Letters to Holly

Monday, March 17

Days 20 & 21: Techs

The tradition in theatre is for a production to use the final Sunday rehearsal to tweak the lights and sound. It's also, usually, a long haul. You set up the cues during a slow and halting run of the show, take a break to eat, and run the whole show again. It's a marathon. The director decided to split the tech into Saturday, and we arrived that day to see him adjusting the stage light gels (the plastic color filters).

I run lines with the two younger actors, and we learn the mistress actress's dad has been placed on life-support. She now faces the choice of disconnecting him based on his progress over the next few days. It was sudden. She's shattered and exhausted. It's been a bad production, medically, for us: the murderer actor lost a close friend and another is virtually on his deathbed (this is after his dad's THREE heart attacks last September), and My Dad was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. All since the beginning of the year. The mistress spends the entire practice awaiting a phone call from the hospital, and it comes late into Act Two.

A thunderstorm makes for some dramatic sound effects during the show, and we all lament that we hadn't planned on them for the production. We need some sort of low lighting backstage to see. The mistress had planned to dye her hair blonde for the show, but the hairdresser price quote put the kibosh on that. Now she'll wear a blonde wig. On Sunday, we finally tackle my costumes. I now have four costumes, a different one for each scene, and I have to quick-change between the latter ones. The director wants my clothes to become darker as I fall into despair, and it shows the level of production detail he's considering. Also makes me like him more. He has earned our loyalty and trust on this show, and we're more concerned about letting him down than the paying public.

There is one decision I'm unconvinced about. We're going to hit the audience over the head with the "imaginary" murder sequence. The murderer sits the husband down to explain how the killing will happen. We see it onstage. We then go back to the conversation as the husband considers the plan. Then the murder actually occurs. Because the director is nervous about confusing the audience, we've added a line ("Brian, I want to use your imagination."), we're performing the murder plan in all-purple lights, and now we're adding a wind chime sound effect, like the wavy-screen sitcom transitions to memory. It's a bit cheesy. But then he won me back over in what I call The Wine Debacle.

The Wine Debacle
Prop Lady has begin scouring the script with any eye for plot holes, and she's now veering into direction choices. The new bug is a seeming paradox in the beginning of Act Two. When my character arrives back home, he can't find any red wine. The mistress says she used it all for the beef stroganoff. He then offers her sherry. Later in the play, I open a bottle of wine to go with the dinner. The play doesn't say which kind of wine I open later.

Prop Lady: You have to change the line.
Me: Why?
PL: Because you have to open wine after you say there isn't any.
Me: Why can't I open a bottle of white wine?
PL: You don't serve white wine with beef stroganoff.
Me: What's your suggestion?
PL: Say early on "I can't find any red wine open." You have to let red wine breath for 15 minutes before you open it. You wouldn't open up a bottle and immediately serve it to her.
Me: But we immediately drink the wine I serve later on.
PL: (walks off)

When we run the scene, and I pour the white wine, she yells "wrong bottle, wrong bottle." I ignore it. On Sunday, when this pops up again, I take it to the director. He agrees on the correct wine/meal formula, but he doesn't want to change any lines at this point; we get an audience in four days. He says to just open the white wine with the dinner, and we'll suffer through any audience complaints. Much later, offstage, she again says I open the wrong bottle, and I pull the Director Card, the friend of the actor. She affirms he has the last say. But after the rehearsal, he pulls me over and says she pushed for it again. We laugh over her insistence, and he again affirms we'll go with white whine, er, wine.

The Sunday tech is weak. The murderer is getting the Klingon death flu, the mistress didn't sleep, and the effects crew are slow on the uptake. Now, in their defense, the end of Act One requires strict attention because of the two murder scenes involving the same two actors within five pages. But when they have to douse the lights, they don't seem to understand that light switches don't fade out. And we try the various light cues many times. The actors stay loose during the tech time-out, but the murderer is fading on us, and by Act Two (two hours later), he's dragging and losing his lines. The mistress is a zombie. I'm trying to keep moving myself, but we're losing concentration as we stop to work on tech stuff. I stroll over to the clubhouse windows and watch the driving range action.

When we get to the end of the play, five hours later, we call it a day. I'm surprised. I mean, I've had techs that lasted 10+ hours. The murderer says he was in a tech that went 13. I'm a bit nervous. We need rehearsals, but I don't want to torture the other actors. We can come back Monday and knock it out of the park. I hope.

Picture of the Day
We're running out of time!


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