Noises Off

Funny thing, I thought that I would have an easier time writing here once I was busy–that is, once I had something to write about. But it turns out that being busy has had the exact opposite effect. Now that I have things to do outside my house all the time, I find that this blog has been sadly neglected.

As an experiment in motivation, I’m not sure how successful this has been. I think I am just not cut out to do something like this on a regular basis (it’s probably a good thing that I went into theatre, rather than writing). In any case, hello again! It’s been a while.

We’ve officially closed our first show of the season, Noises Off. I don’t get nearly as sentimental about show closings as I did in my first year or two at Denison, but I really will miss this show and its people a lot.  It was amazing how well this group worked together, and how little drama there was the entire time we were working on the show. Add to that the fact that the show itself was hilarious and never got old, and it was a really fantastic six weeks.  I went in to the theatre yesterday to grab something and the set was entirely gone, and the set for the next show already begun to load in. It made me sad–that place that we got to know so well over the past three weeks has ceased to exist, and everyone who worked on the show has scattered off back to their home bases.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the theatre is strange.  Everything you work on ends so fast. It seems like just get into a groove for a show: you know your cues, you have sort of a set ritual for what you do during the different acts. And then it’s over and you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. On to the next thing.

It’s even stranger in terms of building relationships with people. You spend weeks getting to know the people you’re working with, forming this tight-knit group complete with inside jokes and rituals (for Noises Off every day during the rehearsal and performance period was someone’s “day” where they would get loudly cheered at random intervals throughout the day). You work together all the time and go out for drinks after the show and have all this fun and then suddenly the show is over and the group breaks up, probably never to reconvene. And then you go find a new group and start the whole process over again. If you think about it too much it gets mildly depressing, but I just remind myself that with the theatre world being as small as it is, chances are I’ll run into these people in the most random places sometime in the future. So it’s not goodbye, only “see you later”.

And now I move on to my next project. Tom Jones starts soon, and I’ve started going to rehearsals for the apprentice ensemble project I’m helping with. It’s going to take some doing for anything to be as much fun as Noises Off, but I have high hopes. It’s going to be a great season.

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First day in rehearsal!

The problem with only having Mondays off is that I’m already losing track of what day it is, which is problematic when you need to know what you’re doing at work tomorrow. Yesterday I thought it was Monday, and the day before I thought it was Sunday, or maybe Tuesday and I’m just all sorts of turned around right now. But now that we’ve started rehearsals, I think things should fall into a rhythm and hopefully it will be easier to keep track.

We started rehearsals for Noises Off today, which was both awesome and it’s own strange brand of overwhelming. We’ve been prepping all the past week for the start of rehearsals, so we were all set to go. The first thing on the agenda was a “meet and greet”, which I had thought would be just the cast and production team all going around and saying hi and who they were and all that. It turned out to be EVERYONE – the cast, production team, costumes, props, lights, sound, marketing, development, a few volunteers, and all the apprentices. There were a lot of people in that room, all talking, very few of whom I knew. It was loud and hot and I was kind of glad when it was over, but was also really cool to see just how many people were working to make the things we’re doing at Actors possible. And that wasn’t even everyone.

It was really cool to be in the rehearsal room of a professional show, seeing how things run here and how the actors work. Noises Off is not an easy play to read–there’s so much action going on all the time, and the second act is completely insane (a column of stage directions for what’s going on backstage next to a column of the dialogue that’s happening onstage), but even at this first readthrough it was already highly entertaining. I’m really looking forward to watching the actors and Meredith (the director) work, especially once we get on our feet and start actually blocking and moving around.

I’ve gotten used to working on shows where the stage management was just me, or me and one other person, so it was a bit strange being one of five, with actually very little to do in this first rehearsal besides listen. I took notes on some things, but our biggest job today was making sure the coffee stayed plentiful (there’s more an art to it than you might think, as we discovered). I know I will have things to do in the future (tracking props, among other things, including a multitude of plates of sardines), but having come from shows where I was stage managing, it’s sort of weird being back in the assistant position. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though–there’s so much for me to learn here. The process of putting up a show at a regional theatre is so different from the theatres I’ve worked at, simply because it’s such a big organization and there are so many more people involved. I’ve already picked up some new things, and I can’t wait to learn more as we go along in rehearsal.

Last week was really good, and a great introduction to the program and the theatre, but I’m so happy to be in rehearsal. Now it feels like my internship has really started!

Actors Theatre of Louisville

I AM HERE!

I currently don’t have internet in my apartment, because our schedules are already crazy enough that we don’t have times that would fit with the company’s appointment times until Saturday. SO, until then, I’m taking advantage of any place that has free internet, from the library to the theatre to the McDonald’s a block from my apartment. It’s worked pretty well so far, but I will be so glad to be connected again. You don’t realize how much you rely on the internet for little things like checking the weather until it isn’t there anymore.

It’s been a crazy few days. We took a leisurely route from California to Louisville via the lake (for a day of much needed relaxation) and Cincinnati (to pick up things my uncle had been kind enough to store in his attic since graduation). I think it’s a good thing that we didn’t fly straight to Lousiville, because if I had gotten off a plane and tried to move in to my apartment on the same day I think I would have just collapsed.

The apartment is HUGE (pictures forthcoming), and now at least partially furnished, though I am still lacking a mattress. It’s amazing the sorts of things you take for granted living in university housing–desks, chairs, drawers, beds–all the things that fill up a space and are most conspicuous in their absence. I managed to pull a dresser from the basement and got a desk and chair for $22 from Goodwill, so between that and the mattress topper I got from WalMart, made up like a bed, my room looks much more habitable than it did when I first arrived:

my bedroom!

terrible iPod picture of my corner of the room with terrible lighting. but you get the gist. 😀

We also spent the first day or so discovering the kitchen things we’re so used to having that we suddenly didn’t have, like a can opener. The next few weeks will consist of many trips to the store to pick up groceries and sundry devices we forgot to pack, but I think it will a fun learning experience as we learn how to live in this space.

So the first two days were moving-in days. Yesterday we had a big dinner for all the interns sponsored by Actors Associates, the volunteer group at the theatre, which was a bunch of delicious homemade food, and then we went out to the bar for drinks. It was a fantastic evening because we actually got to meet and converse with all the people we had only seen as profile pictures on Facebook.  Everyone is so great and energetic and excited, and I can’t wait to start working with them. It was especially great once the stage management interns all found each other–we found ourselves gravitating together without meaning to, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic group to work with.

Today was FIRST DAY AT ACTORS THEATRE OF LOUISVILLE, which was actually a lot like the first day of school in that we sat and people told us lots of information about the work we’re going to be doing this year, and there was a tour of the theatre, and then more information, and lots of times when people asked us if we had any questions. Most of the time we just said no, not because there aren’t things we have questions about, but because it’s just SO MUCH information in such a short time that we needed time to process it before we could even begin to think about what we still wanted to know.

Despite the information overload, it was a really good first day. Everyone at the theatre seems genuinely excited to have us there, and the theatre itself is amazing–I can’t wait to get lost in it tomorrow when we get sent to try out our keys (yes, I have a FAT set of keys to every door in the theatre, so I will be jingling a plenty when I walk around :P). It sounds like it will be a lot of work and many long days, but I can’t wait to get started.

So, that’s my update on life for the last few days. I’m not sure when I will next have internet, but until then, adios!

LIFE, Theatre, and Much Ado About Nothing

It all got in the way and hence the hiatus.

In that time, I had a rather stressful tech week, a really good opening week, and not very much sleep, got certified in First Aid, saw Much Ado About Nothing (OMGSOGOOD) and freaked out not a little about the fact that I am LEAVING IN LESS THAN TWO WEEKS.

It feels like I have simultaneously too much and too little time before I leave. There’s so many things to do and people to see before I leave, and time is moving fast and there’s not enough of it for everything, but at the same time I really just kind of want July 29th to come so I can start work, because I’ve been thinking about it and imagining how it will be since April, and I just want to find out already.

We only have four more shows for Twelfth Night, which in itself is another one of those weird feelings where it seems like we’ve been working on this forever and also like we just started (I guess that’s what short rehearsal periods do to you). This show has been an experience–both good and bad. The good: the people, and the play, and the size and consistent engagement of our audiences (especially the kids. We had a ton of kids laughing in the audience last night and it was the best). The bad: PUBLIC PARK. Interference from outside parties actually hasn’t been much of an issue for performances (probably because of official-looking set and lights and the number of people in the audience and the staff), but I gotta say guys, the set up and tear-down every night is wearing on all of us a little bit, especially since our storage is at the top of a hill and the set is at the bottom. I was saying to a friend yesterday, it’s like being on tour, except that we don’t actually go anywhere. I shouldn’t complain too much, because with all of us working it actually only takes about forty minutes tops to set up and thirty to strike, which is actually not much time. But I will be so happy to work on a show where I can set things and then they STAY THERE.

Lastly, let’s go back for a minute to Much Ado About Nothing:

Much Ado About Nothing

My favorite Shakespeare play. Made into a film by Joss Whedon. Let me tell you, to say I was excited about this when I first heard about it is a gross understatement. I was also not a little apprehensive, because when two things you love a lot come together, things could go really well, but if they go badly it’s that much more painful because you love both things so much.

Well, I needn’t have worried. Much Ado was AWESOME. First, it was really pretty, and the black and white film really worked well with the setting. But I have to admit that I wasn’t paying much attention to the scenery or the look as much as I sometimes do, because I was too busy being fascinated and impressed by how well this adaptation worked.

Adapting Shakespeare to modern day is something that people do quite often, but it’s actually really difficult to do well. There’s all kinds of lines that don’t make sense when taken out of the original context, and you basically have to go through and find parallels and ways to make it all fit. But this one really worked, in more ways than I can list here, from making one of Don John’s henchmen a woman (evil couple is somehow way more interesting than two evil dudes) to Benedick cringing when Claudio makes a racist comment.

My favorite part was, of course Benedick and Beatrice. Even though their plot is technically a side plot, they are the reason people like this play. Benedick and Beatrice make Much Ado the original romantic comedy, from the classic banter and bickering to being tricked into admitting their love for each other. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof were brilliant, of course (though I think Kenneth Branagh still wins as my favorite Benedick), but what I loved so much about this interpretation was that it made them such a believable couple. There’s a bit in the text that implies that Benedick and Beatrice have a history, and Joss took that and ran with it–the film starts with a scene (implied to be a while before the main action of the play) of Benedick leaving Beatrice in bed without a word, thinking she’s still asleep (spoiler: she’s not). It was so simple and so painful and it made all their subsequent interactions so much more interesting, because you could see that incident hanging between them.

My second favorite was surprising: Dogberry. I’m not a big fan of the Dogberry scenes, possibly because I always think of Michael Keaton’s interpretation (in the 1996 film) which I never really liked. But Nathan Fillion’s Dogberry was perfect: he was played as the clueless head of security with Verges (Tom Lenk) as his smarter subordinate trying to keep things going. I think it worked so well in part because it was played very understated and natural, but also because it was so believable–the guy in the suit is a bumbling idiot, and the guys under him try to figure out what actually needs to happen without contradicting the boss directly. Also, Nathan Fillion is  really really good at playing a doofus (see: Captain Hammer), which is funny considering he’s also really good at playing smart (see: Castle, Firefly, etc.)

I could go on with all the other things I loved (Borachio being in love with Hero, the really understated use of technology) but instead I will end with this conclusion: if you are into Shakespeare, go see this film. If you’re not into Shakespeare…go see this film. It really is fantastic.

A small rehearsal tale

Yeah….I skipped last week. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just not built for this sort of routine.

BUT I have posts in the works for later this week, and maybe there will even be another Fiction Friday! (no promises though)

I’ve just finished the second week of rehearsals for Twelfth Night, my summer show. It’s been a bit weird, mostly because we are rehearsing (and will be performing) in a public park, and so not only do we have to deal with the usual outside things (wet grass, losing light, mosquitos), but we also have to periodically try to discourage dogs and teenagers from encroaching on our space. Add to that the fact that we only just got our storage space for props and things this week (and I was SO glad to get them out of my car) and that we have to lug everything up a hill to said storage every night, and let’s just say it’s taken some getting used to.

But something happened at rehearsal yesterday that made me feel a little better about it. We were rehearsing as usual; it had been pretty quiet, and everything was going well. Now that we’ve gotten the initial blocking done, we’ve been having a good time playing with things and going more in depth with the scenes.

So we’re going through a scene when a gaggle of kids come running down the hill, and I sigh internally because we might have to ask them to leave if they start screaming (as five to seven year olds sometimes do). But our artistic director, who was there watching for the evening, went and talked to them, and eventually something kind of cool happened: the kids sat down with her and started to watch our rehearsal.

I don’t know how much they got, really–it is Shakespeare, and they were, as I said, quite young–but they were quiet, and when I looked back at them they seemed to be enjoying themselves. They even asked questions about the play, and our artistic director talked to them about it.

It was something very small, but I thought it was cool that we were something these kids just stumbled across, and that they seemed to get a kick out of watching what must have looked like a very elaborate game of pretend. Maybe they’ll even come see the play when it’s finished. But even if they don’t, it was really awesome to see these kids sitting there being entertained by our rehearsal of this 400 year old play.

Probably I will still complain about having to strike our set every night and chase gangs of kids on bicycles away from our space. But I guess there can be good things about rehearsing so publicly. (I realized that our rehearsals could sort of act an on going advert for the performances, since we’re always explaining to a few curious folk what we’re doing). Now if only we could do something about the mosquitos…

An Attempt at Vlogging

I’ve been working my way through the original Brotherhood 2.0 videos on YouTube (which, if you don’t know, is a project John and Hank Green did in 2007 where they communicated solely through video blogs for a year. Their channel, vlogbrothers, became famous and six years later they performed on stage at Carnegie Hall. Life is weird like that).

Anyway, watching all these videos made me want to try out vlogging for myself–although I’ve never been terribly good at talking to a camera. I didn’t realize till later that WordPress doesn’t let you embed videos in your posts unless you pay them a lot of money, so here’s a link:

Vlog! (In which Rachel has obviously been watching way too much Brotherhood 2.0, and also has some exciting news).

I don’t think this will become a regular thing, but it was fun to try. Enjoy!

Theatre is Weird (and I love it)

Today’s post is brought to you by my rambling, mostly very unintellectual and unorganized brain. Under no circumstances should it be taken as scholarly in any way, or indeed anything other than me recording the thoughts that rattle around in my head while I’m in the booth watching my show.

You have been warned.

As the title may have already clued you in, I recently had a thought while I was watching I Hate Hamlet (and watching the audience watch I Hate Hamlet)–theatre is weird.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it. There’s nothing I would rather be doing than helping a production get on its feet, watching as it takes on shape and dimension and turns into something beautiful, watching people’s reactions to this thing that we have all worked so hard to make the best it can be. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.

But setting all that aside, if you take a step back and look at it objectively, there’s not denying that theatre, like so many things we humans do, is a very strange practice indeed.

Think about it. You are at the theatre, surrounded by people, most of whom you have never met. You sit in a small, often uncomfortable seat, in close quarters with a bunch of strangers, and you wait. Sometimes there is music, or a preshow performance. Sometimes there is a set to look at, an abstract structure oar a facsimile of a real place. You read the program. By mutual agreement, no one talks too loudly or eats popcorn or slurps soda (at least, in most theatres). After a while the lights dim, and once everyone quiets down. You sit in the dark, and the lights come up onstage, and people–ordinary people just like you–come out and perform what amounts to a very elaborate game of make believe.

Some of these things also apply to many types of performance or art–a movie theatre, for example, has the same surreal quality of a bunch of strangers gathering together to watch a made up story. But there is something about the theatre in general, the fact that the performers are right there, in front of you, that the story is happening in this precise moment, that gives it an immediacy unmatched by any other medium (even live music has a different sort of vibe). The audience sits, and watches, and listens. No one talks, no one heckles, no one jumps up onstage and tries to join the action.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. For a long time theatre was a form of popular entertainment much like sports games are today–vendors sold food, and people shouted responses at the actors, and ate and talked and paid attention when they felt like it. Somewhere along the line something shifted in the way society views the theatre, and it became an almost sacred space, with a set of rules and manners that you violate only at your peril. I leave it to someone much more learned and intellectual than I do discuss whether this is a good or bad thing–there is certainly something to be said for participatory theatre. But the fact remains that nowadays, when one goes to the theatre one is expected to behave a certain way–and the sort of amazing thing is that, for the most part, people do.

<liberal arts student disclaimer>

I should mention at this point that when I speak of theatre in this context, I’m really just talking about “typical” Western, modern theatre. There are as many types of theatre as there are different human cultures, and a good many of them are very different from this description. But I am but one blogger and I can’t address all of them, so I’m just addressing the theatre I’m familiar with.

</liberal arts student disclaimer>

The process of theatre is no less strange from the creator’s point of view, and perhaps stranger. My mom asked me the other day whether it made me sad to have to tear down a set that we spent hours and days and weeks building just a few weeks before. It can be sad, I said, but it’s part of the job–you know that nothing you’re building is going to last forever. That’s why you take pictures. And it can be fun to smash apart something that was the bane of your existence while you were building it.

But I digress.

When you think about it, it is exceedingly strange that we spend all these many hours working and rehearsing, building and painting, stressing and sweating and possibly crying, to make this thing that will only exist for a few weeks or months (or possibly years, if you’re on Broadway, but that’s a topic for another day), and then be gone forever. Theatre is the definition of ephemeral art, surpassed only perhaps by cooking. It would seem that we would have every reason to despair at the thought that all this work will disappear, and that possibly in a year’s time no one will even remember that it happened.

That can be a depressing thought. But I think the thing that keeps us going is the hope that someone will remember. The goal of reaching out, through a performance of a made up story with made up people with made up problems, and touching someone, a real person with a real story, and real problems, and somehow making them better, or changing them in some small way, or even just giving them a really fantastic evening to look back on and warm themselves with on cold grey days. Certainly working on a play, especially a really powerful one, can change you, make you think of things you never considered, see the world a different way. And the culmination of the process is to share it with other people, to share what you have learned and felt.

The sharing is crucial, because theatre is one of the only arts that cannot be practiced in isolation. You can always draw for yourself, write for yourself, play music for yourself, even dance for yourself, but it is very difficult to put on a play for yourself. The audience is the whole reason the play exists, and it isn’t considered “finished” until it has been performed for someone else. In order to tell a story you have to have someone to tell it to. Thus not only is theatre ephemeral, it is also by definition communal, an art that depends on shared experience. It’s one group of people (very rarely is everything done by one person) working together to create something to show to another group of people, saying, “Look at what we made for you. Let us share this little snippet of human experience”.

I think that’s why people sit so still and so quiet when they watch theatre. If it’s any good at all, there’s something about the immediacy of the presentation, the direct connection between the performer and the audience as they share their story, that inspires a sort of reverence. ( This makes it sound like all theatre is grandiose and serious, but of course there’s farce and comedy and clowning and a lot of other kinds of performance that have nothing reverent about them. But even they are about connection with the audience, picking the right things to make them laugh, so I think they can be included in this idea of theatre as a communal form.)

If you made it this far, bravo. Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts about the theatre. In conclusion (if there is any conclusion to be made), theatre is a weird thing, but it’s a pretty fantastic weird thing, and I’m incredibly grateful to be able to be a part of it.

My Recent Life in Pictures

Usually these sorts of posts are “the week in pictures” or “the month in pictures”, but I think it’s silly to put such time constraints on things, don’t you? Why exclude perfectly good pictures just because they weren’t taken this week?

Basically, I finally got around to transferring a bunch of pictures from my iPod to my computer, and I found some that I would like to share.

ANYWAY.

Here’s the last whatever of my life as seen from my iPod.

FOOD

IMG_0036  IMG_0073  IMG_0023 

Adventures in cooking continue!IMG_0030 Salted Caramel Brownies Take Two was a success–as you can see, the caramel was the right consistency! Huzzah! It still left some craters in the brownies, but I don’t think anyone will complain if more experimentation occurs. And in more savory adventures, I discovered that spinach quiche is the easiest thing ever (especially with pre-made crust, which, while it might possibly be chef-sacrilege, I think tasted really good), and that homemade pizza is crazy delicious (and when you can make a really delicious sauce by throwing tomatos, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a food processor, it’s even better). Also, carrot soup is officially my favorite way to eat carrots.

THEATRE

IMG_0067  IMG_0065

IMG_0066The I Hate Hamlet set is gorgeous and wonderful, especially in Act II. Fun fact: the fireplace is made from an old footboard that our set designer found in a dumpster. And he made the throne partly using the footboard. Also, the bricks were made by marking out a grid in tape, spreading plaster over, the pulling the tape off to make the grout, so they actually have texture! In short, our set designer is awesome.

FUN AT WORK

So as you may know, I work in a toy store. Admittedly, it is not all fun and games, but sometimes (more often than perhaps I should admit), stuff like this happens:

IMG_0054  IMG_0049

The best part is that I am encouraged to do this sort of thing on a regular basis. When we got our new marble run display, my manager and I spent at least twenty minutes play–I mean, stress testing it (among other things, we tried to see if we could get all the marbles in the run at once). I love my job.

And finally…

IMG_0029

I leave you with a picture of the view from my front door, taken some time in February. The tree in the background suffers from chronic seasonal confusion; it kept its leaves all through fall and began turning red sometime in December or January. I think it’s forgotten about spring completely.

And on that note, Happy April! See you next week.

Tech!

And here we are at Sunday again.

It’s been a long week. It was a week full of lots of boxes, and driving, and meetings, and building, and more driving, and rehearsal, and more driving. Most importantly, it was tech this weekend for I Hate Hamlet!

I’ve actually been quite excited to tech this show, because we’ve been rehearsing for a while and I was looking forward to adding the technical elements and seeing everything come together. Also, this is the first time since the Nerd that I’ll be in the booth instead of backstage, so I’m looking forward to being able to watch the show and do the cues (although I’m not calling the show, I’m just running the boards myself, as the booth is small and I don’t think there would be room for board ops up there with me). It takes a bit of getting used to, as for some of the lighting/thunder/storm sequences there’s several buttons that have to be pressed simultaneously/in quick succession, but it’s coming along.

Tech went very smoothly, all things considered. I love it when it does, because then I can focus on the show and not be distracted by the stress of things not working. And this really is one of my favorite parts of theatre. Every show goes through various stages, and some of my favorite parts are the very beginning–the first read-through, when everything is new and everyone is excited about this thing they’re going to be making together–and the tech or dress or previews, whenever the first day is when everything is onstage as it will be in the performance. It’s so amazing to see all the hard work of so many people over so many weeks come together into something awesome. We have a fantastic set for this show (I will post pictures of it eventually, I promise), and put together with the costumes and the lights (including a fake fire that looks fantastic!) and the music and sound cues, it just brings the show alive. We cut off two minutes from each act during our tech run today, despite a few technical difficulties, and I think it’s just because of the energy that having everything actually THERE created for the actors. It was great, and I can’t wait to see how it develops as we get more comfortable with everything.

There’s a line in the show, during a sword fight between two of the characters (yes, there’s a sword fight. It’s awesome). The ghost of John Barrymore is trying to get the actor he’s training to play Hamlet to fence with him (I promise it’s not as weird as it sounds), and he says, “This is why one acts. This is why actors are envied. We are allowed to do this sort of thing.”

And that, I think, is a really good expression of one of the reasons I love doing theatre.

We are allowed to do this sort of thing.

We are allowed to play around with swords, and steal a bit from the beginning of the Princess Bride sword fight because it’s cool, and act out seances and play with lights and build a huge fireplace with painted marble and a fire made from spinning metal bits and a light. We are allowed to play at make believe, and have fun creating a world that expresses things about life that people don’t always know how to express.

So even though it meant that I spent a good part of a really gorgeous weekend in a dark windowless room (not to mention Saint Patrick’s Day, if I was into that sort of thing), I had fun, and I’m very excited for this show.

Huzzah for tech week!