Whispers from the Wings

Mastering the art of leaving

November 4, 2013

In Antony and Cleopatra, the character of Enobarbus refers to himself as a 'master leaver'. Enobarbus (or Eno, as he's abbreviated in my script) is obviously referring to something very different (come see the show!) than leaving a city and leaving friends.

Evangeline's box of supplies is ready to go again.But the bittersweetness of the term resonates so deeply with me because of the nature of my own life in theatre. I often feel like that 'master leaver'. My entire career necessitates being really good - being a master - at leaving.

As theatre practitioners, our 'office' is constantly shifting. During prep, it's my living room. Then I get a rehearsal room. Then I move to the theatre, where I usually tech from the house. Then I move to the booth for performances (or box, here in the UK). And when the show closes, I leave my book with the production office and I move on to the next gig.

I haven't been in the same spot for more than two months since the beginning of the year. By plane, train, or automobile, I've been in a new city, a new bed, a new theatre, and making new friends for the entirety of 2013.

I've been living out of three well-worn suitcases and constantly having to create new routines and find new "haunts" (in LA earlier this summer, my nail salon was sad when I told them I was leaving).

Now our company has to leave behind the comfortable nest we've created for ourselves in the rehearsal room and move to Stratford-upon-Avon for tech rehearsals.

Time for tech
If you've ever been in a working rehearsal room before, you'll find it's something akin to a teenager's bedroom. It's a safe haven. A secret clubhouse. A private sanctuary that we've all had a hand in creating. In dreaming, in scheming, in trying new things, in failing and succeeding. We've literally shed blood, sweat, and tears together in our room.

Much like gearing up for the first day of blocking, preparing for tech is preparing to be bombarded with the new and unfamiliar.

But the scariest 'leaving' that I have to do is transfer to a new book. I think this is a distinctly American trend so this is a little cross-cultural lesson for you. It seems to me that the UK stage managers I've encountered here tend to write their cues directly into the same book they've been using for blocking.

But in the States we typically switch to a new, clean, script for tech. We cut out all the stage directions. If there is music we'll add in pages of "dance counts." We change the margins to make a very small margin on the left and a wide margin on the right so we have room to write.

The biggest thing (if you're right handed) is that we reverse the text so it's back to reading a normal book, since now all the writing will happen on script page on the right hand side.

This week I've been working on turning something like this:

Evangeline's annotated book from rehearsals

Into something like this:

Evangeline's notes all typed-up.

This 'show bible' now chronicles our entire rehearsal process. I don't throw anything away. Every script change or edit we've done is there, with the date that it happened. I've made notes about movement as well as intention, motivation, and thought process.

Whenever Tarell has said something like, 'now here's the essence of the scene …' it's gone down in the book. It's a record not just of what the show is on this day - but how far we've come and what we've gone through to get to this point.

The possibilities of a blank page
I can always tell it's time to go into tech when the binder is not big enough to hold my script anymore. And now I have to set the familiar and comfortable script aside for a few days and break in the nice clean new script while we tech the show.

Here's what's so cool though - my new blank call script is just brimming over with possibility - waiting to be filled with all sorts of exciting cues to be called in order to …(are you ready to say it with me?) ....make the magic happen.

Stay tuned - next post from Bard country!

If you are a student or university program following this blog and are interested in shadowing the Antony & Cleopatra call, please feel free to contact Evangeline directly at antony.cleopatra.sm@gmail.com.

Top image: Evangeline's box of supplies is packed and ready to go. Its journey this year has been:
San Diego to Texas
Texas to NYC
NYC to London
And now London to Stratford.

by Evangeline Whitlock  |  3 comments

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Nov 6, 3:53pm
Francine Lapointe

What a great blog! I'm an EX-SM and after reading this I just got a bit nostalgic. Thanks for posting.

Nov 9, 12:40pm
Marc Brinckmann

A great blog indeed! Cant wait for the next update. I'm a "SM" working for a big Opera House in Germany. Its always exciting to read about different ways of working "in our field"...

Nov 10, 11:07am
RSC Staff Evangeline

Thanks Francine! It's been great to share a little of our unknown job with the RSC. It's been a great journey thus far and it's only going to continue! Stay tuned for this week's post....

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