Finding Our Way
Since writing the last part of Installment #1, we’ve hired a new leading man, fired the production manager, and opened Iron Curtain to rave reviews. As the song says, “We’ll Make It!” and we did. Prospect Theatre Company is not unlike Village Theatre in that they are passionate about telling stories. Story tellers are a rare breed. They are devoted to creating something out of nothing. Shakespeare’s King Lear said, “Nothing comes from nothing” so perhaps I am wrong in saying that we make something out of nothing. But what is nothing? Nothing is something, right? After all there is a word for it, so it must be something. Wait – am I getting existential? Do I even know what that means?
I just know that I experienced a phenomenon during our three and a half days of technical rehearsals. Tech is where the actors work for the first time on stage and incorporate all of the designer elements: costumes, wigs, lights, sets, props, and sound. The actor’s performance is usually enhanced by the addition of these technical elements. I say usually, because this tech was wrought with problems. After three days of waiting for the set to be completed, the production manager was fired. So, the day before our first preview, we were faced with some very difficult situations: no set for Act II, costume quick changes unrehearsed due to lack of set, and lights were unable to tech due to… you guessed it, the lack of a set. But with determination, hard work, talent, newly hired carpenters, late nights for our tech crew, and a good sense of humor, we made it through.
Witnessing the strength of character and commitment to this project in this remarkable group of administrators, designers, technicians, and actors, I believe that something comes from nothing. On Saturday afternoon, we quickly ran through Act II so that the lighting designer was able to at least give us some sort of light so the audience could see us. The multi-level, moveable platforms had been built sometime between 11PM-2AM on Friday night, but we had to cut them for the evening’s preview performance as they didn’t move safely nor did the brakes work. For that evening’s performance, we reverted to the choreography used in the rehearsal room – levels were only imagined in our heads and the audience saw a more horizontal version of the choreographer’s design.
Saturday, November 5th – First Preview
No one Died.
We performed for our first preview audience without having to stop and without injury. That is a blessing because the adrenalin has been pumping constantly through the actors & technicians veins during this tech process; our bodies have been on fight or flight for four days straight. We are tired, scared, and angry. For three weeks, we have been working in the rehearsal studio to create a specific, unique, and believable story, but when the visual element of the story is left undone, we are forced to work even harder to convince the audience that they should listen to us. If we are performing in an environment that is not complete, then we have to not only create this crazy world of Iron Curtain, but we have to overcome visual obstacles that the audience constantly is forced to endure. Theatre is a group effort and when one person fails to do their job, everyone else is affected. First preview down – no one died – excellent.
Sunday, November 6th – Tech in the afternoon and Second Preview in the evening.
New Set Piece Revealed – Oops
Repairs have been done to the ACT II moving platforms; they still don’t work right. We do the horizontal version of the choreography again. The audience seems to love the show and no one dies, however, there was a new set piece that was added in ACT I, but we didn’t rehearse with it. During the preview, one of the dancers didn’t know it was going to be there and proceeded with her usual track and danced right into it. It fell over. Thankfully she was not hurt and our sense of humor dominated the situation. That humor has been our saving grace; the tech process has been so full of problems that we decided to laugh instead of cry. These people are beautiful to work with.
Monday, November 7th
Day Off for Actors
The actors are off, but the crew will be working to fix the tech problems. We are all on vocal rest. My family comes to town to visit and see my Off-Broadway opening. I cannot talk much as I’m on vocal rest, but it is so good to see them and be in their loving company. We tour NYC by walking through central park, going to Top of the Rock (viewing the New York skyline from the top of Rockefeller Center) and learning all about Mr. R’s philanthropic vision for New York City.
Tuesday, November 8th – Afternoon rehearsal and Third Preview in the evening.
More Set Pieces
The platforms work and they are put into the show for tonight’s final preview. We get through it. The audience enjoys the show.
Wednesday, November 9th – Afternoon rehearsal and Opening Night.
Is It Playtime Yet?
We continue to rehearse rough spots from last night: set change transitions, new choreography is added, costume changes are rehearsed, and set issues are addressed. The 8 piece orchestra is behind the stage and the sound designer wants to hear them more acoustically. He takes away the heavy black curtain that has been separating them from the stage and adds a lighter drop so we can hear them better. Fingers are crossed that nothing goes wrong tonight. My family is in the audience tonight; some of them haven’t seen me perform since 1980. I hope they like what they see.
We got through the show without mishap. We can hear the orchestra now. No more rehearsals in front of an audience; we can now begin to find our rhythm and play. My family is here for my off-Broadway opening night. I see them afterwards and they are proud of me. My picture taking brother-in-law is taking photographs of everything he sees. The best shot is blurry, but it’s of my sisters and I (Karen is in green, Lorraine is on the right). A union of souls and blood is a powerful experience. I am deeply happy to share this night with them.
November 25, 2011-Black Friday (for retail) Nineteenth show (for us).
I am travelling back to NYC on a peaceful and smooth Amtrak ride. I had the pleasure of spending two days of the Thanksgiving holiday with my sister, Karen, and her family in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. It feels so good to be here on the East coast – so near family and so close to a vibrant city full of top theatrical talent.
Potential Producers are coming to the shows so that it can go further and perhaps get a Broadway Run. I hope Iron Curtain gets its chance on The Great White Way*; audiences will love it. We are getting great houses and are granted an extension through December 4th. This gives a chance for more potential producers to see this show. Reviews have been extremely favorable. I get first mention in the New York Times review and am called “Uproarious”. Wow. That was unexpected. I will have that vote of confidence in my life forever now. It feels so good.
*The Great White Way was a nickname originating in the headline “Found on the Great White Way” in the Februrary 3, 1902 edition of the New York Evening Telegram. The journalistic nickname was inspired by the millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements that illuminate the area. (Wikipedia)