Whispers from the Wings

Snow, previews and coming 'home'

February 28, 2014

The Antony and Cleopatra company has descended upon New York - where there are still mountains of snow on the ground and more falling every day!

The Manhattan skyline in the snowWe've just begun our second week in a three-week preview process. Previews are something we haven't fully experienced in any city yet, and it's been an exciting and exhausting time. (Isn't every time in theatre exciting and exhausting?)

A typical preview day
Previews are a chance to try things out in performance and make changes based on how they work in front of an audience, before press and critics start attending. A typical schedule on a preview day looks like this:

9 am – all department crews in for work notes
1-5 pm – tech rehearsal in full costume
5-6:30 pm – dinner break
6:30 pm – crew on for preshow checks
7:15 – fight call
7:30 – half hour
8:00 – curtain
10:45 pm – production meeting to discuss notes from the performance and next day's schedule

Around midnight… pour yourself into a cab and head home, exhausted and spent and trying to grab just a few hours sleep before heading in the next day to do it all over again.

Evageline's book, New York editionHow a production changes during previews
Changes going in during the day can be as small as an actor needing to take a single step stage right in a particular scene, or as large as entire characters being cut or new songs being added.

I worked on a show several years ago where an actor actually left us mid-way through previews because his character was cut from the show. On Antony and Cleopatra, we haven't done anything that drastic but there is still new music, new transitions, new dances, rearranged text, cut dialogue, and even more interaction with the water.

Previews demand a clear and level head and the brain space to hold a lot of new information in a very short amount of time. A change that gets made in the afternoon goes in that very night, and forgetting that change could be dangerous and costly. It's one of the most exposed times for the company.

We have very little time to rehearse major elements before they get put in front of an audience. Thankfully we've all spent a lot of time with this show, which helps us feel more confident in those changes.

On that same token though, it has the potential to create confusion! The company now has three different versions of this show in their brains. We have to let go of Miami and Stratford-upon-Avon and focus on the New York version.

Evangeline's 'mission control' in New YorkWhy the New York show is different
It's a new space with a different configuration. Parts of the set are brand new. The canopy hangs slightly differently. Hallways that used to lead to one side of the stage now lead to an office.

I'm back to calling from a booth (well really… a balcony). There are some places where lighting cues have been cut or moved from what I called in Miami, but I find myself still starting to talk when I hear the actor's bit of dialogue or see them make a particular move where a cue used to be.

It's almost like when an amputee feels a phantom limb. My heart sometimes skips a beat when we get to a word where I used to call a cue and only see a blank page now! Have I missed something? What lighting cue are we in? Is the canopy in the right position?

Preview rehearsals and being in a new space definitely keep me on my toes.

Evangeline settles down
Since it's apparently not enough for me to put all these changes into the show, I have to also put some major changes into my own life. For faithful followers of this blog, you know that I've had a year of traveling, living out of suitcases, and always packing up bags and moving on when a show closes.

Evangeline grabs a 'selfie' in her new apartmentThey say that art imitates life, but my life seems to be imitating my art – Antony and Cleopatra lands in New York as its final destination and so do I. Four days after my plane landed, I signed a year lease on an apartment and moved the next day – and by 'moved' I mean I threw my two suitcases and a borrowed air mattress into a cab, and went out two more train stops from where I had been crashing, tacked my scarves up to the windows for temporary curtains, and went to work the next day.

It's a bit strange to have an address again. I realized I don't even remember what's like to make breakfast for myself anymore, I've grown so used to eating out and grabbing food from Starbucks. I go home at night and remember that I have a mailbox to check again.

I'm equal parts excited and terrified to make New York home and couldn't think of a better transition to put down roots than to take a show that's traveled the world and settle it in New York at the same time I settle myself.

Top image: the snowy Manhattan skyline.
Image 2: Evangeline's book, New York edition.
Image 3: The stage manager's booth in the Public Theater.
Image 4: Evangeline grabs a 'selfie' in her new apartment.

by Evangeline Whitlock  |  No comments yet

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