Whispers from the Wings

To do: buy tissues

October 22, 2013

To Do:
Update Script.
Update Scene Breakdown.
Clean up my blocking notes.
Buy tissues.

The past week has been one of intense emotional highs and lows as the company blocked and worked through the meaty Acts 4 and 5. (If you're not familiar with Antony and Cleopatra…well, you'll have to come see the show to find out!)

And of course, as mentioned last time, we accomplished our first full run through of the play, straight through without stopping. That's a successful feat for a show of this scope and magnitude, especially considering we still have two weeks of rehearsal left before tech (in theatre time…that's a lot).

The stage manager's role in a run through
The first run through in the room is a pretty big deal. We've worked acts and scenes piecemeal and out of order and so the night before and the morning of, you're asking yourself questions like, did I track that costume piece properly? Are we going to come to a screeching halt at this transition? Can my assistant handle this canopy shift or do we have to change how we're doing it in the rehearsal room since we have no crew?

I create and post a run order with key lines and locations for the actors so they know what's coming up next.

I page through my prompt book over and over again to make sure I haven't forgotten anything.

A lot of times designers will come to the first run through as well so they can get a sense early on of how the show is running and what the director has staged. That means I also need to make sure they have a current draft of the script, sharp pencils, table space and power for laptops, and so on.

First run throughs take a lot of mental and physical energy for everyone - myself included.

Essential preparations for a run through
The morning of that first full run through I always treat myself to a really good breakfast and bring a large black coffee back to the rehearsal room. For this one, I enjoyed an order of eggs scrambled with salmon and chives on sourdough bread from the lovely and quaint Brickwood Coffee & Bread Co. near Clapham Common. (So far, they make the best latte in London that this American coffee addict has discovered.)

I had prepared myself physically through proper nourishment. I had prepared myself mentally through making lists and checking off boxes and discussing the necessary cues with my assistant Martha. I had even prepared for actors' strong emotions by making sure our room was stocked up with tissues.

But as you may have gathered from previous posts, part of my job involves being flexible, staying in the moment, and being prepared for anything.

Including, apparently, my own strong emotions at seeing the show run from top to bottom for the first time.

Tarell's vision for this show takes the tragic love story of Antony and Cleopatra and sets it against the Haitian revolt against France in the late 1700s. It's a stunning and raw look at an ancient story, set in a more recent time period.

It manages to become immediately relevant to our society today. It's a story of social and racial injustice and people struggling to set things to rights. It's a story of people bound by life circumstances outside their control. And conversely, circumstances within their control. But they are so power-hungry they cannot see wrong in the actions they take. It's a story of love that gets tragically punished.

Some things you can't prepare for
During our first run through, when I was able to put my pencil down for a minute and actually just sit back and watch (well…as much as a stage manager can “sit back” and watch) it's a story that pulled at my heart and left me reaching for tissues and blinking back tears so I could still see my pages should an actor call for line.

And then just like that the run through was over. The actors peeled off those sweaty rehearsal skirts and layed down their rehearsal weapons.

I sit in a meeting with the director, his assistants, and our designers as we discuss logistical challenges that came up during the run and now need to be solved, cuts to the script he wants to make, costume needs based on new movement and staging, and what next week's schedule looks like.

Good thing I had that coffee.

Image: Evangeline's book this week.

by Evangeline Whitlock  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare