We're only a couple of weeks from opening, and the cast goes through their toughest week yet.
Due to the Gala on Friday, we won’t be rehearsing, so we’ve added tonight to keep us all on track. On the agenda: a full run through of the show, off script. It’s the first time we’ll hear the show from beginning to end since our very first read through of the script five weeks ago. The actors are still able to call for lines tonight, and we’re only down one actor, who is out sick.
Things go very well, with only a few mishaps. We stop to tweak a few scenes. There’s a slightly longer pause when Keith goes to spin the ship wheel on the upper deck and it falls off its anchoring pin, brushing Melbin on the way down. No one is injured, but we pause to check the mounting of the wheel for the scene and put in some precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
It feels like we’re on track for a good week of work.
If last night felt good, tonight feels weird. We’re three actors down at the start of rehearsal. One is out sick, one is just out, and the other is stuck in a work meeting and will join us later. There’s a little frustration, and confusion – it’s difficult to keep this show rolling when some of the cogs are missing from the machine. But we manage to muddle through.
Tonight the actors are no longer allowed to call for lines, and it’s up to them to help each other get through scenes. We make it through with surprisingly few stops, although we do discover a few technical problems. The trunk that Sam and David have to carry down the stairs, for instance, is far too heavy and awkward. What should only take a few moments to do will possibly take them far longer than we have time for. Derek notes the issue and plans to adjust things to make the movement easier.
Afterward, as we settle down for notes, Derek has the leisure to nitpick more than he has before. This is the last time we'll get to run the entire show for almost a week -- tomorrow is scheduled to be music focused, Wednesday will be costume parade and photos, and Thursday is set aside for clean up of trouble spots.
Tonight we’re off site for the last time, due to a concert happening at the theatre. Derek is running late, Gerry is running later – which is slightly problematic since we’re due to work on music only, tonight. Once he arrives and gets going, the production staff work on props and talk amongst themselves until there’s a break. At which point Derek stands up and makes an announcement: due to personal reasons, one of our actors has had to drop out of the play.
There’s a collective wave of stunned looks on the face of the cast. It’s unexpected, and surprising. Derek mentions that a replacement is coming, and they shouldn’t worry, but it’s obvious that the news has disturbed them. They continue to work music, but that sense of being a whole is fractured. For weeks, there have been fourteen of them, bonding, learning together, working together to make this production move and breathe. The loss of someone who they had grown to rely on, and who was a friend, is surprising and distressing. Still, we all understand and respect that his stepping away is necessary, and while he will be missed greatly, we all wish him well.
When you’re doing local theatre like this, the risk of someone dropping out for various reasons is always there. These actors are volunteers, not paid. They are not contractually obligated to remain in their roles, and the theatre understands that, sometimes, real life troubles and obligations get in the way. Sometimes actors drop early – and replacing them at that point is easier. Occasionally (not often, thankfully) someone has to drop during the performance period and actors have to be swapped around into new roles, or outside performers have to be brought in at the absolute last minute. That’s when it’s really scary.
Derek and Jessy, along with the theatre admin, have spent the afternoon discussing what to do about a replacement. There is no understudy for this role, and it’s unfortunately not a role that one of the current actors can double into. Someone from outside the production will have to be brought in, someone we can count on to learn lines at a lightning pace, pick up difficult blocking, and be the missing piece we need.
We’re still two weeks out from opening. There’s time to bring in someone new and get them up to speed. Barely.
There’s still some lingering worries when we all get to the theatre on Wednesday. But tonight there’s just too much to do to for us to be unfocused. We are shooting publicity shots for the show, doing dress parade, and working the dance a bit more.
For publicity photos, the actors arrive early. Backstage, the dressing room is a bustle of confused activity – it figures that the one night that we’re in need of the dressing rooms we’ve been restricted to just one – and the one that’s storing a bunch of clothing racks as well. Costumes are being shuffled to the smaller space, the two actresses are already mostly ready while the boys are waiting for the costumers to locate their base costumes, and everyone else is bustling around on set, making some last minute touch ups to the scaffolding or checking to see what lighting is available.
Eventually, and only a quarter hour after we’d hoped to start, the cast assembles in the house so we can start lining up the shots. Andre Peele, our photographer for the evening (taking the official PR photos that will be used on social media, the website, and other advertising), stands up in the house, while Jessy calls out the scenes and shots from a list. Derek is in the booth, adjusting lighting on the fly (our show lighting will go up later this weekend, so we’re working with a base lightning design left over from the event the night before). The cast looks amazing, and seeing them in their costumes for the first time, under stage lights, you get the sense of what this show will eventually look like.
After photos are done, though, it’s time to really look at the costumes in detail. Derek sits down with Crystal, our costumer, and Jessy, while the actors line up on stage. Derek looks at each costume, one by one, commenting on what he loves, what he doesn’t, and what needs adjusted still.
Some people are perfect just as they are. Others need a little work. Demitri’s pants are missing a button. Bob needs a pocket in his vest. Derek decides he doesn’t want Kenny in a fat suit. David’s glasses frames are too thick. Daniel’s pirate hat quivers on his head like a bird. And on down the list. Eventually the actors change into their next costumes, or add new bits to their existing costumes so they become pirates or islanders, and all of those changes have to be examined and scrutinized. It’s important that the show works well as a whole, that the costumes will function as they need to and add to the look of the show.
When costume parade is finally over, Derek dismisses them to get back into rehearsal gear, and Anna takes over, working on polishing up the mermaid dance again. Tomorrow, we’ll get to meet our new cast member.
On the call sheet for the week, tonight was supposed to be about working trouble spots and scenes. Instead, it’s a crash course in the script and blocking for our newest cast member, Krystof Kage. Krystof may be familiar to long time local theatre people – he often directs, and acts in shows locally, and he’s no stranger to having to step into a role at the last minute. Due to the fact that we’re only two weeks out, we’ve decided not to include Krystof in the second act’s big musical number, which means he’ll only need to learn one of the big musical numbers and a few small musical moments.
But that still leaves lines and blocking. We go through the show, scene by scene, jumping ahead when Krystof isn’t in a scene to get to his next moment. To his credit, his eyes only look panicked a few times, and by the end of the night, he’s at least got a sense of when his lines happen, what the shape of the show looks like, and what he’ll have to be doing.
Due to the Gala tomorrow night, we won’t have a Friday rehearsal, and that will give him two days to look over his script before we attempt a full run on Sunday with him. It’s been a long, stressful week, and we’re all ready for a break.