After the wave…..

It feels a bit odd to talk about a tidal wave a few days after you’ve ridden it.

The ominous rumble and slow swell; the giddy feeling as you are lifted; the wind, the spray; the breathless joy; the adrenaline rush; the fear that you might go under; the euphoria of riding the crest; the inevitable descent; the barely-controlled crash onto the shore; the slow, unsteady stand as you regain your balance; the exhausted, exhilarated first steps on dry land; the wistful look back to the sea as you wonder when you’ll ride again.

I’ve never surfed a day in my life, but it seems like an apt analogy for what we’ve just done — cast, crew, orchestra, and audience alike.

Here is a review from Voix des Arts.

Here is a review from Chatham Life and Style.

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Magical Mayhem

Well, technical rehearsals are drawing to a close and we’re ready for one glorious weekend of performances!

Monday night I met with princpal actors for final scene work while other cast and crew met across town at the warehouse to load our set into the truck.

Bright and early Tuesday morning, cast and crew loaded the set into the Carolina Theater.  Throughout the rest of the day set construction was completed, lights were focused and programmed, props were organized, costumes were ironed and distributed, front of house issues were sorted…. and a thousand other preparations were made.

Tuesday evening (some folks were at the theater all day and all night) was our first rehearsal on the set.

I talk about this a lot, but there is something both nerve-wrecking and magical about this first technical rehearsal.  Months of discussions, meetings, dreams, sketches, construction days, rehearsals, arguments, resolutions, nail-bitings, sweat-wipings, hand-wringings, laughter, and small rejoicings have lead us to this point.

That’s a lot of time and attention.  Everyone focused, everyone seeing the vision, everyone moving forward.

But the first technical rehearsal is the very first time we bring all the various elements into the same room.  It’s when we can finally see if all those carefully planned pieces will actually fit together.  The set in the theater, the blocking and choreography on the set, the costumes on the actors, the whole shebang under the lights….

Do all the puzzle pieces fit together the way we’d envisioned?

The secret answer is “no.”  They rarely do.  Some things just don’t work and will have to be reinvented.  But other things will work even better than we’d ever dreamed!

So we rehearsed on Tuesday night.  And we watched.  And we analysed.  And then we went back to work.  Changes and adjustments were made on the spot, into the wee hours of the night, and throughout the day on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening was our second technical rehearsal.  All of the above, with the addition of the orchestra.

Again, will the puzzle pieces fit?

Again, some yes/some no.

More discussions, adjustments, changes, fretting, and… resolutions found!

I’m happy to say that our show is coming together beautifully.  It’s an intricate little puzzle we’ve put together for you and we can’t wait to share it!

Preview Performance is tonight at 8 PM — general admission, door sales only.  And then performances continue through the weekend.

Get your tickets here.

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Orion’s Shoulders

Driving home last night, I thought back through our first technical rehearsal, about the whole process that had brought us this far, and forward to our upcoming performances.

Blocking. Choreography. Lights. Props. Costumes. Publicity. Notes I needed to give. Notes I’d never given. Opportunities I’d perhaps missed. Things I’d have done differently. Problems I had yet to solve.

As I navigated dark country roads, I kept noticing the constellation Orion just on the horizon.

And my thoughts would shift to stars, myths, legends, vague memories.

Trying to recall Orion’s story, I realized I’d lost my sense of direction. I know this is silly, but for a moment I wasn’t sure if he was rising in the East — leaping up towards the constellation Taurus — or setting in the West in retreat from the ferocious bull.

Was the valiant warrior winning the battle?  Or losing?

As I drove further into the countryside I could only find Orion’s shoulders above the looming treetops.  Two stars in a narrow swath of sky.

It takes two points to make a line. Just two.

Suddenly any question of advance or retreat became irrelevant.

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Get your tickets here.

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There’s a First Time for Everything

Well, today was a series of firsts.

In seventeen years of directing for the Durham Savoyards, I’d never attended the sitzprobe rehearsal.  This is where the Music Director brings the orchestra and the vocalists together for the first time.  Each group has rehearsed independently, but sitzprobe is their first combined rehearsal.  And it’s all about the music.  The Music Director focuses on timing and tempi and make all sorts of little musical adjustments. So I (director and choreographer) generally steer clear so as not to muddy the waters.

So why was I there today?  To witness another first…

Today was our first ever “Open Sitzprobe Rehearsal,” hosted by Galloway Ridge at Fearrington in Pittsboro.  Essentially, we threw open the doors to what has traditionally been a private event in a closed, cramped rehearsal hall.  Today we rehearsed in the facility’s beautiful Chapin Auditorium and residents were invited to sit in on as much or as little of the rehearsal as they liked.

As I said, we’ve never done anything like this before.  So we had no idea what to expect.

I’m happy to say that the response was overwhelmingly positive.  The orchestra and the singers sounded brilliant, and most of the residents who chose to join us remained for the entirety of the rehearsal.  That’s over two hours of music — plus the usual stops and starts to iron out any little musical wrinkles.  Peppered throughout the performance of the score were mistakes and retakes, awkward silences, laughter, and applause — all the hallmarks of a good, solid, constructive rehearsal.

This lovely field trip, combined with the accompanying adrenaline rush, is a terrific start to our upcoming week of technical rehearsals; and a portent of great things to come during our brief string of performances next weekend.

Here’s a little impromptu video clip of Farren Hilliard singing “The Sun Whose Rays” in today’s rehearsal:

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Get your tickets here.

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Joyous Shout and Ringing Cheer

Tonight was our Understudy Rehearsal and there was reason to rejoice on many levels.

First and foremost — our understudies are incredible!  They’ve learned the principal roles simply by attending rehearsals, observing, taking notes, consulting with the principal actors during breaks, and rehearsing together independently.  All this while also mastering their own roles in the chorus.  It’s an amazing feat, and they are to be heartily commended!

Second.  We’ve proven that the basic architecture of our show holds up and doesn’t get lost in translation.  Each understudy actor brought their own interpretation to the roles. Yes, certainly echoing the work of the principal actors, but each crafting uniquely individual and one-of-a-kind performances.  New voices sang familiar songs.  New perspectives infused well-known characters. New peaks and valleys were explored. New jokes were found. Nuances played out in different ways. Character relationships were transformed. And yet the story we’ve worked so hard to craft over the past few months was still clearly told.

Third.  This was our first audience!  Friends and family of the undestudies were invited to tonight’s rehearsal.  And they breathed a new life into the process as only a live audience can.  Things can get a bit stale after weeks in the rehearsal hall — when you’re working the same scenes and songs over and over again with the same people in the room.  The element of surprise can flatten out and the spontaneity of the work can begin to wane.  But there were new people in the room tonight.  They watched.  The listened.  They responded.  And there was joy!

Get your tickets here.

 

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Music in Mind

Tonight was all about the music.

While the principals were off-site doing scene work on their own, the chorus met with Music Director Jackson Cooper to refresh the ensemble numbers and to work out the kinks.

For most of the time, I just sat in the back of the room and listened.  I marvelled as they broke the harmonies down into individual parts, got each one just right, and then layered them back together into a beautifully unified whole.  I smiled as rhythm, tempo, and timing were discussed and defined; and then intricately interwoven throughout every phrase that was sung.  Many questions were asked. Many problem areas were identified.  And it was a magical thing to hear the many solutions make their way into the music.

I did do some staging work at the end of the night.  And much of that was informed by what I’d seen and heard in the preceding music rehearsal.  We talked about tempo; rhythm and timing; unified intent and attack.

And we talked about focus — in more ways than one.

Focus on the individual characters and on the story that is being told.  Focus on the actions and on the choreography. But also focus in terms of simply being able to see.  With the slightest of adjustments to the staging, the entire cast is now able to see the conductor during a particularly tricky musical section.  And another couple of little focus tweaks allows actors to see each other during moments of both unison and mirrorred movement.  The music is better and the stage pictures are better as well.

All in all a good rehearsal!

Get your tickets here.

 

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Time to Breathe

This is the time in rehearsals when I encourage the cast to find the time to breathe.

We’ve been pushing hard for some time now.  And the pushing gets even harder as the deadline of tech week approaches.  So the tendency is to grit your teeth and keep pushing…. and exhaust yourself…. and lose your focus…. and second-guess…. and let things slip….

But here’s the deal.  Our work has been solid and consistent and we’ve been steadily moving toward a unified goal.  We do still have work to do — plenty of it — but we’re right on track to getting where we need to be.

Monday night we ran Act II.  Solid story-telling.  Focused interpretation.  Constructive assessment of what still needs to be done.  And clear goals laid out for how we’ll improve our work in the days ahead.

Tuesday night we ran Act I.  New discoveries and connections. Increased confidence. A lovely element of playfulness. Specific weaknesses identified.  And clear goals laid out for how we’ll improve our work in the days ahead.

Tonight is an opportunity to breathe.  To rest, to reflect, to recuperate, and to let the work gently settle into our minds and bodies.

Then we’re up and at it again on Thursday!

Get your tickets here.

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