BOOM!

Now that’s how you preview a show! Wonderful work from cast and crew; fantastic audience response; and just enough went awry to keep everyone on their toes. Official opening night of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sorcerer” is Friday Night.  Performances continue Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. And then that’s it.

Get your tickets now or you’ll regret it.

I’m tellin’ ya: Downton Abbey, Walking Dead, and a hint of Michael Jackson’s Thriller — all topsey-turveyed up, wrapped in an operatic bow and presented to you with a full-on orchestra.

Did I say “boom?” Boom!

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It’s a show!

I hope you’ve reserved your tickets, because there will only be four performances of “The Sorcerer.”  Preview is Thursday night, Opening is Friday night, there will be an evening performance on Saturday and a matinee on Sunday.  Then the magic is over.  There’s a tab somewhere up there on the top of the page that says “Tickets.”  Click on that and then click the link for The Carolina Theater Box Office (or call the number) and get your tickets now!

We had a terrific final dress/tech rehearsal tonight.  Many, many problems were ironed out onstage, backstage, and in the tech booth.  Many new notes were given and all were taken wholeheartedly.  It never ceases to amaze me that a production can grow so much and come so far in these very brief final rehearsals. And we staged the curtain call tonight!  That’s when it always sinks in for me that rehearsals are finally over.  It’s a show!  And it’s ready for an audience!

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Kicking out the Kinks

Have I mentioned that our production of “The Sorcerer” is a little bit Downton Abbey and a little bit Walking Dead?  Of course it has heapin’ doses of topsey-turveydom and musical brilliance to boot!  Just wanted to throw that information out there.

Tonight we had a good solid run, with the addition of beautiful costumes, hair, and make-up, the full orchestra, and with continued technical additions as well.  I worked with Donna and Chris through the afternoon to write lighting cues and we made constant adjustments throughout the evening.  So I think we’re in good shape.

We’ll have one more night of rehearsal with everyone — onstage, backstage, in the pit, in the booth, and in the wings — perfecting their work, honing their craft, and kicking out the kinks before our Preview Performance on Thursday night.

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First Night in the Theater

Today and tonight were all about moving the show into the space. We loaded the set into The Carolina Theater today; and then we had our first rehearsal on the set.  So we’re off and running through our final rehearsals before opening night.

Before today, the set crew has been building in the warehouse and the cast has been rehearsing in various rooms throught the Durham Arts Council.  Separate endevours working toward a common goal. I always have to stop and marvel when I see these two trajectories finally intersect.  While many folks are both in the cast and have also worked on the set crew, it has really been two different worlds up until now.

Over the past few months, the set has been constructed in a non-climate controlled warehouse, where the crew has battled cold and humidity while constructing and painting the oh-so-tangible, but ever-so-temporary world in which our production will live.  They’ve been working with a plan and towards a goal; and under a strict deadline.

Meanwhile, the cast has been rehearsing in various meeting rooms and rehearsal halls to master the blocking, choreography, and music which will breathe life into this world.  Again, hard work for a fleeting few moments. They’ve been working with a plan and towards a goal; and under a strict deadline.

Here’s the marvelous thing…  The set crew builds the set, yes, but always with the performance in mind.  Constantly thinking of safety and logistics while working out the details: entrances, exits, stair heights, levels, platforms.  Will the actors be able to work safely in this world?  And the actors rehearse with no set whatsoever (sometimes a taped outline on the floor).  They’re building a performance, but always with the set in mind.  I enter here.  The stairs are here.  The wall will be here. Will I know how to use the space when I’m finally there?

Everyone is operating on trust.  Doing their best work, being dependable in getting that work done, and trusting that everyone else will be holding up their end of the bargain as well.  Set Construction and Performance — those two examples were in focus tonight.  And they had a lovely first meeting.  But these trust/dependability relationships exist across the board: costumes, props, lighting, orchestra, hair/makeup, stage management, production crew, marketing, direction, performance, audience.  Each one is enhanced by the other, and each would be diminished without the other.  We, each and every one, work.  We are dependable.  And we trust.

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Play is Hard Work.

Lots more fine tuning tonight!  We set out to run the entire show, but I decided to do a stop-and-start run — which meant I could stop to make changes and adjustments, or to offer suggestions along the way.  The musical numbers were all in pretty good shape, so we focused primarily on the scene work.  I threw a few new ideas into the mix and enjoyed the results as the actors explored the text from a different perspective and also made lots of fun new discoveries entirely on their own.

Excellent work all all around!  Everyone was attentive and willing to “play.”  And by “play,” I mean “work.” Working hard, but with a sense of generous abandon.  Exploring new territory while keeping the integrity of all our previous work intact.  Not necessarily easy, but oh so rewarding.

We only managed to make it through Act I, but that’s just fine.  We did have time to run the opening and closing numbers of Act II, which involve the entire cast.  And we’ve already spent a good bit of time on the Act II scenes, so I think we’re in great shape there.

Tomorrow will be a run through of the entire show and I will try my darndest not to stop with more additions. I get so excited when I see the cast making new connections and firmly grasping previously troublesome material, it’s all I can do to keep myself from asking for more, more, more!

But I think we really do need to have one good solid run before we move into the theater.  And tomorrow night will be our last shot at it. So I’ll try to keep quiet — and to take copious notes.

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Final Week Adjustments

These are my favorite kinds of rehearsals.  Everyone is off book and knows the choreography, so we can stop and start and make all sorts of adjustments.  

Tonight we started with some focused movement work and then refined the top of Act II and the end of Act II — lots of clarifications and additions!  We then worked several sections of the Act I Finale and did one of my very favorite things — simplification and clarification.  Sometimes you have to go all the way in one direction to realize the ease of putting the true focus where it should be.  This section was once chaotic, but now is serene and dreamlike, which is feels just right.

We also worked a very complicated scene earlier on in Act I where we are layering multiple levels of storytelling.  A slight shift of character and intent has proven to be a very good thing.  And drilling pace, pauses, and timing is moving us ever further in the right direction.

It feels so luxurious to think that we have two more of these stop-and-start rehearsals before we move into the theater and tackle an entirely new set of hurdles.  Onward!

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Perspective

We’re in our final week of rehearsals before moving into the Carolina Theater for tech week.  And we’re in good shape.

The cast has drilled the choreography and staging to the point that running the show is not an issue at all at this point.  Mistakes have been erased and confidence in the material is growing moment to moment. And that’s a great place to be.  It allows me to forget about teaching and to watch and critique the work as a whole; while we still have the time to make changes toward a better and better production.

An added benefit of the cast being so well prepared in this final week of rehearsals is that I can more clearly see what the show has become and then consider how that differs from what we originally set out to create.  I find that there’s always a difference here, and that’s not a problem at all.  We started with an idea, a mission, a blueprint of the show we wanted to build.  There are always changes along the way — born out of necessity, inspiration, and sheer whim.  And as one aspect of the production changes, so will another.  And another. And another.

Excellent character work in Act II makes me look back at Act I and think of how a few directorial shifts could tie it all together beautifully.  One individual actor’s work on his or her character arc can help me to see where another actor’s work could use a bit more focus.  Enjoying precise choral unison on one number can make me see how I’d love to see it again somewhere else — or even to realise that too much unison was a bad idea and that a bit of chaos might be a better way to go.

In short, the forest is in place.  Now I can start to look at the trees.

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