Letters to Holly

Tuesday, March 11

Day 18: She Needs to Calm Down

Dad called to say his chemo went well. He didn't sound tired at all, just three hours after. He was told they won't zap his armpit tumor with radiation again unless it grows back. Despite his increased diet, he's still 12 pounds lighter than when he was first diagnosed. That suggests he has a cancer somewhere eat at him. But they can't find it. They questioned his unusual meals stretching back to last August, including the meal we made at Christmas. That floored me, the possibility that I cancered my Dad. That stuns me each time I consider it.

Your Parents return tonight, and I'm picking them up at the airport. I'll do a sweep of the house before I drive to the airport. I already cleaned up the litterbox room.

Act One, our strongest half of the play, doesn't need much tweaking. The trickiest part involves the murder: We see it play out as the murder thinks it will go, and then we see it as it actually happens. They differ a smidge; the wife is much smarter than he expects, and he has to think on his feet. That changes the order in which he cleans up the crime scene. The previous 20 pages of the play are pretty much locked in. My character invites the wandering kid inside, argues with his wife, falls into the murderer's web, and agrees to help kill her.

The director unveils the stage to us, to show off the new lighting. The household lights work so well, we don't need the installed klieg lights. It's a warm set; the director planned out a color palette early one, and it makes for a homey set. We now have an electric fireplace that I activate onstage, and we have new tablecloths and pillows. It's a comforting scene.

What throws us off tonight is the lead prop mistress. She is a bundle of anxiety and negativity. She's always out of breath, and she doesn't know how to wait before asking her questions nor does she know how to whisper. We are constantly interrupted by her fretting over a detail (admittedly, her job), but she asks these questions seconds after the director says we'll worry about it later. For her, it must be done now. I appreciate her making the tea to imitate the brandy and sherry, and she did a great job with our fake bundles of money. But instead of our onstage snack of bread and cheese, she prepares crackers and cheese. Also, becuase we have no drinks in this scene, we're left mush-mouthed as we try to hold a conversation. Before, I was pantomiming, clearing my teeth with my fingers. Now I have to. We quickly learn to eat very little for this scene.

During the rehearsal, she's ten feet away from us speaking at a normal voice, and it rattles us onstage. When we try to start the act after the first murder run-through, she batters the director with questions and then gainsays his answers with excuses: she's old, her eyes are bad, she won't have time. We two actors are onstage quietly chuckling over this, and we trade stories of backstage dramas. Why does this woman want this gig? She's so unhappy. Did I mention she unplugged our fireplace just seconds before I was supposed to turn it on? Can you imagine how joyous this made our director? All these things lead to a much longer run of Act One than we had hoped. The director estimates the act at just under 80 minutes, and it's the shorter of the two acts. If we have all our props and are allowed to deliver the lines without stopping, we can easily cut that by 15 minutes. I'm positive of it. We have to; Act One is eleven pages longer, and it's all jibber-jabber.

In other news, I don't have black plague.

We're nine scheduled rehearsals from opening night, and some of us are still calling for lines. We have to begin ad-libbing to cover mental blanks. Speaking of blanks, we fire off the gun with a half-size blank tonight. The director is very happy with it from the audience, but it leaves my ear ringing. I can live with that.

Picture of the Stage
That's my picture on the desk. The curtains just barely clear the coffee table, and when I'm at the bar, I'm looking at myself in the staircase mirror the whole time, checking posture and hand placement.

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