Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"We'll get to it."

The first preview of my new comedy play, GOING GOING GONE is tomorrow night. A few seats are still available at discount prices for tomorrow night’s preview. We open Saturday night (and are sold out). But a few discount seats still remain for Sunday’s matinee. For the past several weeks I’ve been reporting on the ongoing process of rehearsing a play.

Last weekend was tech.

That’s when all the technical aspects of the play have to be worked out and assigned. In other words, all the stuff we've been saying "we'll get to it,"  well, now we have to actually get to it.   Because my play takes place in the pressbox of a baseball stadium there needs to be crowd background, cheering and booing at various times. In short, there are over 100 sound cues and 47 light cues.

Cricket, our sound designer, built all the cues on her laptop. How did they do this for OKLAHOMA? All of the sound and light cues get built into one computer program and during the performance our stage manager, Emyli just plays the cues in order. What this requires of course is someone with experience and great concentration. I must say, I’ve been super impressed by the craftsmanship and dedication of everybody on the production staff. This is a small theatre. No one is getting rich. And yet everyone is pouring their hearts and souls into the production. There really are still people who do it for the art. I’m even more touched because I’m reading the book on CAA where no one does anything for the art. It’s all about money, power, and fame. (I’m enjoying the book but have to take a shower after each chapter.)

These were two long days. At 10 AM the set, sound, and lighting designers came in to tweak and prepare. The actors arrived at noon. We then went from cue to cue – getting in and out of each scene, setting any sound cues (like phones ringing or the crowd cheering), making sure any props were in place, etc. You don’t realize it but there are a thousand little details. We have food being eaten in the play. So a microwave has been set up backstage. Media guides and statistic packs are at each reporter’s workspace. The laminated media passes each journalist wears have been custom made. The costumes are carefully selected. And this is just for four actors and one set with no costume changes. Again, how the fuck did they do OKLAHOMA?

For the actors it’s a lonnnnng day. Noon till 8:00 with a dinner break. Unlike previous rehearsals where they were doing scenes straight through; now they’re starting and stopping random segments multiple times. For a large percentage of the day they just stood in place as the lighting and sound was constructed around them. Acting is HARD. Then you add memorization and the tedious process of tech. It’s a real good bet you’ll never see me star in one of my plays.

And for the director, Andy Barnicle, he has to tie it all together, convey his personal vision, and keep a constant eye on the clock. You’d be shocked how fast five hours go by during tech.

On Sunday the cast did two full run-throughs with all the sounds and cues, along with notes in between. We’re almost there.

And now the part where unexpected things happen. Arnold Palmer passed away on Sunday. And in the play there are two pages of jokes about Arnold Palmer and his drink. Not derogatory jokes mind you, but still, in light of his just passing I didn’t feel it was appropriate to do any jokes. “Too soon” as they say. So I had to go home Sunday night, scramble, and write a whole new two page scene. I think it works, but I haven’t seen it in front of an audience yet. You come and decide.

This week the set is being painted and final touches are being applied in all departments.  Last night and tonight are Dress Rehearsals. Next up, YOU. Thanks for coming along on this journey. It’s not Moss Hart saving a play in New Haven (see the book ACT ONE), but it is the process and very exhilarating.

12 comments:

Carol said...

Tech Week in theatre is more commonly known as Hell Week. Long days of sitting around while the light cues get figured out, everyone is tired and cranky, something always goes wrong, and you start to wonder why you signed up for this in the first place. Then you get to opening night, and you remember.

Break a leg, Ken!

Jerod Butt said...

Will the play be available for purchase? (Perhaps with the Arnold Palmer drink pages.)

Cliff said...

I'm really looking forward to being able to attend next Friday. I arranged a trip to LA working to overlap with the play. Can't Wait.
Cliff

Covarr said...

The community theatre I'm involved with is doing Disney's The Little Mermaid. We don't open for another three weeks, but even so I find myself concerned at just how close we're cutting things. We've got an overwhelming ten sets, yet we haven't even started assigning pieces for set changes yet, let alone rehearsing those changes. We've not once rehearsed with anything but house and work lights; if our tech crew is working on that I don't know anything about it (I'm merely an actor, playing Sebastian, and not really involved in tech on this particular show). What I do know is that we've got far too much tech to go through, particularly with sets and lights, to wait until our last week of rehearsals to get started on it.

And then there's music cues. We don't have room for an orchestra (we have a small corner we usually use as a pseudo-orchestra pit for the 3-6 musicians we might have for a given musical, but it's currently being used for one of our sets, which due to its complexity needed to be permanent for the duration of the show). So instead of live instruments, we have pre-recorded accompaniment. Much of our dialogue and most of our set changes need to be timed to that music, yet we're still working on those cues; we haven't even gotten to the point of starting to fine-tune most of them.

Despite all this, I'm not concerned at all. Live theater has a way of coming together just in time. It's fun, during hell week, to see every little potential disaster just work the way it's supposed to mere days before opening. I'm not sure why our board decided that a show as ambitious as The Little Mermaid was a good fit for a tiny community theater with very limited budget and only 135 seats, but I'm sure glad they did.

I wish I could see GOING GOING GONE, but I very much doubt I'll be able to afford a plane ticket down to LA, get vacation time from work, etc. I can only hope one day it's available for licensing, because that's the only way I'll ever get a shot at seeing it.

ELS said...

I'm a community theatre actor, and I love live theatre. (Well, maybe not Hell Week quite so much... :) )

Break a leg - I hope the show gets dynamite reviews and sell-out houses.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to hear about the business end of playwriting.

Say I'm 22 and newly arrived from Genesco, Illinois. I've got the most brilliantly written piece of art since Deuteronomy. I've got an apt in the dumpy heart of Hollywood and 12-year-old Toyota. Now what? I don't know anybody in LA and I don't make friends easily. Nobody back home knows anybody in LA. I'm ready to knock on doors but where are the doors? How does this business work? It's not like there's an ad on Craig's List for "Playwright Wanted." What, at the most basic fundamental level, do I do to get started?

Unknown said...

sorry I can't be there. i'm always interested to see how movies/TV/plays depict journalism and sportswriting...

Anonymous said...

When your father and I did the Milline Club Shows, we never went through any of that. It was mostly fun, beginning to end...

Joseph Aubele said...

Going to be in the audience Sunday afternoon, my wife and I saw "A or B?" and are looking forward to this new production!

Steve said...

That raises what might be a good Friday Question: What do you do if a death or other event happens between taping a show and broadcasting it makes some of the jokes seem in questionable taste?

Wayne said...

Your interests this week are your play and teaching comedy.
There are many books on screenwriting.
Any books you like on playwriting?

Question Mark said...

The Simpsons episode airing on Sunday (the day Palmer died) had an extended riff on the Arnold Palmer drink. A truly bizarre coincidence, and obviously one that couldn't be altered...in fact, I think the news of Palmer's death broke just shortly after the show aired.