Thursday, June 19, 2003

Whatever Happened to WHtM???

Well, the week's almost over and I know a few of you have been waiting for an update. ... Sorry. I've been very busy relaxing...

So, what happened last Sunday? Last Sunday was the staged reading of Whatever Happened to Me, my third full-length play, the last in the "Comedies About Loss" series. The idea of having a staged reading was sprung on me rather late in the day - only a few weeks before the reading itself. The play wasn't finished. I didn't have a director. I didn't have rehearsal space. But I knew that opportunities like that don't come along every day and I had to take it.

Then, I finished the play. I directed it. I acted in it. Rosa offered her patio to rehearse upon and, at the last minute, withdrew her offer. By this time, it was really feeling like me against the world and I decided, "To hell with the world, I'm going to do this!" I found rehearsal space. I cast the show. I went to the Chance to see what kind of space I'd be working in and I blocked around it. This all took so much time that I was still scrambling the day before the first rehearsal. The next day, waking up exhausted, I got up and got myself ready for the first rehearsal.

There were two rehearsals and one read-through. Well, read-throughs are nothing. I mean, if the staged reading was just a bunch of people sitting around reading to you, it would have been great. But performances are much more than that. On to the first rehearsal.

First rehearsal was... bad. Just plain bad. Stinky bad. But everyone I was working with had plenty of experience. I gave them lots of feedback on their parts, made everything clear to them - by the end, I was exhausted! Thankfully, plenty of them promised to help me. In fact, each cast member contributed a great deal for props and costuming, helping me immensely. And I was grateful.

Second rehearsal. Now, we were on the ball. Unstoppable. The cast was FUNNY! I loved it! Everybody hit their marks, remembered their cues, had reflected on my notes. They were fan-freakin-tastic! On top of that, we had all of our props. Things couldn't go better.

There's an old saying in theater, though. "Good dress rehearsal, bad performance." I'm here to tell you, it is SO right. Wondering how?

... Watch.

I got to the theater at about 7pm. Showtime was at 8pm. Calltime (when everyone was to show) was at 7:30. The show before ours was still going on... so we waited.

By 7:15, the entire cast had arrived... but the show before ours was still on... so we waited.

By 7:30, I'd started smoking - something I've been laying off of... and the show before ours was just getting out. They still had to clean up... so we waited.

At about 7:45, they let us in. I was ready to scramble in there and get to work. Except... except... the stage looked... um... different. This wasn't the stage they'd shown me. This wasn't the spaced I'd blocked the show for. I politely asked what happened. "Oh, this is a different show," I was told. No kidding. The stage I'd seen had been occupied by two table-like blocks from both left and right sides of the stage. Now, the blocks had been broken down into little hill-like structures on each side. I asked, "Can we restack these so they look like tables?" "No," I was told, "They can't be moved."

"Can't be moved," I asked, lifting one. "What do you mean?"

"There's bare stage underneath. We can't have that."

"But I blocked my show for a totally different stage. You told me it would be totally different."


Giving up on that for a moment, I went to the large, rebar-ish, tree-looking, kind of structures that occupied stage center. "What about these? Can I move these?"

"No. Those can't be moved."

"But this is supposed to be a person's apartment!"

"We can't move them. They weigh 350 pounds each."

"Do they," I asked, lifting one. "If they do, I must be really strong!"

I moved them as far off stage as I could. We dug up something that could be a kitchen table on one side. On the other side, we had a three-foot tall drafting table. How embarrassing!

But it got better.

I had asked John Bolen to describe the stage for me when he introduced the show. After all, I figured, if they'd been bastards enough to screw with my blocking the least they could do would be to explain what the audience was supposed to be seeing. He only explained about half of it and I wanted to kill him but I was backstage, getting ready to act.

The play started... and I really wanted to die in any millions of ways possible. At least half of the blocking was thrown right out the window. Major goofs by everyone (including yours truly). Just stupid errors!

Then, when we finally got to intermission and I thought I could rally the troops for a better second half - they kept acting! Right through the intermission! They didn't even give people a chance to go to the bathroom!!


Well, people said they liked it. That's all that matters, right?

As for me, I'm going to lay off the writing/directing/acting for a while... and have a few dozen martinis...

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