I wish I could say I’d forgotten how tiring this work during the day, rehearse at night thing is, but honestly, my memories of life during my days as God’s Gift to Theatre (and self-delusion) are primarily of exhaustion and the crankiness borne of same. And desperation. And fulfillment, And drugs. And really good sex. Ah, good times, good times.
What? I’m sorry, what was I saying? Oh, yes. At this point we’re a little less than a week from opening Shadowlands, a play which is my – perhaps temporary, perhaps not – return to the Legitimate Stage. An old friend from the aforementioned Full Metal Theatre days called me up last November and asked me to come out of retirement – again – for the show (he did this almost five years ago with one of my dream roles, Van Helsing in Dracula). I had been chafing badly at the murder mystery dinner theater I normally do on Saturdays, where I am something of a big fish in a small pond. I’m doing shows I have been doing for damn near twenty years. It’s not truly acting anymore, more an exercise in timing, and worst of all, by my reckoning, for an often drunken audience who regards you as a sort of low-rent 3-D TV, something that can be talked over or to, as one does in one’s very own living room.
Nothing is worse than drunks when you are, yourself, not drunk.
So. This is not a stellar role, a main character. I guess it could be referred to as a featured role, as unlike the other actors who are not in the four main roles, I only play the one character. (Fine by me, I’ve certainly done my time in the utility player capacity). But I do also have to move set pieces.
Ah, there’s the rub.
Shadowlands began life as a BBC teleplay, which was then adapted to a stage play (and eventually the Anthony Hopkins/Debra Winger movie); the stage version retains the sweep of the teleplay, moving from pub to Oxford to Lewis’ study to Greece to hospital room and all points in-between. Usually this is done with lights and scrims and the like, but this theater has no fly space to bring curtains and the like in and out. Instead what we have are five screens – well, they are referred to as screens, but what they are is full-size replicas of the monolith from 2001 on casters., with different visual elements on either side. When the scale model was shown at first rehearsal, it was emphasized that it was important that this not “become a show about screen-moving”.
It quickly became a show about screen-moving.
No small amount of frustration there, but the last few rehearsals have been more about winnowing down the amount of screen-moving (especially once it finally sank in that it was impossible to have a scene occur while the screens were put in place – the damned things are the opposite of silent), and last night – a week before we open – we finally got back down to the business of working on the bits between the screen moves. You know, acting.
It was the most satisfying rehearsal I’d had since the beginning or the process, since the screens starting rolling in from the depths of the shop.
So back again tonight, still trying to figure out how to best come on and be the comic relief after the death scene, which is hard to ignore and always leaves me in tears (“That’s alright, I’m an actor… I can use this!”) . I guess I’m succeeding, because the dead woman sat in the house the other night and I heard her laugh.
You see, this is why I love the theatre… I get to truthfully say things like “The dead woman sat in the house the other night and I heard her laugh.”
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