Letters to Holly

Saturday, March 29

Day 29: Fourth Show

Virtually all of us are in low gear. The next three nights seem like a chore, and the consensus keyword is "mellow." We're all mellow. Once we get in front of the audience, we're fine. It's a good crowd -- almost 90 -- and, like most first audiences of the week, they are primed for a good show. They're so jazzed that they respond to things in the first scene that previous audiences let slide by.

They're chuckling and enjoying themselves, and everything goes fine until the wife sits on the couch. It's then that she skips ahead in the script. It's only for a few lines, but it's enough to rattle her. She manages to improves later when we get to that line again, but it knocks her out of her groove for the rest of her night. I don't mind; it helps me make the scene tense with our arguments. But we lose the crowd. You can feel it when something odd happens onstage. The barometer changes. We don't get the crowd back until the second act, in the third scene that's becoming a comedy bit between the odd couple of the murderer and the husband.

We're planning on getting the director whiskey as a production gift, and a quick call to his wife before we take the stage gives us the brand he prefers. I'll try to pick it up today before the night's show, and we'll give it to him at the cast party tomorrow.

The show goes fine, but it feels much longer tonight. I ran my lines during my commute; at high speed, I can spout them all within 45 minutes. Any audience member who doesn't like the show Friday night has the courtesy not to say so as they leave. Two shows to go.

Friday, March 28

An Updad

Dad called last night, following the day's checkup, to say he got a good report. His blood's good, the growths have minimized, and he's even gained weight. He has another chemo on Monday and a CAT scan to check the internals, but so far, so very good.

Your Sis took today off, and while she prepares for the Sunday cast party, she'll also have her brakes looked at. She asked the cleaning lady to come by this morning. She came very early. I met her for the first time as I was leaving. I knew she arrived becuase I could clearly hear her talking on the other side of the house while I as in the shower. She talks like a fire siren.

I'm looking forward to ending this play. I've had my taste of free time, and I crave more. I noticed again last night that restaurants have the previous show's poster in their windows; I wonder what happened to all the ones printed for this show. The magnet cards look great, and I'll apply the magnet tape tomorrow. I need to talk to the other cast members about a director gift, and I'm leaning to a bottle of whiskey as my character spends the whole show drinking.

Picture of the Day
This is the teaser poster for the second X-Files movie. The series lost me after it ignored the progress made in the first film, and I can't say I'm eager to see this. But an extended X-Files episode focusing on its best elements -- conspiracy, cynicism, bizarre mutations -- could be good for a weekend movie.

And that's a nice design.

Thursday, March 27

Day 28: Last Rehearsal

I honestly can't remember the last time I had a full runthrough between performance weekends. It's much more common to have sit-down linethroughs. But I understand why the director might want us to treat Wednesday as a show minus the audience. This show relies on tech timing and prop placement. We can't afford to lose our flow. But the majority of people present hate this full-serve practice. Prop Lady and the mistress, especially, are unhappy. The former didn't bring the crackers and cheese for the first act (I replace them with pilfered Cheerios backstage), and the makeup lady didn't even show up.

Your Sis came along to watch and talk to folks about the cast party. One crew member was worried about our preparation and casual demeanor to the point that I had to hand her off to Your Sis because she wouldn't listen to me anymore. We expect 30 people max. The crew member thinks we should prepare for more, so we both asked her separately where the other people were coming from. And as the crew member ticked off the potential attendees, she arrived at a number below 30. Really, I think we have this covered. We've done this before. We packed 15 people into one room last year for a linethrough, and we had leftovers for a week. This Sunday, we'll use the whole house and the back deck.

Also present was the previous show's Backseat Director, and he was taking photos of the play. Except he wasn't. Even though we were in full costume on a full set with all the lights, he wasn't happy with the blocking. When he wanted to take a picture, he completely rearranged us for what he considered the best photos. They're up on the theatre's website, and they are as stiff and bland as the pre-production pictures. He also only knows two angles: eye-level and high-angle. No birds-eye view, and everyone is on the same plateau; there's no variance in body placement. While he takes the pictures, he repeats his various photography rules (visible hands make a photo more interesting, what works onstage doesn't work in pictures, etc.), and he never says "please." He can't win with me.

The photos take longer than we'd like, and we begin the rehearsal 45 minutes after we're supposed to, and when we take the stage, we zoom through. Forget acting, we're reciting. We finish half an hour early even with full costumes. And, again, we're changing tech cues. While we rehearse, the director takes pictures offstage, and we freeze momentarily when we hear his camera chirping to warn of the photo.

I haven't looked at my script since Saturday, and all the lines are there. I stumble for a split-second when I get distracted by the kitchen staff and the offstage tech conversations, but all my material is still locked in la cabeza. Just three more shows, and I get my free time back to garden and paint and play videogames and run and cook and see the missus.

Picture of the Day
Here's the magnet for this show. I wanted to borrow the style of the True Detective magazines full of lurid criminal plots. I took the photo of the murderer and hid his eyes and dampened his neck definition to make the image a scoash more androgynous. I also changed his shirt to pink and reddened his lips. The show director is also the artistic director of the theatre, and I wouldn't mind making the company's posters.

Wednesday, March 26

Scorched Earth

Your Parents brought over a bag of tarps no longer used on their woodpile. After a quick trip to Lowe's for metal anchors, I stretched them over the designated garden space. The tarps, not Your Parents. I cleared away all the bushes and shrubs and ivy last fall and hoped the winter would kill the remaining overgrowth. Now, we're going to cook it away. The tarps should stay in place for about a month, killing everything underneath it. Then we'll till the whole garden swath and plant whatever we decide to try this year. I still need a to rent a woodchipper to make mulch.

Your Sis is still working toward an active three-day weekend, and I am dreading going back to teh show for the last three nights. The time away is addictive.

Picture of the Day
I don't need an excuse to post a David Bowie picture.

Tuesday, March 25

A Possible New Play

When our performance ended Sunday, the director handed me another script for a murder play he'd like to do this year. In fact, this was the play he almost staged this year. He gave me the copy and told me to tell him honestly what I think of it.

I read Absolutely Dead yesterday, and it's remarkably similar to our play. I think it's because there's a sub-genre of mystery plays crafted specifically for older theatre repertories, and we can call this subset Evil Youngsters Are Punished. Because so many "little" theatres are powered by retirees, they mount shows geared toward a similarly aged audience. These theatres are usually meager in funds and resources and can't compete with the flashier companies that attract younger crowds and actors with risky or expensive productions. Little theatres can't take a chance on offering a show that will repel their core patronage, and they develop a niche. One always knows the kind of show they'll offer and the general tone of them.

Which isn't to say bigger theatres are always more interesting; my hometown company can't break away from the old stalwarts of theatre, and they're fare is inspiring for neither the cast or audience. There will always be theatres that take the safe, dull route of offering Our Town and Oklahoma! and Oliver and many shows that don't start with the letter O. I imagine the fear of losing a fanbase is palpable for the theatre committees, and they generally schedule shows when they know they have the actors to try them. No theatre around here will mount 12 Angry Men because it's so damn hard to find 12 men of any disposition for community theatre. This dearth leads to gender-bending efforts like the female Odd Couple. Why is Greater Tuna so popular? You only need two guys and a heap of costumes. It's a cheap show.

Which is how the kind of script I was handed gets made. Absolutely Dead calls for eight people, six of them over the age of 50. A retirement party in Connecticut (also the setting of our play) has family and friends bicker over who will replace the patriarch at his company. A big storm hits, no one can leave, the father dies, and then others start dropping like flies. The only ones left are the young kids who, of course, are in cahoots. But we learn that she's setting him up and has helped fake all the deaths. This elaborate hoax is all to get him to confess to a murder eight years prior. The revived adults corner him, the girl abandons him, and he's dragged off to jail. Then the adults toast their cleverness and success against the Evil Youngster.

So you can imagine which role I would be in the running for. And I might be more inclined to audition (read: show up and be handed the role) if I didn't have three performances left in the current Evil Youngsters show I'm in. As flattered as I am to be considered, the new play has a lot of problems. Let me apply my bullets:

  • The name. Absolutely Dead is a giveaway that someone ain't. Its a horrible name for the show as it doesn't give one the feel of what's to come. Hostile Takeover or Dirty Business or something referring to the corporate subplot would be better. I think the giveaway name is meant to let the audience immediately know that the Evil Youngsters are a step behind the Wily Seniors from the get-go.
  • The plot. I'm fine with the storm-trapped tension amid a sequence of murders. But the fake deaths occur solely to draw out a confession for an old murder. Why not simply apprehend the Evil Youngster for all the attempted murders he's committing this night?
  • The morals. The boozy wives are revealed to also be faking their intoxication, and, besides that, drinking is as fundamental to these kinds of plays as the murder weapon. It's excusable drinking for an often-moralistic audience. But not only do we find out that the two young lovers are actually half-siblings (after a long-ago neighbor romance), but we learn that everyone except the Evil Guy knows about it, including the Fake Evil Girl. In fact, the Evil Girl withholds this information even as she literally woos him into completing the murder scheme. So does everyone else. They all secretly encourage his efforts to court her so he'll be comfortable in confessing to her later. But this is ignored so the audience can cheer Evil Guy's downfall. This needs its own bullet point ...
  • The FUCK? This gaggle of old people are OK with the Evil Guy sniffing around his half-sister? She's OK with making out with him (onstage; so there would be that perk for playing the guy, I suppose)? She's also OK with pretending to murder her dad if it leads to Evil Guy admitting he killer her mom? Why don't all these people simply confront him if they all suspect him? Why and how do they manage to craft this elaborate plot without him knowing it? They all know he killed someone before; why risk him actually killing someone during the ruse? How can they know a storm will arrive and keep him in the house? Of course, he has to think he's a smartie so the old audience can be smug in his downfall. This is porn for old people.
If we ignore these details, the atmosphere of the play could be good. It would be tense and violent. But if anyone bothers afterward to consider what deliberation and skulduggery occurred to make the events possible, I think they'd feel cheated of a good story. I gotta give him the script back tomorrow at our rehearsal.

I noticed yesterday that an Asheville theatre -- the one where I played Gooper -- is producing a stage version of Misery. Now THAT could be fun. You have maybe four cast members, a small set (bedroom, hallway, etc.), and one person who spends most of the time in bed. I'm probably too young to play the bed-ridden author, but it would be different from the play I'm still in to get my attention.

Your Sis is taking Friday off to help prepare the cast party out our house. She started Saturday, and I think she's eager to apply her infamous teaching work ethic to something outside a classroom. I'm considering the subject for my first painting in ten years, and we're going to cover up the garden soil to burn away the overgrowth.

Dad is doing OK. A little thinner up top and on the scale, but he feels alright.

Picture of the Day
Cute Batman

Monday, March 24

Day 27: Third Show

We are dragging. We are pooped.

We thought Easter would make for a tiny audience, but not only is the clubhouse golf course crammed with duffers, but the dining room is overflowing, and they spill into the stage room to join our audience. We have close to 50 people for the matinée. I don't even look at my script this time. This will be our seventh performance in eight days; if I don't have the lines by now, screw it. Also, I think that if I were to look at my script, I'd slip into an exhausted rage. Which would probably look like a grumpy nap.

Some small notes about lights and blocking start the day, and we file into the locker room early to avoid the increasing audience members who seem OK with waiting in their seats for an hour. Your Sister is going ga-ga for planning the cast party, and I give the rundown to the cast and crew. I'll send them directions and the menu later in the week.

It's our first show in the daytime, and the sunlight creeping in from all sides diminishes our blackouts. We can also clearly see everyone in the audience. The entire second row is there to see the murderer (mostly family), and they're reactions affect the play a bit. Nothing bad, mind you, but one of my rants against him in the last scene becomes a comic monologue when they get tickled by my insults. I feel like I do OK. So much of my role is in the voice as my stage movThey all applaud well and give us lots of compliments on the way out, and I just about fall asleep driving home.

I am looking so forward to doing virtually anything else tomorrow night.

Picture of the Day
I can't convey how hilarious this was when I was in high school. It was never not funny. We thought quoting Monty Python was the way to woo girls back then.