Friday, February 10, 2017

Theatre 101: Finally...Opening Night

So after months of rehearsals, costume fittings, set building, several nervous breakdowns, ranting &
raving, forgetting lines, missing cues, coming down with the flu (not me, but others in the cast), chaos & confusion, this scene just doesn’t work, “Louder!”, “Don’t turn your back to the audience.”, dress rehearsals and tech rehearsals…we FINALLY were able to present our play, “The Vile Veterinarian…Or How Much Is That Doggie With The Widow?” an old-fashioned, 1890s, Melodrama.

I did miss blogging about the final rehearsals on Wednesday (which was not a full dress rehearsal as we didn’t wear costumes), but it was a horrendous as could be. We were trying to rehearse while people were working to get the room ready so there was a lot of banging and clanging.

Opening Night we arrived early to get ready…mostly the ladies getting their hair done, which takes a long time. A lot of them have wigs and hairpieces, but those still need to be done properly to look right. Makeup needs to be done. We even torture the men by making there wear some. 
The cast...
THEN…We wait…and wait….and wait….

It’s a DINNER theatre so we have to wait until dinner is over before starting the play. Not everyone likes that wait. You’re jittery enough and just want to go on, so having to wait an extra hour and half can be brutal on your nerves. Plus, most are in full costume and they can be hot to sit around in for hours.

Backstage selfie right before we went on
There is nothing quite like getting to perform in front a live audience, especially after months of having only the director or a prompter around to watch. You never really know if you’re funny until there are actually people out there. Sometime you get a good audience that laughs at everything, others are just grumpy never warm up. Opening Night’s audience was GREAT. They laughed from the first line, they got the terrible puns, they even “booed” the villain (which is ok in a Melodrama as the villain usually deserves it). So glad the audience seemed to enjoy it. What a relief!! And what fun!

The show went really well…for the most part. No major mistakes.

Of course there are ALWAYS a few things.

1 – My Hair Has Fallen!!!
My big "Ahhhhh!" singing moment. Before my
hair fell down.
My hair started to “come apart” in the second act. It literally began to fall, pieces were hanging in front of my face. The second hat I wear will not stay on, even with pins. It too kept falling off so I finally dumped it and declared I would buy a new one because that one just didn’t work. There is nothing more annoying for a performer than a wardrobe malfunction (ask Janet Jackson). When something’s not right with your costume or hair it’s all you can think about. I’d also forgotten to bring hairpins with me so I had someone run back to the room where we got ready to grab some. Another girl loaned me her barrette and we’re all shoving pins into my hair, hoping it will stay up there until the end.

2 – The Case of the Rolling Trunk
So we have a trunk that is brought on by one of the female characters. She has to push it on, sliding it across the floor. It worked ok in rehearsals on the tile floor, but once on a stage it was harder to push. We’re also using a big Oriental rug and it would snag on the edge. So they decided to put wheels on the trunk. Sort of works better for pushing, but the trunk is also used as an extra seat. So you’ve got a trunk on wheels, perched on a corner of the stage. The first time someone sat on it…it started to roll (toward the edge of the stage). The actor managed to pull it back, but later another actor touched it and the trunk rolled again, the back wheels coming OFF the stage. So it’s balanced there on the edge
With the director after the show
of a cliff. Audience members (who are right up front) are ready to jump up to catch it. I’m on the couch nearby and wondering if I can lunge in time to grab it. Luckily, another actor was able to pull it back on her way out. But watching that trunk wobble on the edge, thinking it would crash to the floor was a BAD moment. 

Dish duty...
Oh...and the night wasn't over. Ended up staying very late to help with the dishes. Someone had to wash/dry all those plates/silverware. We still managed to have fun even doing that, though.

So that was Night One…two more shows to go! Back with recaps of Show 1 and 2.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Theatre 101: Show Week Continues...Second Dress Rehearsal

Night 2 of Dress Rehearsal...
We have a more complete stage - there are actual walls! Still a few details to add, but it's starting to look like a real place now.


Things we've learned so far:
-The actress who plays Grandma is sick and we're not sure she will be recovered time. We're wondering who we can slap her wig on come play time.

-The ladies are getting used to navigating rickety stairs in period dresses that weigh 15 pounds and have long, full skirts. Also, we know why women had dressers back-in-the-day. Getting in to those suckers is a two-person job. Same thing for hair.

-The couch is very low to the ground and some of our actors have trouble getting OUT of it so it's been elevated with wooden blocks on each leg.

-Nope, you don't actually have time to run to the other side backstage to grab that prop before you have to be back on.

-Still can't get two of my three hats to stay on. They slide off. Must figure this out.

-Figuring out the "drop off" points where you can actually fall OFF the stage (it's elevated about 3 feet) if you take a wrong step.

-My teased hair (before smoothing into a presentable hair style) makes me look like Edward Scissorhands, especially before makeup is applied. YIKES!

A peek at the full get-up.
Tonight is a run-through but without costumes. Thursday if the PREMIERE!!! Pray we make it!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Theatre 101: Break A Leg...The Launching of a Play

You's ALMOST HERE! The play launches on Thursday and we're getting serious. We have dress rehearsals all week. The first one was last night. For the first time we're working on an actual stage. Since we do the dinner theatre at our church we have to bring in risers and everything. All the rehearsals have been done on the floor with tape to indicate where walls and exits will be. We've also
Stage is up, walls still to come
been using regular plastic chairs to stand in for couches and other set pieces. The stage lights are being hung. It is a very different feel when you're suddenly a few feet above the ground and looking into actual (blinding) stage lights. You can't see much of anything past the stage and you suddenly have to worry about falling off.

We also got to wear our actual costumes for the first time. That's always different. This is an 1890s Western Melodrama. My character is April May June, noted opera singer and hat connoisseur. As the description would indicate I get to wear a lot of outrageous hats and I get to sing (badly for the most part). My costume is big, the hats are bigger...and so is my hair. The picture below is very tame compared to what it looked like after the "teasing" process. I looked like the Bride of Frankenstein or someone who'd touched a live wire and gotten electrocuted. 

As this stage of a play (no pun intended) everything changes. Working with the actual set and costumes means we have to relearn a lot of things
Check out this do!
because what worked when while wearing jeans often doesn’t when replaced by a voluminous skirt. The couch isn't quite where you imagined it would go so blocking changes. You tend to forget all your lines because now you're more worried about your hat staying on. (Two of mine slid off.) One of the men literally almost lost his pants because they were too big. 

Dress rehearsals have a reputation for being awful. It’s kind of a thing in the theatre and a lot of people actually believe a terrible dress rehearsal means the actual show will be great! Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

I'll check in tomorrow with a recap of the second dress rehearsal and a couple more pics so tune in!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Theatre 101: Do We Have Any Understudies?

Back once more with a behind-the-scenes look at a play production. Next week is SHOW WEEK (we open on Thursday night) so this week it's down to the nitty-gritty. There is SO MUCH that needs to be done still. Unfortunately, about half of the cast is down with that nasty flu/cold bug that is going around right now. We had all kinds of "extras" standing in and reading parts for absent actors at last night's rehearsal. The mother of one of the kids in the cast even got roped into reading a part. (We may have scarred her for life. Next time I'm pretty sure she's making her husband bring the daughter to rehearsal.) A couple even had to sub-in for two different characters so they had to try and change their voices. One of the kids in the cast acted as a "stand-in", basically standing in the spot where the real actor would be just so we weren't all talking to thin air. 

Most stage productions have something called "Understudies". These are actors who can come in and take over a part if the lead actor is sick or injured. In the real world of the theatre understudies have to go to every rehearsal and memorize all the lines of the actor they *might* suddenly have to replace one night. If you've ever been to a Broadway show or seen a traveling show in your town you might have noticed that the many of the cast members will be listed for a small role, but they also act as understudies for one of the larger roles. Some are even understudies for more than one part. Sometimes actors will *share* roles and they trade off different nights. There might even be more than one actor listed as understudy for certain lead parts. Since the traveling shows are on the road for so long it makes sense that there are multiple backups. Sometimes, you'll notice there are "backups for the backups". If Actor A is out, and Actor B takes his place, then Actor C takes over for Actor B. 

Understudies are the unsung heroes of the stage world. Sometimes, they can go a entire show run and never even get on stage. Understudies are also often depicted as the "bad guys" looking to sabotage the lead actor so they can take his/her place. 

There are some very famous actors who were understudies, but through fate (and an unfortunately sprained ankle or laryngitis or the lead exiting the show) took over the lead role and went on to become famous. 

Actors who started as Understudies and took over lead roles include:
Shirley McClaine - Took over the lead role in Pajama Game from Carol Haney 
Anthony Hopkins - Took over the lead role in The Dance of Death from Sir Laurence Olivier
Matthew Morrison (Glee) - Took over the role of Link Larkin in Hairspray.
Sutton Foster - Took over the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie. She went on to win a Tony Award for the role.

BTW...please says prayers and think good thought for our cast members. We need everyone WELL very soon!!!