Letters to Holly

Friday, May 15

Third Rehearsal

The mom actress wanted to arrive early to practice her entrance, and this is a clear sign she might be my problem child.

It's not a difficult entrance. She walks in chasing an imaginary fly. She smacks the table with her swatter, walks over to the phone table and kills the fly by smacking the table three times. First, she forgets to go to the first table. Then she can't smack the table three times and say the words "die, die, die" at the same time. This happens in similar ways throughout the night. She can't say her lines while she's moving, and I make her do one scene three times to speed her up. When I was in Glass Menagerie seven years ago -- seven?! -- our director had the same trouble with that mom actress and chided her daily with "walk and talk." That phrase flew out of my mouth this night, and I worry I've cast a bad actress. But what could I do? She auditioned.

The other actors have some trouble with their movement but not to her level. At the end of the rehearsal, the actor suggests I put my thumb down on the mom actress more. I tell him I'll give her some leeway during our next rehearsal (almost a week away) but will be demanding the next night. This doesn't placate him. But the conversation is over. I've explained myself, and I've talked about another actor behind her back. I'm not proud of that. Conversation over.

This actor and the actress playing his girlfriend are feeling the burden of working with a weaker actress. They ask me afterward how they should approach their characters, and I again explain that they don't have developed characters. This is a sitcom. There is no soul-bearing monologue. There is no depth. And we are NOT to shoehorn anything into the play. We work the script we have been given. The actor was on the committee that chose this script over the others. He should be further along in his approach. He's adding dialogue, and he's not sticking to the script. He may not realize that my stern Thursday rehearsal next week will include admonishing him too.

He's also pushing for a cake to be taken out of the cake box and clearly visible on the dinner table. He just thinks it should be seen, he says. I tell him he's welcome to find a cake that he wants to carry onstage and choreograph with the other props on the table. If he wants to carry in a real cake along with his script and other props, have at it. It's not my complication. Of course, we'll have to rehearse with it, so he'll need to buy two cakes. One for rehearsal, and one for the performance, as I have no intention of delving into a week-old cake. Go ahead, I say, take charge of the multiple cake props.

I end the night by telling everyone to mark their scripts clearly so they are ready to say their next line. If their lines are split among two pages, write the rest of the line on the bottom of the first page. Tighten up the delivery. Don't say it faster; start your line quicker. Next week, we hit the cadence, and I again I quote my Menagerie director: I'd rather reign in a zealot than raise the dead. Louder and quicker, that's your homework.

And I need a drink.

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