Letters to Holly

Saturday, March 8

Day 16: A New Stage

The set was moved to the clubhouse of one of the many, local gated communities. We're performing at the usual haunt for this company; they don't have their own theatre space, but this clubhouse is the closest thing to it. And when I say clubhouse, you need to imagine the swankiest conference area of a major hotel chain in a large city. This is a huge building, and our stage is inside a multipurpose room.

The stage is on wheels, and skirting hides them and makes that half of the room look like a solid structure. The set looks small surrounded by blue drapery, but it feels like just the right size for this kind of play. I did a version of Barefoot in the Park about ten years back, and this is a show set in a tiny New York apartment. But our staging took up the entire stage, and we were loping about when we should have been scrunching past each other.

It was a trick to get to the community tonight. I met the murderer early so he could follow me there, and as soon as we hit the mountain back roads, the fog dropped in, and we had to drive at a snail's pace. It was dumb luck that I managed to turn on the right roads to find the community and then the clubhouse.

We walk the set initially to adjust. The coffee table and sofa are much closer now to avoid the curtains, and the chandelier will need to be raised so we don't bop into it. The floor squeaks in spots, and we'll need to remember where the loud seams are, or we'll sound like we're aboard a pirate ship. We have tea acting as whiskey for the first time tonight, and I spend the show trying to ration it and pace my drinking. The murderer is desperate to practice drinking Coke onstage so he can time his belches. We joke that he'll need trucker buddies hidden around the stage too. We practice our projection in this new space too.

I muff some words late in the rehearsal, but by this time, we're almost an hour past our allotted time. We stop a lot during the night to fiddle with this and that, and the other actors are having a hard time with lines. They're so anxious about this that the director has to pull them aside and calm them down. This is why we have a line-reader, but we won't have her for too much longer; we have to grow away from that crutch. It's a light-hearted rehearsal thought as we ad-lib over mistakes and react to ill-timed sound cues. When I pick up the phone for the first time, I'm halfway through my lines when the recorded ring blares out. "Hold on, Sheila," I say, "I've got a call on the other line."It's that kind of night. The mistress actress and I are getting chummy, and I think our scenes will provide a relief from the play's tension. This would be a great cast for a comedy, by the way, and we could easily make this play into one if we had the notion. I joke that, because my character drinks the entire play, I should do one performance imitating Dean Martin.

I again get some compliments on memorization, and I joke them off. The memorization timeline looked daunting and felt daunting, but it was feasible, after all, proving again, this director knows what he's doing. I can't say enough how encouraging and patient he is with our mixed failings, and he gently tempers that with admonitions to study the lines. I think he's going to talk to me next week about over-emoting in the play's conclusion. I worry I'm getting hammy.

Did I mention there's an 8.5 x 11 picture of me onstage the entire time? That I spend a lot of the play looking at myself? That I feel like an egotistical magpie for staring at it every once in a while? Are you surprised to hear this from a guy doing community theatre?

I also meet the stage manager, a guy I saw a few times during the last play, and one of our prop masters. Well, "prop mistresses," but that always sounds weird.


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Anonymous said...

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thanks for the community theater updates. they are the perfect break from cramming for the physiology midterm.

and thanks, too, for the updad update.