The Good: Finally moving the last of Laurie's stuff out of her old apartment.
Yesterday, I packed almost all of the rest of Laurie's stuff, and I asked Chris if I could borrow his van to move it to Laurie's storage unit. Chris, being a good brother, said that was no problem, so I grabbed the van at noon. Chris said that he had hoped to go to Wal-Mart and pick up a bag of baseballs so he could practice catching with the kids. I kept that in mind as I went about my day.
I went to Laurie's (now) old apartment, and we worked out a good system for moving boxes. Laurie was inside, bringing boxes to the window, and I was outside, loading the boxes from the window into the van. When enough boxes piled up, I arranged them in the back of the van, and then got more.
The bedroom took more time, just because of distance, but everything eventually got packed, and we were off to the storage building. It's very clean and the staff is very friendly, but I totally want to film a short horror movie there, because all the hallways (it's very large) look exactly alike, and it would be so cool to have people running around screaming there. I may even ask the manager if it would be okay to do so. Probably not, but it's worth a try.
Laurie thought her storage unit was completely full to the gills, but I am an old-school Tetris player, so I was able to climb, monkey-like, on top of her dressers and trunks and move enough things around to fit all the boxes in neatly. I even had enough room to hang her beautiful hand-sewn Ann Boleyn dress from the mesh that serves as the ceiling. She may never wear it again, but it's so gorgeous she has to keep it. Besides, I spent many hours beading the thing, I wouldn't let it go if she decided to throw it out.
Storage unit packed up, we went to her Mom's house, where I demanded that her Mom make me beef bourguignon for dinner some night as payment for all the moving. (Laurie raves about it, but I've never had it.) Mrs. S. agreed, we got all her stuff moved in, and then Laurie and I went off to lunch.
Afterwards, I stopped by Target and bought Chris a bucket of 12 baseballs as a thank-you for always coming through when I needed him. I also filled the gas tank in his truck (it was at half-full). The gas cost more than the present.
The Bad: I am weakling.
Laurie's television isn't that big. Laurie's television isn't that heavy. Laurie's television was a bitch to move, which wasn't the case when I moved it into her (now) old place a couple of years ago. Back then, I was working out with weights every other day. Nowadays, I see weights when I manage to get to the gym to run. I often think, "Those look very heavy" and avoid them.
I have to start a weight-training program to go along with the running. It's simply ridiculous that I can run for miles and miles without running out of breath, but a heavy thing will have me panting like an elderly dog. I have great arm and back muscles, but they're an illusion; remnants of workouts gone by.
I climbed the pile of Laurie's stuff in her storage unit like an ape. I ran back and forth to the van a hundred times with no problems. Lifting heavy boxes and that damned TV? Wore me out. Not cool. Not cool at all.
The Good: Feeling like I have a good grip on my character in my play.
Laurie was patient enough to run the more difficult areas of my play with me during lunch today. It's funny that people who claim no interest in acting always come up with fun, interesting ways of playing characters when they help you run lines. I loved Laurie's version of the ingenue.
Lines in my head, I went to "Super Sunday," which is a combined cue-to-cue tech rehearsal and (I thought) dress rehearsal. It's tiring, but usually worth it, because everything is finally put into place, and the show feels like a show, rather than a bunch of people playing around.
Act One, I rocked. (At least, I think I did.) I decided that the closest type of character this "Peter" I'm playing was someone like an early Hugh Grant (not in looks, but in that stumbling, nervous, charming-but-bumbly sort of approach). I decided Peter was a nervous wreck about the book he had to write, and I played off of that from the beginning. It seemed to work. The scenes with all the characters fell into place, and I felt entirely comfortable.
Act Two was a little different, only because it the lines repeat themselves with just the slightest of variations so many times, I got mixed up and dropped the character a bit. I also think Peter needs to grow a little (that's the point of any story, to show some character growth), and I wasn't sure if I was pacing that growth correctly. I think I did a good enough job.
The set looks very good:
It's supposed to be an old, abandoned house that's run to ruin, so it's sooty with clean areas of the walls where pictures supposedly hung. The window is a scrim with lights behind it that works well enough (I would have put a false outdoors behind it, but that might not have been in the budget). It's deep, has a nice staircase, and the trim works very well. Despite having almost killed me, I'm glad I helped build that set.
I like the whole cast, but I've grown especially fond of Rachel, who plays the bombshell "Lydia" in the play. I don't kiss her, but she's all over me like a cheap suit, and we're having a great time with it. Plus, she has the same sensibilities as I do, and agrees with me when I have an issue about something. The fact that she's president of the theater doesn't hurt, either.
The Bad: Everything else about this play.
Okay, not everything else, but the two directors are unprofessional shits who don't give a rat's ass about their actors. I would password-protect this entry, but honestly, if one of them runs across this page, maybe he'll think twice about his approach.
I don't mind a bad "vision" of a play. I'll follow along with whatever the director has in mind, because it's his or her production, and I'm there to make sure it's as close to what s/he wanted as possible.
Where I do draw the line is when the director doesn't take things like, oh, safety into account. I had this issue with these two fuckwits early on, when they were essentially telling a couple of actors to make up their own stage combat moves (a fall for each of them, but if you don't know how to fall on stage, you can hurt yourself), and also ignoring the fact that the stage, as it was set up, was inherently dangerous to actors (they had us crossing on and off a one and a half-inch platform that serves as the playing space, which isn't difficult if you know where that lip is, but is dangerous indeed if you're pushing someone backwards into a chair, and the pathway to that chair includes that lip). I spoke up then, and I don't think either director has forgiven me for it to this day.
Today, the crew was finishing up the lighting and learning the boards, so the actors took some time to go over lines, so we would be fresh for the rehearsal. I took a minute between running through Act One and Act Two to deliver a magnetic catch for a bookcase that keeps opening. (Chris has about 12 million of them in his shop, so he gave me a few.) When I told the main director that I had the catch, he said, "So? Put it in!"
Okay, I don't consider myself "the talent" and above doing set work (I built half the set before it sent me to the hospital), but during a tech rehearsal, there are lots of crew people around, and the director knew the actors were running lines...so I was just a trifle miffed. Not enough to get into a snit, just a little put off. I found a screwdriver and quickly put on the magnet and the plate and the door now catches.
We were called for the cue-to-cue (which is where you run lines that cue the technical aspects of the show, to make sure the timing is right), and that's where I went into Full Diva Mode.
A couple of the scenes in this show occur in complete darkness. Not with a soft blue light, not with a cheater light from the window (which would make sense), but in pitch blackness. There were two issues I had with this; the first extraordinarily important, and the second just my opinion.
The first is that there was not one piece of glow tape on the stage. To non-theater folk, that doesn't mean a thing, but think about it this way: Shut off all the lights in a room in which you have been about 10 or 11 times total. Try to walk around without bumping into the walls, the furniture, or tripping over something. I'm talking PITCH BLACK here, no shadows, no nothing.
Glow tape is a handy, inexpensive item which you place on the corners of furniture, the edges of walls, the sides of stairs and such that...well...glows. It's like anything glow-in-the-dark, it catches the light and shines faintly for a little bit. It's not enough to distract an audience if placed well, but it really helps an actor not to kill himself if he's getting into place for a show.
Now, I saw a guy fall into an orchestra pit during a theater competition because they didn't correctly tape off the edge of the stage. Even when things are well-taped, there's still a little danger, but it can be avoided with the proper precautions.
When I asked if things were going to be glow-taped, the director said, "Rachel is glow-taping stuff." Rachel, who is acting in the show, was taping like mad in-between her cues. And the set, being multi-dimensional with five exits, needs a lot of glow-tape. It is not her job to do this. There were three techies in the booth sitting there waiting for her to clear the stage, and the directors had the unmitigated gaul to say, "Are you done? We've been here all day, and we want to get on with this."
Fuck. You. You want to do a show where it's dangerous? Find somewhere else to play. I was told, "Welcome to community theater!" by Rachel, but I've worked in community theater for well over ten years, and I've never felt unsafe onstage.
I'm not going to mention the fact that there are great big electrical cables duct-taped to the floor right in front of a major entranceway. Oh, wait. I just did.
The second thing that pissed me off was just an opinion, but this is my journal, so I'm right about it. Part of the show takes place in complete darkness (not just for entrances and exits between scenes.) The only light comes from a flashlight, which I hold. This being a technical rehearsal, I stopped for a moment during the first scene to ask where I should point the flashlight so that the audience could see what was going on. I was told, "Not in the audience," which...well, DUH.
When I pressed the issue, the jackass of an assistant director yelled at me and said that this was a tech rehearsal and that sort of thing could be worked out later.
This is an entirely debatable issue. To me, if a flashlight is the only source of light onstage, it is what's known as a "practical." If a lamp is onstage, and an actor has to turn it on himself (or it's turned on by the booth), but the light fom it comes from the lamp itself, that's a "practical," and part of tech. Remember, there is no light onstage. The stage is a "black box," there are no windows or light spilling in from anywhere. I need to know where to point the flashlight just as much as someone using a follow-spot needs to know where to aim his lamp.
The assistant director got very, very pissy at me and said, "Just flash it at the actors," which makes sense, except that the actors are scattered onstage, and one of these scenes is between me and one other actor, which means that I either have to ping-pong back and forth between my face and hers, or just focus it on her, and play my role in the dark. Which is fine, if that's the directors' vision, but I just know there'll be a note the night before opening night telling me that I can't be seen during that time, and I'll just have to go RuPaul Postal on them, smashing them with my Big Gay Diva Heels.
I left the stage angry and Rachel tried to calm me down. I told her I was just having a diva moment, and after I let out a few breaths, I felt better and was ready to continue.
However, during the cue-to-cue, the director decided to give Jude some acting notes. That set me off again.
I can't be told how to point a practical, but it's perfectly proper to stop a cue-to-cue to tell a character her motivation?
I won't work with either of those two ever again, and if I'm directing a show, I won't cast the assistant director, because he has absolutely no respect for actors.
I found it very interesting that I got absolutely no notes at the end of the show. If I don't get notes, I think it's due to one of two reasons: either I'm doing everything exactly the way the director wants, or I'm so beyond repair that it's worthless to give notes.
But I think a third option is in effect here. I've been labeled a "difficult actor" by these two nutmonkeys, and they just don't want to deal with me anymore. Fine. It's their show. If I'm doing something that they think needs fixing, and they're not willing to talk to me because I'm worried about the safety of my fellow actors and I'm interested in how best to do my small technical part of a show, then they get whatever they deserve.
Whew! That's off my chest. The main director has a miserable reputation (which I didn't know about before signing up for this), so I know I'm not insane in my opinion of him. I've been professional and have followed his (misguided, stupid) direction every time. I will complete this show and I will move on; probably to produce and direct another show. I'll take it as an object lesson in how not to direct.
Okay, one last Diva Rant before I stop talking about this... If you're going to create a set that's one long diagonal line and block people so that they have to turn upstage in order to talk to other characters, don't tell them they're upstaging each other. There is no possible way to cheat out enough in a 2/3 setup so that part of the audience doesn't see the actors' faces. And if more than 50% of the blocking takes place behind a couch, move the fucking couch! Especially if one character has to crouch down to talk about the most important clue in a murder mystery. Poor Jude is popping up and down like a jack-in-the-box during the Christmas tree scene because you changed her blocking so that her most imporatant monologue happens behind the fucking couch! Gah!
It's easy. Triangles. Angles. Move some furniture around. Straight lines are bad, unless you're doing A Chorus Line, or the Rockettes are coming to town. If you're planning on seeing the show, call me first so I can tell you the two seats that don't have you staring at someone's ass or the back of their head 90% of the time.
That is all.
The Bad: Laurie told me that I'm not taking enough pictures these days.
I really have fallen off the wagon on this, and I have no excuse.
The Good: That's easily remedied
Tonight, Skottie met me at the door; which meant that he really wanted to go out. I went to the cellar door, and he just looked at the closet. He's realized that I'm more than willing to take him for a walk. I thought I'd get a little extra exercise out of it, so I took my camera and headed to the old cemetery by the lake.
I thought it would be interesting to take some pictures of a cemetery at night, because I find this one beautiful, and not scary in the least. (Besides, it's hard to get creeped out when there's a dog as silly as Skottie with you.) Here are the shots I took:
Gravestones sitting in a row.
A larger monument.
A twisted-up tree.
A treetop with the night sky as a backdrop.
The Good: I'm done with this entry.
The Bad: I'm way past my bedtime.