Thursday, February 24, 2011

Striving to "Get Ahead"

So, I am now confirmed to start rehearsals for my next show, The Copperhead at City Lit, with first read-thru on Sunday night.

Yeah, I'm missing the Oscar party Cbyrd and I throw every year, which sucks (especially since it's been made clear I'm still on clean-up detail), but, y'know, I am so ready to get back to work. There's been a lot of down time in the last year, or so, and it makes me crazy. Yeah, yeah, I have lots of other projects, music, writing, watching Blu-Rays...but there's something about the scheduling, the structure of rehearsal that makes me happy. I know where I have to be , and when. There's not nebulous "I'll try to make that" deadline, as with my music projects.

THIS is where I have to be, and THIS is what we're working on. It allows you to focus our energies on that element for that time. I like that, there's a comfort in it.

Anyway, it's been about four months since I was cast. First thing I did was snag a copy if the script off the internet (public domain - I don't dig theft) and make a rehearsal script. I wanted to start right then, honestly, and I knew the time between the casting and the production would be long. At a certain point I figured I'd try to get an early start on going over the script, considering character stuff, and learning lines.

Oh, I had this great plan, I was going to learn two pages a day over lunch, and then review everything each day, until we started. That would've put me in a position to have my entire part memorized at first read-thru.

In recent years, due to a couple of fairly embarrassing onstage moments, I've become kinda paranoid about memorization. It's something that I took for granted for many years. Hell, in undergrad, I never worked at memorizing anything. I just learned it from repetition in rehearsals. Of course, that probably says more about the size of the roles I was assigned to in college, more than anything else.

After undergrad I had a moment of realization. I was in a production, years ago, of Picasso at the Lapin Agile in Omaha, and the director pulled me aside. She told me I was mouthing everyone's lines in between my own.

Well, I was mortified.

That event led me to the tactic that I've used in memorization ever sense. I never learn anyone's lines but my own. There usually comes a point in every process where someone asks what such-and-such an actor says to me, and I'm clueless. It also makes me pretty useless when someone goes up on stage.

That said, what it did for me, and why I still adhere to it as a process, in the main, is it made me listen, really listen, for the first time. I found myself not listening for a cue line, but actually having a conversation, and using the cues that the other actors were giving me to trigger my memorized responses. I feel like making this my path really helped me push forward with my craft.

Which isn't to say there's no downside. Highly repetitive dialogue can trip me up. If I'm on stage with an actor who isn't playing with me, not trying to work together, I can get screwed up. Usually, during the rehearsal process, I can identify those moments, and plan triggers, or just memorize those moments my rote. It's another reason I just adore repetition in rehearsal. work it, work it, work it, until the mechanics are synced, then you can play. Man, when you have a scene partner you really connect with, anything can happen, and you'll just cruise. Love those experiences.

Anyway, so my plan was to get ahead before we ever really started.

"Best laid plans," as they say. I fell off my schedule pretty quick. I mean, I am pretty solid on act one, but after that my mind started to wander. Until this week, actually. Once again, I think knowing when we're going to start just made it "real" again, and kicked me in the ass a bit. It's that "schedule" thing again. Now I know I need to start really working at it, instead of being this thing that "would be nice to get ahead on." That's always a motivator for me, so I am starting to feel forward momentum again. I suspect I'll have a pretty good grasp on everything in the first two acts by the time we get on our feet with it.

I am excited by this show, it's gonna provide me with a character that  proceeds from a mindset that I feel a real kinship with, and he goes through a lot of changes, physically. Add to that a cast that has a couple of people I've worked with before and a whole bunch of new faces, as well as a new director for me.

Most of all, it's nice to get back to work.

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