Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Never give up. Never surrender

It's production week.

After the fiasco with the snow last week, and the loss of 3 days of rehearsal, i was really hoping everyone would come in this week ready to work extra hard in the two days before the show. Yesterday was the tech, and i was on campus at 11, having picked up the costumes from the warehouse (who opened especially, and who have been completely wonderful throughout). I was planning on dropping the costumes and going back home, and then in to town to pick up last minute props before the tech run at 6, but i ended up staying on campus all day sorting out props, costumes and last minute health and safely issues. The main this was the one piece of set i asked my props people to source. over 3 weeks ago i told them that the only piece of set i needed and didn't have was a wooden bedframe/bench, basically a pallet that could double as both a bed and a court bench. Yesterday they said that they had found something which wasn't completely right, but would do. It cost £15, and since it wouldn't fit on the bus i had to pay £10 for a taxi to bring it to campus. It was completely wrong. A 1920s looking wicker love seat. I was so annoyed. There is no time to find something better, so we're using a coffee table from Falmer house common room instead. It looks wrong, but so much better than what we bought.

6 o'clock rolled around and my cast showed up. We have a new guy, also a fresher, doing tech, and he's lovely, and does what he's told, but he's very slow. I was expecting to do a quick line run while he was setting up, then either do a run or a cue to cue with the lighting, but neither of these things happened. In the end we did a speed line run, which wasn't speedy at all, whilst sitting around in our freezing performance space. If i had known it would be so slow i would have just done a run and worked around his setting up the lights. It felt like a wasted evening. Everyone was in high spirits though. Before we started the line run all the boys stood around the piano, improvising a musical version of the play. I might just put that on instead, it was great.

Fast forward to today. I let myself have a bit of a lie-in, much needed, and then headed in to town to pick up safety pins and thread to fix up some issues with the costumes, then back to the costume warehouse again to pick up a dress that was being adjusted, then on to campus to set up the room, go to a dissertation tutorial, and make sure everything was in order so that the dress could run as smoothly as possible. My producer, Sarah, has had a family emergency so she's not around, but being in the space by myself, free to faff about with seating, curtains and props calms me down, so it wasn't too bad. At 5 the cast started to show up and get in to costume. Anisa, the girl who's in charge of my props and costume, was there to sew up rips and replace buttons and generally take care of the cast while i made sure that the dress could actually run as a performance. Emily, who plays Betty Parris, taught everyone a psalm to sing during act 1, which sounds amazing. Then we got to the actual dress rehearsal.

For every run that we've done for the past 2 weeks I've been telling the cast to do it as a performance. This means that they don't ask for prompts, or ask to go back a few lines and do a part again, or break character at any point, or mess about during the breaks between acts. We have yet to do a run where this actually happens, and tonight was no different. The actual run wasn't even bad, it was just utterly lifeless. With very few exceptions, they all seem to be reciting their lines rather than feeling them. There were parts where whole pages of dialogue went missing, people asked to re-start scenes, staging we established weeks ago suddenly changed for no reason. All in all, it was an awful run.

I gave them notes afterward, told them what went well and what was bad, told them that i know it's the last week of term, and that they all have essays and exams and are exhausted, but that none of that is an excuse. I want this play to be good. I know that they are great actors and great people, and i want them to be proud and excited to be on stage in a play that they feel is good, but the only way that can happen is if they all put in all the energy that they have, every night.

They say that a bad dress rehearsal makes for a good first night, so by extension maybe this hellish rehearsal process will make for the best show ever. Somehow i doubt it, but right now all i can do is hope. Hope, and sleep.

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