Another Opening

How is it that one day you say things such as, “There’s plenty of time yet…” and the next thing you know it’s opening night? How does this happen? And why is it that most often when we get to opening I always think, “If we only had one more week….”?

And while I’m asking questions, let me ask this: Why is it that when we move in to the space, doing full-run after full-run, a whole new type of opportunities and options and choices make themselves visible to me and others?

The last few days of rehearsals have been, for me, full of new thoughts, ideas….things I’d like to explore further, avenues I’d like to go down for a while.

bbBut suddenly it’s opening night, and while I’m not afraid to try something new in front of an audience or during a run, it’s doing so at a much greater risk it seems. Even last night as we tried a new idea that had been brought up on the previous evening, it totally threw everyone on stage and in the room. Perhaps it was in a good way, because it was funny and meant to be humorous, unfortunately, most of us broke character.

We’re doing it again tonight, but I suspect adrenaline will be high enough, especially that early in the play, that we’ll keep it together.

Opening is always a little bit exciting, and a little bit scary. This production has had no previews, so we have no real idea how an audience will respond. And while it’s a drama (a rather intense one at that, which includes violence and torture) there are points of broad humor to break the tension.

But does it work? Will an audience take to it? Will they take from it, what we think it’s all about?

I can’t be sure. But, one the other hand, can’t these questions be asked of most any play’s opening night?

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Don’t Stop Working

We’re almost to tech. There’s so much work that’s happened in the past two weeks it feels like both a sprint and a marathon.

There’s an actor in the cast who I’ve admired for longer than I’ve known him. The first time I worked with him I secretly hoped to learn something about his process, because he’s so talented and so interesting on stage. I watched him work, I watched him try different things, and then one day—BOOM. He seemed to be there, miles from where he had just been. I didn’t know how it happened. I didn’t learned a thing, and he makes it look so easy.

At last night’s run-through there was a flash of a moment where I realized he just did that again.

As for me, I was feeling fairly good a couple days ago. I had found new tiny details of discovery in many places, and felt I had fleshed out my work. But between last night and tonight I think I’ve discovered that once it becomes comfortable—read as: I know what I’m doing here, I can stop working—I suddenly feel very two dimension. I find myself making easy choices, obvious thoughts, occasionally getting distracted, and then….I realize I’m thinking about that, so clearly I’m not listening to the others on stage and my work has become crap.

This is not good. This, however, is fixable.

Goals. Risks. Reaction. Listening.

I just need to put it back together. It’s all there.

In other news – the boots the costumer has given me are awesome!

Next up is tech.

Listening and Discovery in the Rehearsal Room

At this afternoon’s rehearsal I discovered we’re at one of my favorite points in the process, a point where we know some things but not everything. A point where we truly start discovering.

Today was a stumble-through: the first full run of the show after blocking and some basic scene work. Everyone is still carrying their script, no one is certain of much of what they’re doing. And, perhaps the real key, we’re getting to the point where we know some of the lines.

And that’s where the fun comes in.

I no longer have my face buried in the script, following along with everyone’s lines. Instead I’m watching the other actors, whether they’re talking to me or not, so I’m starting to be actively involved in the scene. This is a play we almost never leave the stage, and can go several pages before we have any lines or specific action to attend to, so there are stretches of just listening. I could peek ahead, and know what I was doing next, making a mental note of my cues, and I could be ready for them. But during those stretches I was able to explore, investigate the listening aspect, and try to discover how I might need to respond to what’s happening or what it is that causes me to finally say or do something. I love this stuff.

This is the part of the process where reaction and purpose are truly defined, and the more specific the better. It can never be rushed. Every reaction and beat needs to be justified and filled, and it needs to lead to the next beat.

Eventually when the right choices are made, we’ll move on to the refining and polishing, but this—this part right here—is where the real core work is done. The start and stop work throughs over the next several days are going to be a blast.

The Pathway to a Character

I’m about half way thru the rehearsal process for my current show in which I’m acting. At present I’m feeling a bit lost and unsure of what’s working, what’s not. I don’t feel it’s a typical process for me, but this rehearsal is making me become a bit more aware of how I typically work.

I’ve always been an inside>outside kind of actor, at least for the most part. Discovering a character’s want and goals, and how his fears and hopes dictate how he goes after that goal, and all of it, along with other known characteristics (age, work life, health, etc.) determining how he holds himself, moves, speaks….

This project is working a bit differently. Focusing on the physicality and the sound. Shaping it from the outside in, to the point of determining the internal drive.

I think. Maybe it’s just my own miscommunications.

I’m feeling like I’m chasing down this character. My instincts put him one place, my director sends me elsewhere and when I try to go there I seem to end up in a third place.

Usually my path is forward, even if winding, homing in on the final persona and presentation.

This time the path has not always been forward. It’s bounced around, it’s shot across the room, it’s backtracked and twisted 180°.

Right now I’m not sure where some of it will end up. Right now I’m not sure I’ll know it when I land in the right spot. Right now I’m glad I still have a few weeks to opening.

Finding a path

I spent part of today going over the script for the short film I’ll be shooting this coming weekend. Tomorrow night we’re doing some table work and rehearsal, which I’m now looking forward to more than ever.

I play a guy who’s had a recurring dream—for 216 nights in a row—which he’s begun pursuing in real life. He has a valuable notebook where he writes it all down. Last week I picked up the prop notebook, and I’ve started filling it per the writer/director’s direction.

It’s a great tool, not only for the plot but for me to develop this guy’s life. I’ve had to make all sorts of choices: there things that need to appear in the book, and I need to fill in the rest. So it’s quickly pushed me in to specifics about things like:

What time do I get up in the morning?

What clothes do I wear?

What’s my morning routine, and what do I eat for breakfast?

How often do I ride my bike? And where do I go? What do I see?

Just the volume of pages and detail alone are almost overwhelming, and after sitting for an hour, writing random (but specific) notes in various parts of this notebook (with the goal of filling the thing to the brim, less a few blank pages) I started to get a sense of the character’s obsessiveness with this recurring dream. I started to feel the anxiety and the drive, and the power of the dreams.

I started to find a path to the character.