The Amadeus Project: Day 37

Rehearsal: Day 37

8th October, 2019

D-Day minus 4. Just four days to sort out the remaining matters. There are still production meetings to be had and preparation for the evening’s gathering.

At the end of the previous night’s rehearsal, I had asked the question: Which was more important, a practice of the lines or a rest?

Some of the actors chose to meet and rehearse –– just a shorter gathering with a few people to iron out small issues and repeat those elusive lines. The others would rest before the hectic schedule of the latter part of the week.

Meeting with the Salieris, Mozart, Constanze, V1 & V2

We hadn’t yet properly finalised Scene 10, Act 1, between the Venticelli and Constanze. There had been brief discussions about the energy of the vignette and the tension between the characters, as the Venticelli endeavour to get at Constanze’s calves to measure! But this was the first proper opportunity to have a run-through with some time and space to find the right approach.

All of these little scenes that pepper the play add to the flavour and energy of the work. The youth and playfulness of the actor playing Constanze brings a lovely contrast to the rest of the cast and particularly the heavier text and themes of the Salieris.

The Venticelli also ran through all of their entrances and exits for the scenes in Act 1. Often they lead their respective groups on stage and so, for them to be confident with their appearances is crucial. Tessa had organised a written list of every movement and every scene. Really good work and important in the overall running of the play.

Mozart and Constanze

Every opportunity we had we returned to their relationship, it developed and changed right through these final rehearsals and on into the performances. It became more energetic and assertive, more aggressive at times, more physical, as the actors became familiar with each other and were comfortable being playful together.

Both were very able to improvise and change, happy to use the stage, the set, the windows, the floor, each other –– even the beard on Constanze was tugged for effect!.

The Salieris

There were a few Salieri sections of the play that were continuously left aside, for the sake of other actors needing attention and just because the roles were so huge. This was an issue for all three of us. I had a note of the various sections that we needed to get to, if we could find the time.

What was really interesting tonight though, right at the end, almost as we were leaving, we went though the last Monologue for the elder Salieri and spent time on the understanding of it. He worked through his text sitting opposite the younger Salieri.

By this stage in the play when being performed live, three hours has nearly passed, so the actor has to raise herself in energy and intensity to perform.

This rehearsal gave us a lovely insight into that last piece –– when Salieri encapsulates in words his misery and shame, to be only mediocre in music despite all his deals with God and his hard work.

… a surprise …

The most interesting bit for me was that I hadn’t realised until that moment that we needed to work on it so closely. Having that last bit of space to consider it made an enormous difference.

… a continuing issue …

A second issue arose in the continuing Salieri work: having divided the main role, until we were all absolutely sure –– should I say, until I was absolutely sure –- how the role of the younger Salieri was coming across and showing itself, it was impossible to know how much or how little the elder Salieri would contribute to the main body of the play.

This had been a constant conversation between the three of us, from the outset of the rehearsals. At the beginning, we could see potential for many options, it was a lovely conversation, full of potential.

As time moved on, it became more tricky. Lack of clarity caused concern and confusion for the actors, in my view. We tried one way and another. And often I would hold off on making decisions on various sections. Sometimes it was difficult avoiding a categorical answer. I knew this was causing anxiety for the actors but I believed that I had no choice.

In the way this play was developing, the teasing out of the shape of it and the arc of the emotional work of the actors as Salieri was an essential part of the process. I believed that any final decision could only be made when the time was right.

An Aside

Of course, now I can be absolutely confident that this process that we followed will work, and did work.

From now on I can pass that level of confidence to the actor with this knowledge. But in this process, I think it was difficult for the actors to trust this way of approaching a script.

Part of that difficulty was down to the personalities of the actors, what made them comfortable in rehearsals. For the elder Salieri in particular, this actor had to wait for a long time before certain concepts or ideas became clear in the work and I could guide her in the secure knowledge that this way of working would yield results.

The projections

In discussion with Julia and Deirdre following the Dress Rehearsal, I had said to them that the projections had to remain. So, I prepared a short list of images for Colm who had agreed to put them into a video for us.

Having passed images around in earlier weeks, for inspiration purposes, we stripped everything away and came up with a 90-second video, that we could then repeat if necessary.

A result.

Email to the Amadeus Troupe on 9th October, 2019

Hey Amadeus Troupe,

Can’t quite believe I’m writing that the dress rehearsal is tomorrow night! Very exciting!
Dress Rehearsal:       Hall open from 5ish.
                                   Make-up  and costumes will be available from 6pm
                                   Latest time for cast to arrive 6.20pm please
                                   Warm-up 6.40pm followed by quick Goya Image and Annie Leibowitz
It will be the first time many of the supporting team will see the play and their work and there will be extra bodies also –– just to warn you there will be an audience. So, the auditorium will not be available from 7.15pm. My plan is to begin the dress rehearsal at 7. 30pm.
Backstage
It is getting very busy with all the cast in the one space. We will work at the ‘feng shui’, to make the best use of the room. During the play we will put the Burco boiler in this room also. Because the kitchen has become part of the backstage area, access will be stopped during the play. Instead it will be dark and a ‘quiet room’ for anyone wishing for some quieter space. I think you could have an individual torch here if you wanted to read, but not a lamp or light.
Just a gentle reminder, from now on, as stage manager, Jack Harrington becomes the ‘King’ as in the card status game. ‘Winnie’ the Queen. Whatever they say goes.
Clean-up –– It seems to me that this is happening organically. Let’s keep an eye out that this is shared. If someone could please take over the task of ensuring there are supplies of tea etc, I’d be grateful. Been slipping up on that job!
First Principles
I’ve been thinking about the warm-up and prep for the plays. I think a short one, concentrating on the ‘first principles’ is the way to go: that’s centering, moving using the ‘ball of energy’, radiating, alertness (bringing with it the magnetic ‘bounce’, and the ‘elastic band’ connections). When you feel the butterflies or a little confused, I think these will help return you to the enjoyment of the work and settle you into the fantastic characters you have created. There are so many beautiful moments, images which you are making. I want these to be relished by everyone –– within and looking on!
For those more experienced in this playacting lark, please keep an eye out for the people new to the game. I’m mostly saying this as a reminder to myself to check in on you –– the atmosphere has been really and beautifully supportive so far.
Opening Night
I’d love a good crowd to support us on Friday night. If any of your family or friends might be encouraged please do so. Keep sharing the social media posts also. Julia, Deirdre and I are cracking them out.
Julia may have instructions for make-up so keep an eye out for updates please.
Karen xx

The Amadeus Project: First Dress Rehearsal: Day 36

First Dress Rehearsal: Day 36

7th October, 2019

Thoughts about this stage

By the dress rehearsal the work of the Director is essentially done; the play is handed over to the actors, the backstage crew, the costumiers, the lighting and sound technicians.

In this arena, where the amateur involvement is half of the contribution (and most of the acting involvement), the Director holds on a little longer to the reins. There are still constant discussions with actors about their roles and the scenes.

I would like all of the rehearsal of the play to be entirely completed at this point, and scenes being repeated only for fluency or intimate knowledge of the play. But, it doesn’t work like that always and not here either. Nerves also play a big part, and managing anxiety a part of the role of director.

The priority this evening, five days before opening night, is the run-through; any of the working through mentioned in the previous paragraph happens before the performance or when there is a break or afterwards.

The show must get its chance to be a whole piece. The logistics of the building and how actors get around it for their cues, their familiarity with props and costumes needs to be practiced for familiarity.

These cakes looking amazingly luscious … whatever the angle!

An Aside

I had originally noted when doing the schedule months ago that we would have two practice run-throughs and then two dress rehearsals. We ended up having one practice run-though only on the Sunday.

If I were doing this size of a show again, I would do two previews of the play, where the actors would become used to an audience response to the work and they would be very comfortable with all of the elements before a big opening night.

Arriving early …

It’s lovely to be in to this part of the theatre routine, where you arrive to an empty hall, anticipating the crowd and the buzz later. I like to arrive before everybody. Even the smell of the room is great as you arrive in. (Should I now admit my penchant for the smell of any theatre –– really the stage and backstage area??)

So, I begin to set the place up for the evening: clearing the stage, setting out some extra chairs for a few extra audience members. Alyn usually arrives next, or Jack, or Julia. And we set to work.

Jack prepares.jpg
Jack prepares the stage for the actors

The cast also arrived early to put their costumes on and check that they all still fit well. This run-though will be the biggest test so far of this aspect: seeing if there are any issues with the clothing, footwear and accessories. It will also be a challenge for the lighting, seeing how the body of actors in their costumes looks on stage. No make-up yet.

Each new step brings excitement and wonder at the spectacle. The actors on the lit stage and setting look amazing, particularly when they are together in one large group.

Dress rehearsal 1

It is the very first time that all of the cast attend at the same rehearsal. Looking back, it is astonishing we achieved what we did.

Though we mostly began each night with a warm-up it was less than organised tonight. We continued with a complete run-though. There were lots of good things happened but there was stopping / starting moments: actors unsure where they should be or not sure of lines. The flow of the play stuttering as a result.

What was amazing to me, was that the two actors who had missed the weekend rehearsals had been present at every scheduled rehearsal for them since August prior to this weekend. Despite their attendance and practice, in missing that final weekend they were behind the other actors in knowledge of the play, and in their confidence as a result.

An Aside

It has made me realise, more clearly than any other learning, what an amount of work is done in any rehearsal.

And also, how difficult it is to bring a body of people along in a  combined task if there are people missing.

There were subtleties too in the music that needed to be worked out over the next few days: music cues that were too loud as an audience member, other moments where the actors needed more sound to play off. The elder Salieris, in particular, had moments where the music was crucial to their text and where they needed the sound to enable their acting to develop. 

An Aside

As the play developed this final rehearsal week and in performance, my understanding of this connection changed.

With the development of the roles between the older and younger Salieri, the music became important for both of them; the acting connection between them became stronger, with the elder Salieri becoming involved in the scenes throughout (not just where he acted through his text) –– thereby highlighting the work of the younger man and bolstering his demanding, emotional role.

The biggest issue tonight was slow / unlearned lines –– not uncommon in an amateur play, that lines are learned at the last minute. But the energy of the play is completely afftected by the slowness of delivery. A big concern.

The prompter

Because of the issue with lines not being ready, I pondered for the next few days on how to bring confidence to the actors. I had tried in the previous few weeks to find someone to prompt. But this isn’t easy.

A prompter requires to sit on the side stage for the entire play reading and concentrating only (not looking at the action), sensitivity to the actors and a good knowledge of how the actors play this script. (Actors get very bothered when their exquisite pause is disturbed by a loud whisper from side stage!)

It looked like I was the only one equipped. Both Jack and Winnie backstage had prompted during the weeks leading up to now but they were busy enough with their stage management tasks, as well as ensuring the good, efficient working atmosphere backstage was maintained as the play ran.

My ‘middle of the night’ thoughts dwelt on this issue especially!

Chair.jpg
Chair and door …
Props Oct.jpg
Props ready for collection

Finishing up tonight …

As before, this being a Monday night and all of the cast being tired with three full days rehearsal (as well as work in the morning for many of them), the notes from me afterwards didn’t address the play (I did this separately by text, email or when I met an individual person before the next practice) but were short and practical: such as arranging a rehearsal for a few of the scenes that needed to be completed on the following night with Constanza and the Salieris. 

We love doing this

Despite all the issues outlined above, I felt that the play was was holding up as a piece of work. There comes a moment when the actors were ready to be seen by an audience, in fact, they need to be seen by an audience. There has been enough preparation time put in.

It’s always really good to remind yourself that why we do it. Despite the workload, being stretched with nervous tension and lack of sleep, presenting a play, live, after all this work and effort, before an audience that will react and respond (however that will be) gives us an enormous buzz, pleasure and sense of achievement. It is good to be reminded to enjoy this part of the process as best we can.

One more thing … the projections

As the time moved on and our workload remained heavy and demanding, I was getting more and more uncertain about the need for projections. Our aims in all areas became simplified. Was this a creative step too far to have on the agenda? There was a feeling amongst the design group that our desired effects needed more time and effort than we had allotted to it and that we might not have the energy left to bring this to fruition.

Tonight, with a sense of determination and stubbornness more than anything else, I set up and put on the projector to have a look at the impact it made on the actors during the run of the play, especially in the opening scene.

There was no film or image projected, just the blue light that the machine throws on the wall when it is lit up without being attached to anything.

It was fantastic. The quality of light, so different from the stage lights, created a unique atmosphere and bounced up the eeriness of that part of the performance. The actors moved in and out of the rectangle of light along the catwalk, partially lit up, some of their faces obvious in the light occasionally.

My decision was made … to go ahead and make whatever short video we could in the time remaining to us.

The Amadeus Project: Day 35

Rehearsal: Day 35

6th October, 2019

Stage painting.jpg
‘The magic is in the lighting’, Manus. a previous lighting designer, once said

Drawing to a close

Not touching the finishing line, but within sight of it.

We prepared the next block of lighting cues, working again all day, scene by scene, moment by moment, before the run-through at 4 o’clock.

It would take all the next week to get the lighting properly ready; for the lighting personnel to become really familiar with the play and confident with the best moments to illuminate.

We had a few of the proper costumes to try on and see what they were like against the backdrop lit up by the stage lights.

The organised chaos …

Decisions, decisions …

Decisions on every issue were becoming harder as we drew to a close, and were tired as a result. The inclination is to make quick choices, as we don’t have the brain capacity to linger over the alternatives.

There are many more issues requiring discussion around peripheral matters: Should we cover the entire front of the stage with fabric, to hide the writing over the stage? (No); Should we paint the sides of the stage to darken? (Not at first –– eventually we painted one side to enhance the lighting); How often should the actors use their smart phones? (At certain points only –– we had to go through each section to determine this); How should characters wear their hair? Should a certain character have more than one pair of trousers? Should we use the Mozart chocolates in the performance or in the raffle or for a treat for the cast?

Day 32 Mozart sweets
Specially purchased in Vienna.

Each item, whether of large or small impact in my view, is a matter of importance to the questioner and requires consideration and patience. It is the nature of a production that this part of the process is demanding from that human perspective.

Note to self

When undertaking a project in the future, ensure the other co-ordinators working on this project from the beginning are not also acting in the production, as they become unavailable towards the end for these manifold matters.

The run-through

That was the priority, to run through the entire play from start to finish. Essential for everybody to see what the others were doing and to know the length of the play.

At 120 pages, the play is about 40 pages longer than most full-length plays. I wasn’t entirely sure how long it was going to be, but I was a little surprised it was lasting over three hours. With continuing familiarity, this would definitely be reduced by a substantial amount –– I thought. 

There were actors still missing from rehearsal so we couldn’t have an entirely complete run and it made the pacing hard to judge. And some scenes remained to be done, although we were facing into the dress rehearsal performances during the week. 

It was the entire play today –– it would be a long, but necessary, session for everybody. Again, in terms of the focus of the day,  it really gave everybody a chance to familiarise themselves with the play –– especially the running order of the scenes; that has taken some actors a long time to be comfortable with.

The practice of the lines is also fundamental. Those were still not perfect. And the physical movement on the stage and catwalk was a continuing challenge, getting the timing right and becoming increasingly aware of the potential audience.

Props

It was time to get all the props together and used in the way they should. The backstage crew went through the final props list today and the props were were nearly completed by the set decorating team or had been sourced. All were usable for the run-through.

Cakes Day 32.jpg
Cakes of filler

Presence on the stage

As we began the rehearsal process months ago, I was asking actors to disregard any idea of an audience, or moving to accommodate them, so as to increase the actors’ focus on the work they were doing rather than any imagined onlookers. As of now, on occasion, this means they turn their back to where the audience will be.

Note to Self

Have a think about this request.

It requires further clarification for myself, and then in communicating with the actors.

What am I achieving by this?

What is the balance between the actor’s work and the onlookers’ presence?

Sound Cues

DJ Greegio and I had spent a second session going through the cues for Act 2 of the play; checking for length, atmosphere, appropriateness. Many of the cues are given in the script, often Salieri is describing the music of Mozart or is responding to it, eg, the Requiem that Mozart completes shortly before he dies –– we added the contemporary music especially into Act 1. In Act 2 any additions were sound effects.

Tweaking the sound cues and making them fit the performances was another big element of these rehearsals. We had always wanted to ensure that, while bringing the sounds in our production uptodate, we also needed to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Mozart’s music. What developed for me was a sense of how that music lifted the performances and the understanding of the meaning of the play. Sometimes in a subtle, gentle way. As any addition should, it provided support to the actors and to the presentation of the piece.

As with the lighting personnel, these sound cues developed continuously over the remaining rehearsals as the DJ became intimately aware of the actors and their work.

The exhausted chat Day 32.jpg
No lingering notes, just a quick finishing up with the exhausted Troupe gathered

The Amadeus Project: Day 34

Rehearsal: Day 34

5th October, 2019

Bringing Act 2 on

Two of the cast members are away this weekend. The acting Troupe are called for rehearsal after 4pm. We will go through Act 2 only. My original plan was to run through the entire play but it became apparent that we still needed to do manageable blocks; consolidate the learning.

What has become necessary now is to run the Scenes, one after another, so actors become familiar with the sequence. For many actors, the logical flow of the story and their part in it is not obvious, especially actors who don’t like or manage to read through the script. For others who have read the play a number of times, this bit is easier.

How people learn and absorb information is to the fore in this part of the work; how they remember body movements, places, positioning. It’s fascinating. 

An Aside

As a Director, I need to be aware of actors’ demands and needs, especially in an amateur dramatic context. If I am asking them to take risks, be open and take chances, then I have to make the process as comfortable and safe as possible.

How demanding is this? It seemed to me that actors might be more aware themselves –- taking notes on their scripts, for example. Sometimes, I was remembering  for most of the eighteen people, when only two or three had taken notes.

Lighting

Firstly on Saturday, I had to go through the lighting plan scene by scene with Paul, who is setting the lights, and Edmund who is programming the computer. Both have completely saved the day where lighting is concerned.

It is a long process, plotting each cue, searching for the right tone, the right effect of lighting. It is exciting too to see what the potential for the performance is with the lights working on the set.  At times, the way light picks up a swathe of paint on the set is magnificent.

I probably would not have attended this setting up if I weren’t needed. The week before I had spent time plotting the lights and noting on a spreadsheet, but the rushed nature of sorting the lighting has meant that the lighting men haven’t been able to use this record.

My intimate knowledge of the play was essential to the process as we worked on, it page by page. But I’m glad I was there, to see the possibilities unfold is wonderful.

5th October.jpg
Sometimes now it is the other elements that combine with the acting to create the ‘magic moments’.

We worked until the others arrived for rehearsal.

To Do

This is a list written on a large sheet. I have noted all of the scenes I need to return to. Most of those are with Constanze. We’ve read them but bringing them on to the stage is a priority.

This list is available for anyone to write on, a reminder to me of others concerns. It is placed nearby for everyone to see.

To Do list
Shared ‘To Do’ list

Little rehearsals

The first on the list are the backstage crew. We finished going through the setting requirements. Little by little, all the props are in place and these too, are noted and places found for them in the props area. Because of their familiarity with the play, work with Jack and Winnie is easy. They are prepared and organised, with notes made –– often their questions anticipate ahead.

We put the markers on the stage for the furniture, it is then colour-coded. Photographs are taken of the positions and, later on, Jack and Winnie have a folder with each change noted and photographs of the stage arrangements.

Stage Floor Day 31.jpg
Stage floor with marks.

Act 2

We ran through the entire of Act 2. These are long rehearsals and everybody needs to be here all the time. There is plenty chance for people to chat and have tea together, except for the Salieris, the lighting and sound men and me. The atmosphere is building up really nicely.

Apart from the scenes I have to do for the first time over the coming week, my notes are now scribbled down. The flow of the entire Act is the important requirement.

No longer am I doing individual scenes, or going back over work, rather we are ploughing on and I give notes afterwards. In the past, this would have been done at the end of rehearsal, but our sessions are too long and to ask people to stay for another half hour of notes is too much. So, I give feedback constantly. If an actor brings up an issue there and then, I address it.

My notes are in an old copybook or scrap paper. Sometimes I can’t even read them!

An insight into the development of a role

Unfortunately, for the elder Salieri, there is some of the work that we haven’t been able to focus on. Until the bits that we have never done are completed with the replacement actors, I can’t focus on this actor. And until there is a real sense of flow in the text for the younger Salieri, I find it impossible to judge when the two Salieirs will connect.

We have worked on this together, the Salieris and I, and I have made notes of the intense emotional statements where the two should combine, in my opinion. But there is opportunity for more links and that is loose and undecided at the moment. Makes it difficult for Clair, in particular.

An Aside

It may have been at this point that I realised that, rather than splitting this role in two, I made two enormous roles for the two actors, who both had to rise to embrace the enormity of the challenge.

Artists at work Day 31.jpg
Artists at work on props.