Rehearsal: Day 35
6th October, 2019
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.