Thursday, September 01, 2005

They Don't Call it Drama for Nothing

As you may have read in an earlier post, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" opened this past weekend. The show has had many challenges during the rehearsal period. Two of the main characters were away for vacations during this time, and not at the same time. I'd estimate a two to three week stretch where we didn't have major players at rehearsal. This makes the staging, reacting, singing, AND dancing difficult. But we overcame it. We also had a hard time holding on to Proteans and Courtesans. There are three Proteans. We started with only two, made it up to four, and ended with three. However, only one of the three was someone we started with. But we overcame it. There are six Courtesans. We started with three Courtesans. We got up to four. Then we lost one. We went on a spree and made it up to six. We lost one of those about two weeks before the show went up. But we managed to find a replacement. We overcame it. We didn't have any costumes until the week before the show due to a variety of reasons. We even overcame that. Several people pulled together and made some pretty impressive costumes on short notice.

So, we entered production week on somewhat shaky ground, but confident that with time on the set, we could iron out the kinks. The set took all day Saturday to assemble. There were some details that still needed finishing, but they were manageable over the course of the week. Our artist needed to come in and do some painting. (She's fabulous, by the way. Wait till you see the pictures!) So far, so good.

Then we hit tech on Sunday. Our lighting designer came in and started to focus the lights and catalog how the dimmer packs were arrayed. That's when we discovered that about a third of the front lights were on a circuit that kept blowing. We needed to recable several lights. We had slots for them as we were removing some of the back lights. But we needed a lift to do it. And the lift wasn't there. This also meant we couldn't focus the lights. So, we did what we could and pushed the rest off until Monday.

Monday was supposed to be our cue-to-cue rehearsal. That's when we don't really do the whole show. We skip from technical cue to technical cue so that the lighting and sound operators can make smooth transitions. Since the lights weren't focused, and in some cases wired, we couldn't do that. So, they did the focusing and wiring while we did a speed through. A speed through is where you just do all the lines with no emotion or pause. You just run through the show as quickly as you can to make sure everyone is up on their lines. We skipped all the songs during the speed through. Then when the lights were good, we ran through selected pieces of the show that needed work. We also all took turns with the orchestra. We hadn't run any of the songs with a full Orchestra before. By the end of Monday, we at least felt good about the music, lights, and set. Still no full run through, though.

Tuesday night, we were set for a full run through. The set was mostly done. The lights and sound were ready. We even had most of our costumes and props. Things started off reasonably well. There were more fumbles and mistakes then you want to see that close to opening, but nothing that couldn't be overcome. Well, almost nothing. The Courtesans made their entrances and did their solo dances at the appointed time. One of the Courtesans was still shaky on her dance. But she had been working at it. They decided to help her by shortening her dance. There were two problems there. Her music did not lend itself well to being cut in half. Her friend's music did. So, they cut that and swapped the accompaniment. That led to the second problem. Nobody told her it changed. So, she found out that she had somewhat different music when she went out to do her bit. This flustered her and she messed up her dance again. She was angry and embarrassed. So, when the scene was over, she told the other Courtesans that she quit and headed for her car. There followed a frantic exchange where the other Courtesans, including the one that rode in with her, tried to convince her to stay. In the end, she agreed to hang out and wait or Richard, he director, to chat with her at intermission. We arranged for a ride home for the friend, but her friend went to keep her company in the car. She swore she was not leaving. In retrospect, I don't think any of us was surprised that both the car and the girls were gone by intermission.

So, now we were out two dancers seventy-two hours before curtain. No problem. We'll just get more. Our assistant choreographer stepped in to ake one of the roles. She never auditioned because she was going to be away Labor Day weekend. Still, better to only need a replacement for one weekend than two. We had her in costume by the beginning of the second act. When they weren't on stage, the Courtesans began an intensive teaching session with her for cues and timing. We still needed to find one more. Imagine my surprise when I sat down for notes to find a girl come walking out from backstage in a glittering bikini top and a skirt made of scarves. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her. Then, it hit me. It was Nick's sister! Nick is playing Hero. He's too young to drive, so she had just stopped in to pick him up. And she left as a member of the cast. Of course, she had just started a job in the mall and with school startin was only scheduled for weekends. She had to go in and ask her boss to give her only day shifts so she could bail us out. But she did it and we had overcome once again. We'd have some intensive practices Wednesday to get our newest cast members up to speed, but on we would roll.

Wednesday was the vandalism I posted previously under the heading "Why Do Some People Suck?". The police came and checked it out, but the damage was not significant enough from a monetary perspective for them to try to gather any evidence. Where is CSI when you need them? I bet they could have solved it in a single episode. Plus I would have gotten fingerprinted and questioned! Repairs would have to wait until Thursday. We had a rehearsal to do on most of a set.

Thursday night. Final dress. The set was back together. We had all the roles filled. We had all our costumes, props, and makeup. We were ready to roll. We even started pretty close to on time. It wasn't a flawless rehearsal, but it was going pretty well. At least until the Fire Department showed up. Captain Roberto had come over from the station in the park to see about keeping the noise down. Apparently, they were trying to sleep at 9 p.m. on a Thursday and we were impeding that. Richard attempted to have a cordial conversation with him. After all, this was our last rehearsal before the show. There would be no more week nights where this would happen. Captain Roberto would have none of it. He stormed off and we resumed rehearsing. At least until the Police arrived. The Police had received a call from the Fire Department complaining that we were violating our permit. As we didn't have a copy of the permit with us, we had to take their word for it in spite of their weird assertion that our permit only allowed us to rehearse until 9pm. This assertion was weird because we couldn't start rehearsing until it was dark, which meant 8pm. Why would we get a permit for one hour of rehearsal time for a show that runs two hours?

Well, we tried negotiating with the Police. We used the same arguments as we did with the Fire Department. The officers were unsympathetic. "Once someone calls us, we have to shut you down." They claimed that the hardline stance had nothing to do with the fact that the firefighters were the ones who called. "We suggest you shut it down. If we get called again, we have to issue you a citation." That didn't sound too bad. "How much is the fine?", the director asked. The Police could see where this was going and made an addendum. "We could also revoke your permit."

Well, this went on for an hour and it got to the point where it was not worthwhile to try to run the second half of the show. So, we bagged rehearsal, cursed Captain Roberto, and decided to try to run some stuff before curtain on Friday. "On more thing," the Police added, "your permit is only good until 10 p.m. on weekends." That was more problematic. The show was almost two hours without intermission, and there would certainly be an intermission. More adversity to overcome.

Although there were some creative suggestions like having someone set a fire on the other side of town at 9:45 so they would be too busy to complain, we opted for a more legal solution. The theater's artistic director was able to get the end time pushed to 10:30. Even if we were to run over a little, by the time the Police arrived, there would be nothing to bust us for.

Friday was opening night. What would today hold? We still needed to run the chase scene in act 2 a couple of times and go over the courtesan parts with the new courtesans. Oh. And deal with the flooding. Flooding? Yup. Allegedly, a water main broke and flooded the audience area and the orchestra pit. I think the firefighters did it. But the water got cleared and there was enough blazing heat that the ground was dry by the time the house opened. We did our rehearsing without costumes and just about finished by the time the audience arrived.

So, just a bit of adversity in production week. Next time I'll tell you how the performances went.