Whenever I meet new people, one of the inevitable questions that comes up is “So, what do you do?” and whatever that piece of information is, it becomes one of that person’s defining characteristics. He’s a chef. She’s a banker. They are artists. Our work often defines us as people.
I am currently stage managing The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe which continues at Pacific Theatre until Jan. 2, 2010.
In the past 12 months I worked on 12 shows for seven different companies. There was a one-woman show about the birth of modern dance at the time of WWII (A Time To Dance), a collaborative storytelling project to celebrate World Theatre Day 2009 (My First Time: The Tour),& a clown show (Holy Mo). There was Shakespeare in a park (Hamlet), Stoppard in a park (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead), and a magic show (Unshuffled). I stage managed a a dark tale of pedophilia, murder , & forgiveness (Frozen), a response to gay-bashing (Stop Kiss), and a magical Narnian adventure (The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe). I worked with 22 emerging artists on a showcase piece(You Still Can’t), 16 musicians & storytellers on a Christmas extravaganza (Christmas Presence) and the graduating class of the William Davis Center for Actors’ Study (Memory).
Of those twelve shows, some of them were only a single night (Unshuffled, My First Time: The Tour) while others ran for six weeks or more (The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe; You Still Can’t) and the rest were somewhere in between. Each time, a new venue, a new group of people, a new set of challenges to look forward to.
The variety is part of the fun of being a freelancer. I get to take on all different
Cast & Crew from shameless hussy's production of Frozen.
sorts of projects over the course of the year, working with all different sizes of companys and on all different sorts of projects. I have a couple of contracts in place for 2010: I”ll be returning to Pacific Theatre to Stage Manage Refuge of Lies by artistic director Ron Reed which opens mid-April and I’m booked for the month of February as well. Other than that the new year is a blank slate. I’m sending resumes across the country. I’ve told myself that I will apply for every stage management position I hear of that I could even possibly qualify for. Chances are I will have moments where I look just as crazy as I did last March when I did that mailout. I’m taking a leap of faith that there will be work for me and that I will continue to be able to live off my theatre income.
My work related goal for the next year: get my first equity apprentice stage management credit.
Yesterday started out as a normal rehearsal day: Wake up, check the weather (twice), and then head to site for the day. The forecast included a 30% chance of thundershowers, but with light winds and almost no rain, so we pushed forward. About 2 hours into rehearsal the winds began gusting – we’re estimating about 80 km/hr and we began to scramble to get the site secured so it wouldn’t get wrecked.
The winds were so strong that our fencing was blowing sideways, and after getting pushed around trying to keep it upright, we finally gave up and lay it down on the ground and began to focus on securing the tents which were trying to take off. At the same time we were being hit by gusts of wind that started to knock over the front rows of seats.
The wind did not want to stop there though! It decided that tree branches should no longer be remaining in trees, and once the large branches started falling on stage, we decided that for safety’s sake we all needed to leave the site and head to safer grounds. The dust was flying and getting in everyone’s eyes, and if the tents did pick up we did not want to be under them.
Today’s forecast is for thunderstorms again, so hopefully we don’t have to cancel opening night.
The director for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern ran across this book at a local second-hand bookstore. subtitled “A handbook for the Backstage worker; a guidebook for the Student of Drama” this book is a joke.
The sample of a “good” promptbook is ridiculous: notes scribbled everywhere & no sense of order to it.
For the actors among us, the book presents the proper way to sit in a chair, the variety of ways one can pose with certain furniture. We’ve also got the correct & wrong ways to embrace, foot positions & how the first step should be.
One of my favorites is this graph of how a laugh on stage works.
and if you’re looking for advice on aging makeup they have that too.
In the past two weeks of rehearsing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern I’ve picked out a handful of my favorite quotes, some about what it means to be actors and others just because they make me smile. Enjoy.
“We keep to our usual stuff, more or less, only inside out. We do onstage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else.” – Player, R&G
“We’re the actors – we’re the opposite of people” – Player, R&G
I know that it’s cheating to talk about reading plays that I’m doing, but this past week has been entirely filled by reading, re-reading, scheduling, listing, re-reading, and all of the other “first week of rehearsal” things that go with stage managing two shows in rep [point of clarification: I am SMing R&G and ASMing Hamlet].
I don’t know about you, but I read Hamlet in high school and studied it until I no longer cared about any of it. I also did a production of it when I was in university where it was cut down to 60 minutes and again, didn’t really care. All of this makes it far more interesting to read now and enjoy in a whole new way. The version we are using for the show is cut by our director using the First Folio as well as the quartos…It’s not your traditional Hamlet. There are scenes in different orders what what you’d find in most modern publications of the play and as such the character relationships are different. And I like it. I sat at the first read today, finally hearing aloud the play I have been reading all week and the characters came alive for me.
I’ve always been an auditory learner. I learned that fact in grade 3 and have been forever grateful for it. When I hear something I remember it and if I don’t hear it (but rather see it) I am far less likely to remember it. For me this means that plays I have read are not nearly as alive for me as plays that are read aloud.
On the other hand, I had never read R&G before going into this process. Sure, I knew of it, but I didn’t know anything about how it fit together, and my god is it brilliant. Every time I re-read it (by which I mean every day this week) I am amazed at some new detail. Today as we read Hamlet aloud, I was amazed by pieces of R&G where words and phrases were turned on their heads that I had not previously noticed.
Both plays are a lesson in solid playwrighting, though from completely different schools. Shakespeare is considered a master playwright for a reason. His words evoke images so beautiful and detailed while still furthering story. Stoppard’s post-modern look at the fall of the meta-narrative and the disappearance of the hero is similarly evocative, but in its simplicity and absurdity rather.
And I’ll never look at a coin toss the same way again.