Turn, Turn, Turn

Five months later….

The world shut down. And the show did not go on.

At first we optimistically postponed our production of “Patience” to August 7-9 (next weekend).  But those dates proved to be far too soon as the pandemic continued to spread.  Now there are tentative plans for a production in March, 2021.

“Patience” was to have been my last production with The Durham Savoyards.  After eighteen years, and having directed the entire Gilbert & Sullvian canon, I’d decided it was time for someone else to take the helm.

After an exhaustive search, the Board of Governors enlisted a new Artistic Director, Melissa Dombrowski, to take over in 2021. So if a production in March 2021 is indeed in the cards, it will be under Melissa’s capable leadership.

Everyone is excited to welcome her onboard and I look forward to seeing her fresh perspective as she guides the company into the future.

If our August, 2020 show had gone on as planned, we’d have just wrapped up rehearsals and would be heading into tech week — the final days when we move into the theater, add in sets, lights, costumes, make-up, orchestra; and transform what was merely a dream into a theatrical reality.  The Savoyards have several online events going on in the coming week to honor that process.  You can find out more here.

It’s a bittersweet moment for me.  I leave with many fond memories and proud accomplishments.  And have nothing but high expectations and best wishes for Melissa and the Savoyards as they move forward.

In these months of shutdown I’ve spent many hours in the garden.  And I’ve been struck anew by the miraculous cycle of all things.  There is no stasis.  A fresh blossom is often seen as the pinnacle of growth and a wilted flower is seen as the end.  But they’re both just moments in a beautifully elaborate and never-ending process.  Seeds will fall.  Roots will push down into the earth. And a new season will unfold.

Hail Poetry!

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Finding Our Balance

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(Disclaimer:  This photo is not our cast.  But we do have some snazzy red and yellow uniforms!)

This afternoon we had our first stumble-through of the entire show!

Up until now we’ve created small chunks of material in each rehearsal.  But today was the first time we’ve put the whole gangly contraption together, piled everyone on, and taken it for a ride.

While I can truthfully report that we were able to stand it up; nobody fell off; and the wheels kept turning all the way to the end. I must also tell you that it was a hellava wobbly ride.

Cues were dropped.  Lines were flubbed. Entrances were missed.  Choreography was mangled.  Harmonies were warped. Blocking was forgotten….

And that’s fine.

All of this is prefectly normal. We’re still a few weeks out from Opening Night; and we’re right where we need to be at this point in the process.

Early rehearsals have all been about feeling our way foreward. And we’ve spent most of our time in our heads as we constructed, analyzed, and notated every move and every motivation.  

So here’s what we have: solid, sensical staging; sound musical footing; and a clear path foreward.

But here’s what we still lack: confidence; physical/mental clarity; and a collective rhythm that can only be gained through repetition.

So we will do it again.  And again. And again.

Now it’s time to take off the training wheels, wobble around for a bit, learn to find our balance; and ultimately to enjoy the ride.

 

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The End of the Beginning

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If you know Gilbert and Sullivan, then you know their typical Act I Finale can be a play unto itself.

We’d begun staging the Act I Finale last Sunday, but didn’t quite finish — so I tacked it onto the schedule for today.  A schedule which already included staging three short songs and a scene in Act II.

Long story short — we got it all done.

Short story long — it was a massive undertaking and everyone is to be commended for their focus and tenacity as we tackled lots of complicated material.

The work we did in Act II is tons of fun, but pretty straight forward.

So a bit more about the Act I Finale. It’s 58 pages long (!) and is basically a rapid-paced series of 14 individual “songs” all strung together:

  1. Happy Maidens rejoicing at the chance to win the Poet of their dreams.
  2. Jealous Gentlemen breaking up the party to find out what’s going on.
  3. Confessions, Rejoicings, and Grumblings
  4. A plaintive ballad!
  5. A huckster’s hi-jinks — the show must go on.
  6. Gentlemen throwing in the towel.
  7. Fortune is not Blind.
  8. A headstrong Soprano enters and ruins everything.
  9. Hysteria.
  10. A definition of True Love.
  11. A stunning Sexted with Chorus (and a happy-ish ending?).
  12. But no!  A Lyric Baritone enters and ruins everything.
  13. The more things change the more they stay the same.
  14. Chaos — Seriously. It’s nine different sub-groups doing nine different versions of choreography while singing beautifully. All at the same time.

That’s a lot going on!  So I broke the cast down into groups and worked with each group separately; allowing the other groups to review and work forward independently when not “onstage.”

In the last half hour of rehearsal we were finally able to put everyone together to see if the individual pieces would mesh into one complicated but harmonious whole.

And they did! The individual pieces did indeed work together. And it was kinda cool.

So the Act I Finale is done.  Which means Act I is done.

And Act II is done for the most part — just one scene and the blessedly brief Act II Finale remain to be staged.  I plan to have all that done by the end of the week.

Then we can move on to the next stage of rehearsals: polishing and perfecting; and getting it all into our heads and bodies so it looks sharp, natural, and effortless.

We’ll see you in about a month!

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The Simple Things

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(Disclaimer: Not our actual Soprano; not a concertina)

You can’t imagine the Comic Magic that can be wrought with just a Soprano, a bar stool, a concertina, an erratic wig, two well-placed bags of rice — and eventually a full orchestra, of course.

Tonight we had another jam-packed two-hour rehearsal in which we concocted the staging for a brilliantly brief two-minute song…. This stuff doesn’t happen by accident, folks!

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Got Tickets?

POSTER Patience

In a grand collaboration between actors, costume designer, hair/make-up designer, properties designer, photographer, graphic designer, copy editors, proofreaders, etc., our team has created a delightful design for posters, postcards, advertisements, and other marketing materials.

The design concept is based on the imagined look of a mid-century magazine ad for milk…. with a Beatnik, a Hippie, and a Milkmaid coming together to enjoy some cool and wholesome refreshment.

 

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When Work is Play. And Play is Work.

Last night we spent over two hours creating about a minute and a half of staging.

To be clear, that’s not unusual.  But generally most of the “creation time” involves me alone at home working out the geometry and dynamics of synchronized group movements; followed by a somewhat more brief chunk of rehearsal time to teach the choreography and/or staging to the cast.

It’s not that we don’t invent on the spot in most rehearsals. We certainly do. But, more often than not, I walk in the door with a solid and detailed framework upon which to build and within which to make new discoveries.

However, last night’s song is such a jaunty fun little diddy — with tons of possible interpretations. And it only involves two actors! So I didn’t want to impose too much upon them before finding out where their natural instincts might lead us.

I came in with some vague concepts of balance, weight exchanges, tug-of-war, one-upmanship, leap frog, etc.; and the determination that this brief musical number should be effervescent and jam-packed with energy, movement, personality, and storytelling.

So we played, the actors and I. We experimented with lots of different movement ideas — discarding some; instantly embracing others; and putting still others in our back pockets to perhaps revisit later.

As the piece slowly began to take shape, we constantly reassessed our clumsy creation. Stumbling through some versions. Shuffling things around. Cutting out the bits that weren’t quite working. Improvising some new little flourishes. And then stumbling through some more.

In short, we played.

And we made a thing! A delightful confection of a thing I’m certain our audiences will thoroughly enjoy!

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Collaborative Percolations

One month into the process and the listening/observing has paid off in delightfully surprising ways.

As I said in my previous post, I came in with both definite ideas and an open mind. Among the developments and discoveries recent rehearsals have produed are: clockwork choreography; characterization inspired by Carol Burnett and Gloria Swanson; passes/tackles/interceptions; body modifications fabricated from a common kitchen staple; the importance of a well-placed “ding-ding”; visions of a predatory hydra;  a game of follow the leader; a sad concertina; and so much more!

I can’t wait to see what the next month of rehearsals will reveal!

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…and away we go!

It has begun.

After months of pre-prodution planning and design meetings; an open sing-through last November; and auditions and call-backs in early December — we have officially assembled our cast for “Patience” 2020.

Today was our first full-cast rehearsal. And our first glimpse of exactly what will make this production of “Patience” distinctly different from any other.

As a director I always look forward to the initial sing-through.  This rehearsal is all about the music. So I take advantage of the opportunity to watch, listen, and imagine the show we are about to create together.

I come in with concrete thoughts and plans, of course. But there is always room for change.  For re-invention, re-interpretation, and new discoveries.

So I don’t like to talk too much at the first rehearsal.  I want to see what happens when the actors bring their natural talents and tendencies and simply sing the story.

As the cast worked their way through the score, I began to understand the distinct personalities and vocal intonations that will personalize each of the characters.  I caught early sparks of chemistry between individual actors.  And witnessed unexpected humor, high notes, low notes, unusual harmonies, and promising group dynamics.

Today was fun.  Just the singers and the music, with no pressure and no direction.  It was a chance to sing out — free and clear.

… and for me to listen and learn.

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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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