Letters to Holly

Thursday, March 13

Day 19: We Can't Dance

I took some clothes to the clubhouse for the director's OK. He picked up a few blazers for me to wear, including a nice brown one. This might determine all my stage clothes, and I volunteered to bring in some khakis and loafers to complete the outfit. The murderer was given a bright red blazer that freaked him out, and my Captain Kangaroo reference was totally lost on the youngster.

In one of those odd coincidences, I encounter two people from the courtroom show, and they both played housekeepers. The first called before rehearsal asking about a dress rehearsal tonight. I told her she was a week early. The other came in to help with props and see the show fresh. We started at 7:30 sharp and were asked to treat this as a performance, asking for lines only in an emergency. That unfortunately wasn't heeded by the prop mistress, who continued to talk in her normal voice while we ran the show.

It wasn't a good night for her. She "whispered" comments from the audience throughout the show, and I suspect that the director is biting his tongue instead of replacing her at this late date. The three youngest cast members (including me) are grousing about her; the fourth stays to herself and leaves after her first-act death. The prop lady made cheese and crackers again, and seems unhappy when I don't gobble them onstage. Again, I tell her I can't; I have a healthy chunk of dialogue and nothing to drink. She also continues to interrupt the director with details that he's already addressed or announced he'll tackle later. The murderer and I are backstage making throttling gestures.

During the second act, she yells for me to grab another glass when I'm pouring the sherry, and I come very close to going off on her. As it is, I yell back a sarcastic thank to the "Mystery Voice." When I'm backstage, I continue to fume about this until I see her walking toward my wing to organize props. I joke that I'll grab the right glass next time and give her a fake smile, and she returns it. Just as fake.

So, in the last act, I got her back. My character reads a note from his mistress (a note hidden by the murderer) and tears it up in despair. The prop lady made a lovely hand-written note , which I discovered when the other actor handed it to me onstage. I open the envelope, scan the letter, and, after about three second of internal debate, rip it into pieces. I hear her in the audience, "Oh, he's ripping it. Don't rip it. I didn't know he was going to do that." And this, everyone, is why you read the damn script. I didn't have to, of course. I could have pantomimed it. But if we're worried (out loud, verbally) about sherry glasses, we're going to worry about following the script. She bemoaned it a bit after the play, and I shrugged it off. As far as I'm concerned, we're even.

Also, during the first act, the director hopped onstage to turn out a porch light, and it completely threw me off. I stumbled over my lines, and the wife actress was in the same trouble. We stumble and ad-lib through it, but (and I don't think I'm going diva by saying this) why the @%$* did he have to run onstage like that? I'm able to cover other subsequent awkward moments fine. I ad-lib past some lines forgotten by other actors. But I manage to dump half a can of Coke onto the coffee table when I didn't account for the liquid. I'm so used to practicing with empty cans. It was a weird night. How weird? When I fire the gun to close the play, a spark flies into the eye of the other actor. He's OK, but it terrified the director. And the courtroom actress didn't get why we kill the wife twice, even when she's told the first time was an enactment of a conversation. It was that kind of rehearsal.

We do manage to slice seven minutes off the first act, and I bet we can double that. We have the next two nights off, and then Hell Week begins. We open in eight days.

Moving Picture of the Day
Ed Norton stars in the new Hulk movie. There's nothing comic-related to win me over by Norton, William Hurt, and Tim Roth make for an intriguing cast.

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