minute casting.

I check the DVD quickly when I get home. Thankfully, the camera panned away from me during last Saturday's mental hiccup. The camera missed it entirely, maybe by design of the cameraman. If so, thanks muchly. This is an image from the DVD. It's fancy stuff, complete with opening music and credits.

This is when I'm questioning the first housekeeper, the second witness of Act One. Both my suit and feet look ginormous. That's the defense attorney and defendant in front of me. You can see how we sit facing the audience.

Official play website

Rehearsal Party
Third Show
Second Show
First Show
Biding Time
The Last Rehearsals
Countdown: Two Rehearsals
Extra Drama
Countdown: Three Rehearsals
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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi all. How are you?