Hurricane Sandy? The Show Must Go On…

With only 47 days until opening, almost everyone made it to rehearsal yesterday (Oct 28, 2012). Director Tim Weigand was late because he was at Talbot County’s Office of Emergency Services watching the track of Hurricane Sandy and making disaster preparedness videos for the local cable channel. I think the people who came had already completed their storm prep before arriving at the Avalon. We all hope the storm will pass our area without too much damage and Tuesday night’s rehearsal will happen as scheduled. There is still lots of work to do.

One of the longest scenes in the play is when Will (the male lead and LA star) holds auditions for the community play. Everybody in the cast is on stage and the majority of them are kids. Trying to keep everybody focused is a real challenge. I am amazed that nobody is yelling, but from the back of the audience I want to collar some of the older kids and tell them to listen up and help corral the youngest. Being present on stage is crucial and is being drummed into everybody, but it’s a hard thing to do.

Cecile Davis worked with Talley Wilford and choreographer Cavin Moore on a variety of blocking options for this complex scene. Moving people about and then expecting them to stand quietly while she gives instruction about how to do it better is difficult. Some people have to be at the front of the group at a given time and that requires shuffling of the cast. The stage at the Avalon is not large and if people are too far front they are not visible to those in the balcony. Lots of things to consider.

Portia Hughes plays the part of Marley, the imaginary come-to-life stuffed animal (dog) belonging to Tim Darling. This is a great role with lots of physical humor. Portia came prepared for her hands-on-knees role with kneepads. Good thinking, Portia.

We are beginning to hear some discussion about lighting issues. There are times when certain stage areas of a scene need to be spotlighted, and then another and another in quick sequence. People have to be in place when that scene begins and stand quietly until the spotlight is on them. I am beginning to understand why there is a technical week at the end of the rehearsal process. I might be biting my nails at that point.

After most of the kids were released around four in the afternoon, the rest of the cast went up to Stolz to continue rehearsing. They are all to be off book in a week or so and only some are there at this point. Tim Weigand talked about the importance of pauses in dialogue and not rushing ahead. Timing for laughs is something the actors may not really get a handle on until the play is being rehearsed on stage and there are people reacting in the audience.

The actors are getting more comfortable in their roles and Tim, Cece and Tally are encouraging them to try different “takes” on their characters until they find the one that really works. This has to feel risky, but feeling safe enough to try is crucial. There are no mistakes at this stage of the game.

The Tim and Cece Show at the Avalon Theatre

Laura and I had our second “notes” meeting last Friday with Tim Weigand and Cecile (Cece) Davis from the Avalon Theatre. They had more perceptive suggestions about layering depth into the dialogue and suggesting physical actions that show the audience something about the character. When you write a screenplay you give an occasional suggestion about how a character reacts, but anything that smacks of telling the director what to do is a big No, No. You only put notes in when it is absolutely imperative that the director keep that piece of business. In writing this play, we are being encouraged to state the way we see action unfolding. I think they want to keep our vision. We’re not prima donnas. We’re happy to have Tim, as director, add his own vision to the production, but we’d love to sit in on the casting sessions.

At one point Tim and Cece jumped out of their chairs and started acting out one of the scenes, adding chunks of improv dialogue. What a treat. We couldn’t write their ad libbed lines down fast enough. They weren’t just doing a table read, they were in character. This made the script come alive. Laura commented later that although we have gotten excellent reviews for our novel (soon to be reissued as Last Chance Ranch), hearing someone say the lines in our play was a new, thrilling experience. It actually gave me goosebumps.

On Saturday we worked on revisions for five hours. Laura must have had a lot of coffee because we were in some sort of weird humor zone and ended up laughing until we were wiping our eyes. I reread that part this morning. Not sure if it works or not. Dog with an eyepatch – you’ll have to see the show! But we’ll probably leave it in and see what Tim and Cece think. It’s incredible to work with such talented people.

This is so much fun, but the icing on the cake is that we realized once the play is produced we can add “Produced Playwright” to our resumes. That’s pretty cool! Laura is already a “Produced Screenwriter” but neither one of us has done a play before. This afternoon we’ll make a few more tweaks and then email it off to Tim and Cece at the Avalon Theater. I’m sure they’ll have more terrific suggestions. The script gets better with each pass.