December 8, 2010

First Rehearsal, Minneapolis

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:10 am

Today we began rehearsal for The Comedy of Errors, the second of the shows we’ll be touring with this year. After our successful remount and fall tour of last year’s Romeo and Juliet, we’re starting from scratch with a new and very different production.

As is the custom in recent years, it’s co-produced with the Guthrie Theater of Minneapolis, who invite us to use their amazing facility and staff to rehearse and premiere one of our shows.

I got into town on Sunday, and yesterday Meaghan and I spent the day at the theatre, meeting with people and setting up our rehearsal room.

In the lobby I got my first look at our new posters. The Guthrie did their own logo for R&J last year, and now we have a Comedy logo to match!

This morning we had the great pleasure of having our truck show up bright and early to unload part of the Comedy set, which consists of a series of curtains suspended by towers at varying depths across the stage. Because of the very specific design of the curtains and the intricate uses they’re expected to have, we have taken the rather ambitious step of having the actual scenery in our rehearsal room for almost the entire process (from day 1 until the day they’re needed to go upstairs to the stage). The arrival of the truck also allows us to have some of our road boxes in the building, namely the much-appreciated stage management workbox, and some other boxes which contain useful items, and things of a fragile nature that would not benefit from spending a month in a frozen trailer parked in a field in St. Paul (such as wigs).

The Guthrie crew set up the towers and curtains this morning, under the direction of our TD and set designer, who are also in for a few days to oversee the beginning of the process.

At noon-ish, Meaghan and I went up to one of the classrooms in the building, where we conducted the Equity meeting, to allow the crew time to finish in our rehearsal room. It was a casual and fun-filled meeting (it’s quite easy when the whole company has already been working together for months), the highlight of which was one of our actors who had clipped an article from the Equity newsletter by union president Nick Wyman, and read aloud this very funny and accurate piece about what usually happens when it comes time to elect a deputy, and encouraging members not to dread this duty.

With the meeting done, we returned downstairs to our rehearsal room for the meet & greet, which at the Guthrie is a big production involving the whole community of staff, not just those involved in a specific production. Artistic director Joe Dowling introduced Acting Company artistic director Margot Harley, and both spoke about the continuing collaboration between the two companies. Our director, Ian Belknap was introduced, and he spoke a bit about the play and his ideas for it, before introducing brief design presentations from scenery and costumes. It was really cool that in addition to the set model, the gathered audience was actually sitting within most of the actual set in 1:1 scale. The cast and the rest of the creative team were introduced, and then there was some time for mingling, before we were left to begin rehearsal.

It was a good day of table work. I find it really interesting to start a process with a bunch of people who pretty much all know each other intimately already. The whole cast, stage management team, and our staff repertory director have been through a 4-week rehearsal process together, followed by weeks of touring, so it’s already very much a family. Ian hasn’t been our director, but as associate artistic director of the company, he’s been very much a part of our lives throughout the process, so there’s not that usual weirdness of everybody feeling out the director’s personality. The majority of us have worked at the Guthrie before, so there’s a familiarity with many of our “new” collaborators already. I definitely feel the difference that it makes in the early hours of rehearsal when everyone already feels safe and has nothing to prove in the rehearsal room.

Most of our costume fittings were done in New York during the R&J rehearsal process, and tomorrow and Thursday we’ll finish them up. It was a huge pain trying to get everyone into the shop outside of R&J rehearsal time, but the payoff is that we don’t have to deal with it now. We have some wig fittings later this week, and then hopefully that should pretty much be it.

All-in-all it was a very smooth first day. It was a lot of fun to see everybody at the Guthrie. It definitely feels like coming home. We don’t have a stage management intern to guide us through the Guthrie system this year, but between Meaghan’s experience spending a full year as intern and ASM (including the initial Acting Company/Guthrie collaboration on Henry V), and my two previous shows as PSM, we have pretty much learned all the procedures and people that need to be known to stage manage here.

As much as I generally find it frustrating to go back into rehearsal when we’ve already rehearsed, teched, opened and toured a show, I’m actually looking forward to this process. So many of my collaborators are old friends by this point that I’m just excited to work on it. Also, this is the first comedy I’ve done with the company, and it’s short, so that’s a nice change from the 3-hour tragedies and histories we’ve done before!

I think Comedy and R&J are such polar opposites that this tour will be incredibly fun to perform in rep. One show will be easy to load in, funny, short, but probably more hectic and stressful to run. The other will be hard to load in, emotionally intense, long, but more easy and slow-paced to run. There will be things to look forward to every time we switch shows, and I think that will keep us always looking forward to whichever one we’re doing.

And I’m once again staying in what I have come to call my “winter apartment,” which I will have lived in for six months of my life by the time we leave for the road. Sometimes I think a change of scenery might be interesting, but I had loads of fun getting dropped off at the garage door with my suitcase and my groceries, and just busting in and unpacking everything in about 10 minutes. Everything already has its place, its shelf, its drawer, which outlet it gets plugged into, as comfortably as if I’ve lived here all my life. Almost every time I come home to my NY apartment (which I moved into in 2006) I fumble around for the lightswitch on the wrong wall. So I feel at least as comfortable here. It’s nice to have some consistency in my rather inconsistent domestic life.

I think I’ve said before that I believe that when you tour a certain part of your brain gets set aside solely for remembering your hotel room number and which way to turn when you get out of the elevator. Usually, for me at least, this works surprisingly well, even when you have to memorize a new 3- or 4-digit number every day or two. I think it’s somewhat related to keeping a mental picture of what the hallway looks like and that somehow helps you to remember the room number. Very seldom do I experience something that happened to me in Tucson a few weeks ago, where I went to the front desk for something, and they said, “what’s your room number?” and I went, “…uhhhhh….” (what city are we in? Tucson. 8th floor, turn left, turn left, turn right, turn left…802!). So being in an apartment that’s familiar for two straight months might as well be like owning a house.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about the weather. I was afraid that coming from California and Arizona, this would just be torture. The temperature has been in the teens since we got here, but so far it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s some kind of sense memory, that when I see these streets and buildings, my body just expects to be frozen solid, and 15 degrees feels warm, because it is, relatively speaking. I love this city, and I swear some day I will see it not covered in a sheet of snow and ice, and it will be awesome.

The underside of the Endless Bridge, as seen from the rear of the lobby. I love the Endless Bridge. It’s just ridiculous. It’s one of the longest cantilevered structures in the world (this photo actually makes it look much shorter than it is), and it doesn’t really have a purpose other than to be cool. Working here for the first time was a big culture shock in terms of theatre architecture. Broadway houses are so much about efficient use of space and maximizing seating capacity, that they don’t even allow room for things like an elevator, or adequate restrooms. And then there’s the Guthrie, that has a 178-foot-long, 30-foot-wide, two-storey-high bridge to nowhere, just because. It definitely makes you feel like you’re working someplace special, and by extension, your work must be important because this impossibly flamboyant building exists just to house it. Working here is kind of intoxicating. Everything is a heightened experience because the building itself is so weird and intriguing. You just go to a meeting and you’re like, “Why does this room have diagonal yellow windows?!?” It makes working anyplace else seem incredibly dreary.