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Cranky In Rehearsal

I’ve been rehearsing the play. I like the director. Especially since he lets me do what I want.

When I got the script, I realized my character was horribly, grossly overwritten. A bad cliché rich woman from a drawing room comedy circa 1932. “OY VEY” I said to myself, “I’m a better writer than the writer of the play I am acting in. I took a chance and decided to be honest.

After the table read, the director told us that if there were any lines that bothered us that needed changing we could discuss it at the next meeting. So we have the next meeting, and nobody else had any changes. And I was like, “Well, let’s go to page 14.” That’s the page my character enters on. And I worked my through the rest of the play. Cutting, burning, slashing extraneous words and lines.

For example, my character is supposed to say, “Oh, you are just too funny,” and I changed it to, “Funny.” Which is actually much funnier in the circumstances my character is in.

The director got it. I love him now.

Fighting stilted dialogue is a losing acting battle.

The director also said to ignore the micro-managing annoying cloying stage directions that are there before and after every piece of dialogue. All I have to see is something like, “she says sarcastically,” to make me lose respect for the writer. I’ll say it however the hell I want. That’s why you hired me.

I’m also getting to know the group I am rehearsing with. I’m a guest artist, and it’s a company and every company has its own culture.

This is a new one. Rehearsal by committee. People have opinions about other people’s characters and what they should be doing. Especially one guy who I have dubbed the “REHEARSAL NAZI.” He takes over. The director says two words and Nazi jumps up and says, “Wait. I should go here, He should go there. She should sit there.” And everybody does it.

The blocking first method (if you can call it a method)is not ideal, but it happens a lot. Organically figuring out where your character wants to go and why is THE ONLY thing that makes sense. Otherwise you get that mannequinesque feeling that you have to work really hard to shake.

You have to work backwards and fill in why you are doing what you are doing after you are already doing it.

I’ve learned the hard way that even though they have given you a stack of postcards and a beautiful email invite for the show, do not send even one of those suckers out until you fell solid in the role. Which may sometimes be never.

There is nothing worse than knowing that people you know are in the audience and that you are moving around the stage nonsensically in a way that shows you are doing what you are doing because the director told you to do it.

But I am staying calm. Aren’t you proud of me? I get to wear a fabulous outfit. I keep reminding myself about that and that and it makes me happy.

And by some miracle, I am quite often able to pull a performance out of my ass even after only counter-intuitive rehearsals. I just lie on the couch and daydream through each scene. It works.

Yesterday in rehearsal, I overheard the rehearsal Nazi tell another actor; “No, you don’t understand. You might think this scene is about you. But actually every scene in this play is about me.” AND HE WASN’T JOKING.

And I found out last night that our first time working in the theater is opening night. Never done that before and if I didn’t have a SENSE OF HUMOR, I’d be scared.

Then the director goes, “Listen people. I want you to take care of yourselves. If one of you gets sick everyone is gonna get it.” Then the stage manager says. “I know, but I’m under so much stress, I feel like I’m a little under the weather already.” And the director says, “WELL, THAT’S OK, YOU DON’T HAVE TO KISS ANYBODY.” How sweet. Since her sickness won’t disrupt the production she can go ahead and GET AS SICK AS SHE WANTS. She can die really as far as the director is concerned, because the curtain WILL STILL GO UP without her. This is how single-minded directors and producers get about projects. I know, I’ve been there when I produced. I’ve had to ask myself if I was putting on a show AND losing my humanity.

I told the director that he was being very Coppola. As in “Apocalypse Now” when Martin Sheen’s heart trouble threatened to hold up production. “He might die,” someone said. “He’s not dead until I say he is dead,” said Coppola. The director just gave me a weird look.

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