It appears that someone else is using the rehearsal space as our "set" was moved all around. The full-size play rehearsals are supposed to be at the legion hall, and I don't know who would be using the space besides us.
We had about half our props tonight, and this rehearsal was an exercise in juggling those and scripts and moving as I had directed last week. I'm noticing some issues with my cast.
1) They're approaching this as a "real" play and trying to forgo the scripts. Often they would put the script on the dinner table and walk away to deliver a few lines they kinds sorta knew. That script also has their blocking, and they wouldn't remember them. I reminded them at the end of the night that this is READING THEATRE. I want them to READ the scripts. It's a mobile radio play. I'm tempted to duct tape the scripts to their hands. I said I'd rather they look at their scripts instead of each other. It's not the usual theatre style, but this is the format we were handed. It's not natural movement. It's not typical stage movement. It's stylized.
The script calls for a lot of props, and they are frustrated with the juggling. I empathize, and I told them repeatedly that we can reduce the props to the bare minimum. But those scripts are the lifeline. We have very few rehearsals, and we've no time to memorize. We'll read on our feet, and everything will flow around that.
We've already added a trick with a prop because of the lack of hands. When the mom walks onstage, she's trying to kill a fly with a swatter. The script wants her to do this while using her walker. I also need her to use her script. Three objects and two hands. The matter of script/walker/prop came up before, and I suggested she sometimes leave the walker behind. According to the script, the mom is exploiting her daughter's attention, and she uses a walker only because she recently hurt her foot. What if, I suggested, she only uses the walker when the daughter is watching? And what if there are some moments she forgets she's supposed to be injured, leaves the walker behind, remembers, and goes back for it to milk the pity? That seemed funny, and it didn't require us to add lines to the script. So we'll try that.
2) They're fidgety. Again, the script has a lot of props without a lot of stage directions, and we're working around that. I think our movement, as I designed it, works OK. But in two specific cases, actors are locked in place for a long time. That feels weird when it's you onstage. If someone doesn't move after a page of dialogue, one becomes paranoid. Did the director forget about me? Is he waiting to see how I'll adjust myself? Should I improvise and see if he likes it?
After the rehearsal, I acknowledged this. We've all been there, I said. But it doesn't look weird. It's again not normal theatre movement, but it works for this style of script and theatre format.
3) They're trying to make the dialogue normal. Lots of added "ums" and "uh" to start their lines. They're not lost; they're creating natural interjections. And this is again a stylized script. Sitcoms have those small moments sparingly because it stretches out the delivery. We don't want that. We want snappy banter. We want bing-bang-boom.
Your hero, the director, is brain dead when I get home. This is life-size puppetry, and I'm glad I tried this first with a one-act. The cast have a good attitude, and next week, I'm gonna hammer them on delivery.
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