Letters to Holly

Wednesday, February 20

Day 9: Act One from Memory

The director called me earlier in the day to ask about stage managers. The folks he originally asked can't work the show, and he wanted to know about the couple from the previous show, which apparently has entered lore as That Show. I told him I stayed out of the backstage, onstage, and online ugliness until the stage managers were impugned. I had to speak up to defend them. I told him I'd work with them again in a heartbeat.

I ran my lines as I drove to work, took a lunch break, and drove back home. This was the rehearsal I'd dreaded since the first night: 25 pages, no script. I got to the warehouse a little early and met with the other actor; we didn't run lines, we just shot the shit, escaping the anxiety for a minute. The actress playing the wife had been in Florida for a week and learned her lines driving there and back. Everyone caught up in chat for a bit (including some gossip about potential new buildings for the company), and we two actors sat on the couch, eager to get to work. Finally, the director called us to order, and we started. His wife observed our lines while he checked our stage movement.

It went really well. The lines were there, mostly. I'd say I recalled 80% of them and even recalled the preceding cue lines. I made sure to not recite those when the other actor had trouble; that might be overbearing. But I could have, and I'm competitive enough to be proud of that. It was a fun atmosphere. We'd cracked up at mistakes, affirmed our lines with the reader, and ad-libbed lines when we obviously went off the rails. We all knew the gist if not the specific words, and the director instructed us to nail down the exact wording. Even when I was offstage, I kept my script closed. The blocking was sporadic. I couldn't remember where I was supposed to stand until a few lines later, and I remembered from where I was supposed to walk away. But the director was patient with us, and we'd often hear our directions and redo the page to cement the movement.

I'm happy with last night. It was a big relief, and just working without the books made the play lift off. We got to focus a little more on props including the glasses from the bar. They make for great props, and they let you adjust posture, gestures, and breathing when you pantomime drinking. But now that I tackled en entire act in two weeks, I know I can learn the second act in the same amount of time. The pressure's off.

The director held the two male actors a little later to walk us through our initial conversation. But what he really wanted was for us to inject some natural manner into it. He told us to forget the lines, and just talk. Improvise the conversation. Be our characters and go with the plot. And we did, and it was easily the most illuminating rehearsal moment I've ever enjoyed. The other guy (still in high school) was up for it, and I was simply writing out loud, something I do with my comic stuff anyway. We went for about ten minutes, coming up with pretty good lines and jokes, and then we introduced the topics of the divorce and the will and the murder, and the other actor starts to lean in to sell the hit, and I joke with him to distance my character from the situation.

And right then, the director jumps up, stops us, runs up to us, and says "that's exactly what I want." The instinctive movement and attitude. Two guys talking. A clear distinction of background and experiences. Just that easy. Our mistake was trying too hard to "act," and the director showed us how , to use the cliche, to be in the moment. It was a moment of clarity so crystalline that I couldn't stop smiling. And if we can repeat that onstage, the audience will be in our hands the whole way through. We left the rehearsal practically hovering, and there to greet us was a red half moon.

I got home before Your Sister did, and she walked in the door asking if I wanted to find a meadow to watch the eclipse. And we did. We even saw two shooting stars. It was as good a night as I could ask for. And I get tonight off from teh play to eat wings and watch Lost.

Picture of the Day
I'm pretty sure this guy was already gone when the moon snuck into our penumbra.

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