Week Three: 12th to 16th of August
By Kaffe Keating
“If music be the food of love, play on…”
– Orsino, Act 1 Scene 1
You know when you have a kid in your family who you don’t see that often? Maybe only two or three times a year? And when you do see them it’s always a shock because they’ve somehow become about a foot taller than you remember? It’s a perfectly normal thing for humans to do, but we never fail to find it impressive. ‘My, how you’ve grown!’ you say, pinching a pudgy cheek between your fingers, ‘When did they get so tall?’ you ask, once the comparatively giant child has escaped your grasp. But their parents don’t seem to have noticed much of a change – save a general awareness that none of their clothes seem to fit them anymore…
I’m starting to realise that this is one of the differences between being an actor and a
director or stage manager during rehearsals. Usually, actors rock up when we’re called -Guardian in one hand and coffee in the other – rehearse our scenes, chat about the play for a bit and then disappear off again when we’re not needed, supposedly to sit and learn lines somewhere. That’s not us being lazy mind you, just having a specific time when we’re on the clock.
Later on in rehearsals, there’s this lovely moment when we get to experience what everyone else has been working on, seeing parts of the story we’re not an active part of telling being brought to life, which until now we’d only read in the script or heard in the read-through. Then during technical rehearsals we finally get to see the set, our finished costumes, the lighting and sound design, and all the props which have been bled over with detail. You step into this world that previously only existed in your imagination and the designer’s miniature model box. You’re the uncle or aunt, standing slack-jawed at the sight of your nephew who is now six foot seven and no longer remotely interested in Legos.
For directors and stage management, however, it’s a different story. They’re the parents. They’ve been there since the beginning; for every new idea, every problem, every averted disaster. The set and costumes and props and lighting, which the actors are standing gawking at as if they’ve appeared out of nowhere, have been meticulously discussed in endless production meetings, often before the actors have even been cast. These members of the team see the production take shape slowly and gradually, like a sculptor chipping away at a piece of marble, not getting to see snapshots that show the progress that has been made, but watching the entire process play out in real time.
With Claire joining us full time this week, we’ve got the whole gang together at last! It’s
been really lovely, finally being able to figure out how exactly we’re going to function as a company of five. We’ve begun working through the play again from the top, going over previous work with a higher bar having been set for what we’ll decide we’re happy with. Scenes – and ideas within scenes – which clear that bar are kept and worked on in more detail, and those that don’t are scrapped and replaced.
The beginning of the play (‘If music be the food of love…’ etc.) seems so long ago that I
couldn’t even remember what we’d done. The old idea of Orsino playing the music himself (which I was helpfully reminded of) ended up getting chucked and we figured out something much better and, importantly, simpler.
We’re not actually taking the play to San Francisco itself, but this process makes me think of the urban legend about the people who are tasked with painting the Golden Gate Bridge; they start at one side, and the thing is so massive that by the time they’re finished the end, where they began, it needs a new coat of paint.
However, some parts of the play leapt back into our brains with pleasantly surprising ease; the sequence for the box-tree scene (feat. umbrellas) had percolated quite nicely, as had most of the slightly more choreographed sections, which was a relief. We set ourselves the slightly ambitious task of getting to the end of the play (and maybe even squeezing in another run) before the end of the week, but by Friday afternoon it became clear that we needed to beat a tactical retreat. The combination of five days’ worth of built-up brain-fatigue and the energy expelled digesting the very tasty (but also very huge) lunch which Frances, who looks after the rehearsal space, had kindly cooked for us had left us in a bit of a fog.
Happily though – after a quick chat about costume and, of course, umbrellas – we rounded out the week with a jam session which might form the basis of our opening and closing numbers. Harmonicas, shaky eggs, a guitar, a ukulele, a bunch of tone bells we found in the show case, a kid’s-sized accordion, and five actors all stood in a semi-circle who have figured out how to play together.
Then we cracked open a bottle of Cava and played some eighties music on the warm-up speaker.