Letters to Holly

Wednesday, February 13

Day 5: Back to Act One

I managed to stuff 17 pages of script into my head before tonight's rehearsal, but of course it all vanishes once I actually need it. Because this is only our second rehearsal for this act, we need our scripts for the stage movement, and because the lines are right there, the memory decides it's not needed and takes a nap.

The director pulled me aside before we get going to apologize for the late ending on Sunday. I assured him everything worked out and thanked him for the gesture. All was cool. There's some concern between the wife and the murderer involving the minx coat; both have to wear it in the play and it takes a beating when the body is dragged offstage. The director isn't worried, though.

I do manage to occasionally close the script and recite lines, and I feel good about that. I can also tell the other actors are reading at home, and the sense of progress is heartening. I'm trying to physically distinguish my character with posture and gestures and expressions. Again, I look to Jack Lemmon -- dramatic Lemmon, not comic Lemmon. I mean the guy from Towering Inferno, Airport '77, Glengarry Glen Ross, Days of Wine and Roses, etc. That Lemmon is effusive and confounded and irate and boiling and whining, and all of that just pours out of his head and shoulders and elbows. He's almost vaudeville in his manner, but he makes a perfect noir victim.

That's who I think my guy is right now, but that may change: The director has altered a small stage direction that could radically shift my character. The first act sees the con man explain a "perfect murder" to a guy losing everything in a divorce. As the script reads originally, my guy has no idea the murderer is spelling out a real plot; he thinks it's all hypothetical. At the end of the act, my guy doesn't see the murderer steal a key that will let him back into the house to kill the wife. The revision, however, has my guy see the key's removal without reaction, meaning he knows what's going to happen. That affects the inflection of his dialogue for the previous act. He's a co-conspirator, not a stooge. That also colors his subsequent lines when he pleads innocent. I gotta play with this. I don't think we can be unclear about my guy; the audience has to know where he stands, even if he pretends he's unaccountable.

The scene between the wife and husband is the best in the entire play. It's a great argument between unequals, and I think we both chomp into it before we close up for the night. My guy is an utter shit: he offers to chuck his mistress only when he learns he'll lose the house and allowance. On the other side, it's a great act for the wife actress. She takes the stage midway, destroys the spineless husband, and dies twice. All within 20 pages. There's no second act for her. She can put her feet up and gobble all the backstage snacks. Who wouldn't want this kind of role?

The next time we do this act, we're to be offbook. I'll need to recreate the set at home and memorize my stage movements over the next week. And then I'll need to start memorizing Act Two. I have roughly the same amount of time to learn roughly the same amount of pages.

I ordered Your Sister's valentine gift from a local shop, and I hope it gets here by tomorrow. If not, I gotta get a back-up gift at the literal last second.

Picture of the Day
Kanye killed at Sunday's Grammys. I remember we talked about this song in Washington the morning after I saw the video for the first time. Is there a bigger solo star right now? Is he not rock and roll?

In the News
I got home in time to watch the Obama and McCain speeches, and McCain is in deep shit if he has to debate Barack. Obama was speaking to a civic center while McCain was in a hotel conference room, and it appeared as if he had two hundred supporters to Barack's thousands. There's still hope for Clinton (Edwards' delegates would tie her with Obama), but Huckabee can only wish for McCain to implode. The Washington, DC numbers are shocking: 114, 000 Democrats voted compared to the Republicans' 5,700. CNN has outdone themselves with their primary coverage. I watch it for hours.

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