Thursday, December 1, 2016

Theatre 101: The Dreaded First Rehearsals

Fun and perhaps little-known fact about me. I was a theatre major in college at Florida State Univ. I was also in a community theatre group with my church. We did some great shows, including Beauty and the Beast, The Mousetrap, Harvey, and The Imaginary Invalid.

This summer, Dinner Theatre was revived at my church, and I was in my first production in over 10 years, a really funny play called Oh, What A Tangled Web. Now, we’re working on a new play, a Western Melodrama called The Vile Veterinarian, Or How Much Is That Doggy With The Widow. The show is as crazy as it sounds. It’s full of horrible (and horribly funny) puns, which are usually a “no-
April May June
hat connoisseur
no” in most writing circles. The characters have quirky names like Polly Purina (the heroine), Hugh Kandoit (the hero), Dr. Ray Beeze (the villain) and his assistant, Kitty Litter. I play Miss. April May June, a noted opera singer and hat connoisseur. I get to sing (badly).

Right now we’re still in the early stages and working on blocking (where your character moves on stage). It’s a bit of a mess at this point, frankly. Most of the actors are still “on book”, which means we haven’t memorized our lines yet. The director (and actors) are still trying to figure out where all these people need to be so they don’t block someone else or end up with their backs to the audience. Nothing seems to work, and at times, we all wonder if it will ever come together. Actors go through times of feeling like they are the worst ever.

This stage reminds me a lot of writing the first draft of a book. Most authors will tell you that their first draft is utter trash. The plot is shaky, the characters haven’t figured out where to go yet, the motivation is sketchy. There are times when we authors wonder if this isn’t the worst book ever written. But then we go back for a second or third draft and fix all those dangling plot points, dead scenes and useless fluff. We tighten the prose and dig deeper for emotion. Eventually, we do end up with something we can be proud of, but it only happens after a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

A play is like that, too. It's a mess until you learn your lines, where you're supposed to be, and practice enough so that everything seems natural. Then you have a play (and hopefully a book) you can be proud of. 

Any of you ever done any acting? What were you in? Ever have the urge to get back into it?

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1 comment:

  1. I was a Speech and Drama major so I have also spent time treading the boards. This brings back so many memories of times spent on both sides of the lights. Yes, I also enjoyed directing. My first experience in the director's chair was in high school when the faculty member who was directing became ill and left me in charge! I sometimes do feel the urge to go back into the theatre, but my husband and I volunteer with a group that brings many professional productions to town and I've learned to enjoy simply being a part of the audience.