December 4, 2009

First Day of Rehearsal

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:06 pm

4159527044_5fdba1ff4b_bWe began our day with the Equity meeting. Nick and I had met most of the cast the day before, when they happened to arrive from the airport at the time we were working in the rehearsal studio. At the meeting we introduced ourselves to everyone else and talked very briefly about the basic structure of the company before launching into the four votes we needed to take about rehearsal hours. We have a relatively large number of new or almost-new Equity members on this show, which is kind of fun. I actually did some paraphrasing of the spiel that we’re supposed to give about the deputy election, and the duties and importance of the Equity deputy. I was still bumbling through the conclusion of this speech, wondering if by mentioning what it entailed, I was discouraging anyone from doing it, when we suddenly had a volunteer! Everyone quickly consented, and thus concluded our Equity business.

Once we opened our secret chamber, we were joined by our director, Penny, our vocal coaches Andrew and Sara, and our prop master, Scotty, who was bearing some boxes of things vaguely weapon-looking. We spent about an hour doing basic introductions, going around the table giving our name, role, and something interesting about ourselves, and quickly got to know each other and build up a rapport.

We then began our first read-through, which was also attended by our sound designer and composer. On this show I really wanted to be caught up on everything to be free to pay attention to the table work, just for my own interest because I love table work. I had to respond to a couple emails and arrange a last-minute costume meeting before our designer left for the airport, but for the most part I was able to sit and just listen and take the occasional note when something interesting was said.

There are very few shows other than R&J which could begin with the type of table work that we did today — maybe no other. Once the read-through was complete and we reconvened after lunch, Penny began by asking everyone in the room — everyone, not just the actors — a group of questions:
1. How many productions of R&J have you worked on? (answers varied from none to eight)
2. What was your first experience of the play ever? (most people credited their 9th grade English teachers)
3. What are your feelings about the play itself? (everything, ranging from cynicism about love to it being the reason that people wanted to do theatre).

I can’t imagine another work where you could ask a room of 20 people these questions, and be sure that every one of them would have some prior experience to work with. In some ways it’s even more interesting, because this play is so well known that any production has to deal with the fact that both artists and audience will have their preconceived notions of how it should be done, and what they think of it, before they ever set foot in the theatre. We also discussed how we, as a company who will often be performing for students, have the pleasure of maybe being the first live production — or the first experience of the play ever — for some of these kids.

We continued to discuss the play, characters, and period until the end of our day, and I could tell everybody is eager for tomorrow to continue the discussion we had going.

After rehearsal, the Guthrie had arranged a reception for us at the bar, which was a great way to celebrate the end of our first day. We have a really great company — very talented, and it seems like a good group of personalities, which is especially important given how closely we will be living and working together for the next five months. I always appreciate a process that actually makes me look forward to getting out of bed in the morning, to go to work, no less!

And in meteorological news, the honeymoon is over here in Minneapolis. When we arrived (four days ago) it was in the 40s with a wind chill in the 30s. Today it was in the teens with a wind chill in the negative numbers, and snowing lightly but steadily all day. Which is already a lot milder than it was last year, for which I am grateful.