Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tech Week for "Talking"

Out of the rehearsal hall and into the theatre. The theatre is in the Boston Center for the Arts, part of the complex around the historic Cyclorama building that was built to hold a vast painted panarama of the Battle of Gettysberg after the Civil War. It’s a familiar space in the basement: I volunteered labor to help the Theatre Company of Boston turn the space into a theatre years ago, when I came to Boston as a recent graduate of the University of Colorado. How many? At least 30, possibly more— I must look up the date some time. The South End, which was derelict and dangerous in those days area is bright and attractively bohemian now. A brand new theatre complex has been built into a luxury condo block next door to the old Cyclorama exhibition/dance space that houses 2 of the 3 orignal “Off Broadway” theatres that have been host to most of the interesting small theatre productions in Boston for the last 30 years. The main 150 seat BCA theatre has gone through a number of names— it was the Erlich and the New African for a while-- and it is currently called the Plaza. I have no idea why-- who ever heard of a basement Plaza?-- and I can’t get used to calling it that.

The call was for two, and Lau picked me up at noon. We made good time and had almost 40 minutes to scout out the (difficult) parking situation. We lucked into a metered space right in front of the theatre— but we have to feed that meter 8 quarters every two hours. Today is mostly tech cues, and — no surprise— it took an hour just to set the first 5 minutes of the play. The set promises to be beautiful. There's a picture of it on Sugan's web site here. After my first scene I’m not on again until the end of the first act, so I brought along my laptop I spent the next 3 hours writing up 3 monologues from notes I had made earlier. That, and Sunday’s cat monologue adapted from the wonderful lunchtime storytelling of She-Who-May-Prefer-To-Go-Nameless, is the first writing I’ve done since going into rehearsal for “Talking to Terrorists”. That’s not unexpected: creating roles takes concentration. But I’ve also missed a number of deadlines for sending my scripts to contests and development opportunities— which doesn’t require concentration, just energy and optimism. February to mid-March is a hard time for me to be optimistic, even when I don't feel from the daily news that the world is headed for hell in a handbasket. In winter I seem to need all my energy just for basic survival. It’s all I can do not to crawl back into bed qand pull the covers over my head when I wake up to yet one more gray and brown and damply chilly day.

At 5pm we break for dinner and I go with most of the cast to the near by Garden of Eden restaurant, where I order the house salad— about the only thing I can order, while remainiong both low carb and low budget. The salad is delicious, but even with vinegrette and three tiny crumbs of blue cheese a cup or so of baby lettuce can’t add up to more tha 200 calories. With tax and tip it comes to ten dollars, and I can’t help mentally calculating what my daily food intake would cost at this rate: $90! Which is about what I spend on groceries for two of us every couple of weeks.... Guess I won’t be taking part in the bonding ritual repast very often. One of the young actors with a healthy young man’s appetite did manage to spend what I spend in a week on this single meal. My tightwad impulses remind me of all the scrounging and making do I’ve done in order to be involved in shoestring productions. I came to this production prepared to do the same , but at Sugan now there are professionals supplying props and costumes and wigs and odd pieces of furniture. Still, this is a modest production compared to the overblown one I just saw at the Huntington. I’d guess the set alone for that one cost more than many smaller theatres spend on their entire season.

The lighting design is complex because “Terrorists” is not a naturalistic play. The characters are seldom in a specific place interacting with each other. Mostly they are responing to a silent invisible interviewer or to several of them== the audience becomes scene partners for us, the actors. What we do, basically, is tell our stories. Characters who are on stage at the same time may be in the same place and time, or in completely different ones. They may or may not be able to hear what oher characters are saying when they are in the same literal theate space, but they may also be in a metaphoric space that includes several different times and spaces. The lighting changes wiith every entrance and exit. In some sections it changes with every speech. Light clarifies places and relationships for the audience, and I see now that it may clarify them for the actors, too. Frequent questions in rehearsal were: can I hear what that other character is saying? Should I let it affect me? Notice or respond? Sometimes the director said “yes”, sometimes “no”— and sometimes “we’ll work that out as we go on... try it different ways, and we’ll see.” Now the light will in a sense determine what is seen and suggest what is heard, and final choices will be made.


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