lundi 25 octobre 2010

A few more thoughts on that damned art form to which I dedicate my life these days.

Theatre is silly, quite like life itself. Time is wasted on the small things. A task is accomplished, only to be undone soon enough. People have to communicate together, try to understand what vision is being shared.
We try to tame fate by scripting lines and preparing lighting and sound cues. When something goes wrong, we desperately attempt to cover the mistake. We think that, if we can get through the show, if we can make people laugh, or make people cry, it'll all be worth it. And it is, damn it! Those countless hours of intense work melt in the face of a smile, a gleam.

"Suspension of disbelief doesn't only apply to the audience" says Adam. And he's right. A comedian was sharing his (frightening) stories of sleep-walking on This American Life and mentionned that, to be a comedian, you had to be in denial, to a certain extent. You couldn't possibly keep on bombing every night at the beginning of your career and climb back on stage the next day if you weren't in denial.
Why do we even bother, again? No idea. But we bother, again. And again.

We had our last run of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog at Touchstone today, only to bring the set to Moravian college, where the show will run for another week with student actors. That means I'm still stage-managing for a little bit. And that also means we performed a show, struck it and loaded-in, all in the same day.
And as Cathleen and I were moving the ladder foot by foot to secure a cable above the lighting pipes, we were reminded of Beckett plays: the tedious, repetitive and relentlessly comic gestures of characters focused on a simple task. It dawned on me: Beckett may have drawn his inspiration from theatre itself, from steady observation and practice of theatre. Because yes, I refuse to think of Beckett as some sort of abstract, brainy author. He was, in fact, quite the practionner, someone who lived in the active voice. Someone who very plausibly moved a ladder, foot by foot, to secure a cable above the lighting pipes.

vendredi 15 octobre 2010

A few thoughts on theatre

It's been a ragged week. A hard tech, a complicated show. But we opened last night, and it worked, and the fudging qlab software system didn't crash in the middle of the show, which is good, because otherwise I would probably not be here to write this. I would still be sobbing.
But we opened. And audience came, and they liked it.
As I was going through this week as the stage manager, I was making a mental list of all the things I need to remember to make good theatre happen, possibly without going insane.
So what I'm starting to do is compile a set of tips for myself, as I learn different jobs. I haven't followed a lot of these tips, so that's why I'm putting them on here, in order to avoid saying to myself : 'Why didn't I do that?' next time. There are some jobs I have yet never had, but the nice thing about working at Touchstone is that you get to see first hand how many different jobs are done.

So, for future reference:

Tips for the actor:

- Make strong choices.
- Research your character. What consistency does the character have? How does he/she move? Laugh? Sing?
- Try different versions of the character. Try out shades and textures. Don't settle for something until the director says to settle. And then, explore the variations of the settled choice.
- Make big mistakes during rehearsal.
- Don't be afraid to act, to do "too much", to be over the top.
- Learn your lines soon in the process and get it over with.
- Drill lines and songs (if songs are involved) on your own, at home, in the shower.
- Don't doubt your ability (Ha! Can't believe I just said that - easier said than done).
- Believe in the power of relaxation. Bad things happen when stress levels are high. Good things happen when stress levels are - level.
- Be nice to the stage manager. Answer emails, be on time, don't be a needy annoying "actor-type".
- Have fun. Don't ever forget that you are a part of a PLAY, and that's pretty darn cool.

Tips for the stage manager:

- Ask questions to all members of the team. Never be afraid to ask questions, because you have to know all the answers.
- Make sure there are many production meetings scheduled, especially when the play involves a lot of tech.
- Keep the actors in the loop. Give them schedules, and rehearsal plans. They love those.
- Never show that you are stressed out (Ha! Can't believe I just wrote that either).
- Always go through cues before the show, do a dry tech. Ignore the world during that time.
- Keep an accessible small notebook to take notes (I have yet to figure out a good system for notes).
- Write tasks to do on post-its, and throw the post-it out once the task is done.
- Always be polite, but firm.
- If people offer help, take it. Delegating tasks to responsible people is a beautiful thing. Take advantage of assistant stage managers, if you ever have the priviledge of working with them.
- Don't be a control freak. Well, try not to be too much of a control freak.
- Be aware of time, make things moving if they are slow.
- Take care of the actors. Encourage them, smile.
- Do your very best to serve the director's vision.
- Do your very best not to give your personal opinion on artistic choices, because that is not your job.

Tips for the director:

- Have a vision and stick with it.
- Be specific when talking to actors. Remember that they can't see what they are doing and that they are therefore highly insecure that what they are doing is good.
- Tweak.
- Communicate what you need with the stage manager.
- Explain your vision to the design teams, specifically, so that they can go do their tasks with a clear idea of what they have to do.
- Welcome artistic input from actors and the designing team. They will often enhance the original vision.

More tips to come....