Marching bravely towards opening
November 14, 2013
A lot of people die in Antony and Cleopatra. Between the literal battlefield that sets the scene for much of the play and the metaphorical battlefield of intense love that our dynamic duo constantly navigates, death is a prominent theme in our story. (Again…you'll have to come see it to find out any more than that!)
Last week after our final dress rehearsal, Tarell, the director, gave the company a general note to 'march bravely into death – don't waltz'.
It's been a long week
Tarell's note got me thinking about the technical rehearsal and preview process, and how we as a company must 'march bravely towards opening' through this part of the process. As I talked about in last week's post – technical rehearsals bombard us all with the unfamiliar on very tight deadlines. There is no time for gentle waltzes during this phase of our process. We're pushing against the boundaries of press attendance and critics' imminent reviews and a sold-out opening night.
The Antony and Cleopatra company has endured a long, intense week. As I sit here in my cozy little Stratford apartment on the day off, hot coffee in hand and basking in the sunlight streaming through my window, I'm steadily coming out of the brain fog of technical rehearsals and the euphoria of first preview.
I am using our director's note to reflect on just how far we've come in our brave march towards opening.
But it's been a productive week
In less than a week, we've taken something from a basement rehearsal room and transformed it with incredible lighting, stunning costumes, a beautiful set, amazing musicians, and actual water and blood.
Where previously I was calling, 'Blackout!' to the company during run-throughs, now the stage actually goes dark and they have to find their way off of it.
Where there was once a line of tape on the floor, now there is a solid column for an actor to lean against and run around. That sweaty rehearsal skirt is now a flowing silk gown with a long train to manage.
Our company continues to laugh and cry together as everyone makes bold new choices. We are finessing and fine-tuning as we invite our final and most important collaborator into our world – you, the audience.
Meanwhile, back at mission control
During technical rehearsals I sit in the theatre auditorium at what I like to call 'mission control'. I have a headset that allows me to talk to designers, board operators, deck and wardrobe crew, and the other stage managers.
When any one of those people need to stop the rehearsal to work something, I call for the actors to hold, assess the needs, and work with my team on deck to make sure the lighting designer can capture the moment he wants or Tarell has the time to rework particular bits of blocking.
I have a box of cue lights in front of me and spend time furiously mapping out and practicing the 'finger-ography' of cueing sequences that involve multiple cue lights for entrances, lighting cues, deck cues, and sound cues.
When we're ready to move on again, I figure out a good spot in the dialogue or the action to start from, and inform the actor. The actor starts the scene again and we move on through the entire show in this manner.
Doing the math
It can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months to work through the technical rehearsal of a show. On Antony and Cleopatra, we had 17 hours spread over three days. That's not including the mandatory union breaks we take as well as allowing time for the actors to get into and out of costume.
We needed to go through about 10 minutes of show per hour in order to make it. Roughly 30 pages of script per day. About three scenes for each technical session. (You get the idea).
You do the math. Considering it took us an entire six weeks just to get those 90 pages blocked … that's not a lot of time!
But it's part of the gig, and as Antony says before he heads off to battle yet again:
'To business that we love we rise betime,
And go to't with delight.'
As intense and stressful as technical rehearsals and previews can be – the thrilling and exciting march towards opening always reminds me how much I love this business, and why I 'go to't with delight' every day.
I'll see you at the Swan theatre … and definitely at that opening night party!
Top image: Joaquina Kalukango as Cleopatra and Jonathan Cake as Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Bottom image: Evangeline at 'mission control'
by Evangeline Whitlock
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