Letters to Holly

Monday, March 3

Day 14: Scattered

I used the weekend to put the whole script in my head, and by the time we started rehearsing, it was vaporized (the script and my head). When Act One starts, the con man is almost hit by a car. He walks onstage favoring his arm. The actor wants someone to punch his arm and make it hurt for that first scene. I ask him if he's ever heard of "acting." But I had the same attitude when I was his age, and my director said the same thing. (There's a movie story precedent: When Dustin Hoffman and Olivier were making Marathon Man, Hoffman insisted on using some visceral method approach to a torture scene, and Olivier admonished him: "Why don't you just act it?") We have to change blocking because the new sofa is too tall. The murder is moved closer to the audience.

The director adds a rehearsal for Tuesday so we can just sit and deliver lines. The mistress needs it; her whole weekend was shot with the fallout of her friend's death. She seems OK now, mostly tired. I'm determined not to carry the script on the set and work from memory, but we have the line-reader to cue us if we need it. And we do. A lot. Especially as we move to Act Two.

Act One is virtually locked in. I actually hate starting that act because it's boring to me, and the script is very weak here: I bring in a kid I almost run over, sit him on the couch, trade life stories, and he leaves. All within five pages. We have it cold, and I'd rather skip this a few nights to tackle the second act, where we really stink. When I'm offstage (rare), I scan the script for the upcoming scenes, and I'm stunned how little seems to have stuck with me.

And let me now lament the changing of lines, including the addition of dialogue. This brings me no joy. Some of the actors petition to alter words, and in one case we do it because the actor can't pronounce "anonymity." I don't like this happening so late in production. Now I have to remember the alteration on top of the original line I memorized. The wife requests my line about her character change from "wealthy, young -- well, youngish divorcee" to "wealthy, blonde divorcee." When the director asks me if this is OK, I say "just tell me what you want me to say." It comes off brusque, and I apologize and explain I'll say whatever we decide upon. But, no, I don't like actors changing another actor's lines. I wouldn't ever ask that.

She also wants to talk about how we're handling the argument scene and requests I lighten up my tone a bit. We sit on the couch in front of the director, and I explain that the script makes my guy react strongly to her verbal jabs, and his lack of composure feeds her desire to divorce him. He might have salvaged the marriage (and his livelihood) had he been smoother. But he doesn't know how, and he's bitter and pouty, and he digs his own hole. That affects his behavior in Act Two when he pleads his innocence instead of taking responsibility. The director likes my logic, and we stick with the way I've been acting it. Now, I in no way minded her suggestion because I'd rather we talk about where we're coming from than individually try to guess what the other person's doing.

The Act One energy is good because we had a small break, but as the act ends, it's obvious that some of us reach the end of our memorization. And when Act two rolls around, two of the actors are reading from their scripts. I call for lines when needed. But the night drags on for so long that we don't finish the play tonight. We stop about 10:30 with ten pages to go. But it's high-energy stuff on those pages, and we're dead dog tired.

I have to start work on my magnet design soon, and I'm playing with 1940s style movie posters of noir films. I'm also determined to have the script set in my head by Wednesday's deadline.

Pictures and Link of the Day
Rejected Star Wars licensed products (scroll down for the images).

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