Or perhaps I should say: This way to tech in two hours. To be fair (fairness above all), As Far As We Know had much more time than we perhaps otherwise might’ve. We were the first to start what was sure to be a much longer day for the space itself, so the theatre wasn’t already clogged with props and costumes from other shows, and we even got in rather earlier than our stated time slot. It was just enough to get by, though. The Fringe (or perhaps it’s the space we’re in) requires part of one’s tech to be a timed run of the show. For us, that means two hours to figure out a very tech-heavy show, and two to run it. And that’s it. So we got everything rigged to run, and Jen Schreiver and Joe Varca got a start on the light, sound and video set-up and cues.
And then we ran.
All things considered, it went well. We got through the whole thing, anyway, and it clocked in within the required time limit. There’s plenty still to be worked out in every category, hat-to-tails, but we saw the bear dance, and it didn’t run wild and devour any of our volunteer tech staff. (That’s a metaphor, in which “the bear” represents “our production”…just for those of you who know nothing about the show. It contains, sadly, no dancing bears.) Mind you, I’m still terrified. We never again set foot back in the theatre space prior to opening; at least not until 15 minutes before our debut.
What jacks up everybody, methinks, beyond the already anxious position of finally showing all our cards on this former work-in-progress, is the exciting good news of last night. New York Magazine (my favorite for crosswords [Maura Jacobson, you rule!]) has us at the top of the short list of not-to-miss NYC Fringe shows. So, you know. Wow.
Apart from all the technical aspects as-yet unknown, there’s a lot of my personal process that I have yet to nail. In the space of three scenes—all of them either memory, dream or hallucination—I need to create a whole, individualized human being. In the midst of doing this, I have these funky-ass movement things to do. Abstractions: ones that will work, if only I can do them with the same intention that I might a “normal” scene with utter verisimilitude. Most of them involve walking slowly backwards. One involves walking backwards completely blind, my entire head covered by cloth. This was, of course, my invention.
And the stage and our entrances are bizarre, on the whole. The stage is a long, narrow thrust extending from thirty feet away into the midst of three seating sections. We have essentially four entrances: two from either downstage corner (from which there is only audience to hide behind) and two from either upstage side. These upstage entrances are set wide apart, owing to a backdrop that is about as wide as the stage floor is deep. In other words, for both of my backward marches I have to navigate no fewer then four right-angle turns without being able to target exactly where they need to happen.
As is my wont, I find a very apt metaphor in this (one excluding dancing bears, much to my chagrin). The show is marching blind into the fold, and the only way to make it work is to be as vigilant as possible, and as prepared as possible to make good out of the accidental. We know the stakes, and can only imagine the potential results. It is ultimately out of our hands—there are just too many factors at play. Until we get there, we just have to believe as much as possible…and work our asses off making sure that belief is grounded in enough action to match our faith.
So you better believe the next three-days-and-change will find me doing a lot of backward walking and line exploration. Abraham Lincoln spoke a great quote (one which I’ve tattooed in Sharpie on my stilt legs): “I may be a slow walker, but I never walk back.” I have to hope Abe would appreciate my position and afford me a little excuse to moonwalk my way on and off stage. I hope he would appreciate our little show, too. I think we’ve struck a nice balance concerning the issues of war and politics, even if it does present the American military as being a bit more flawed than I perceive it to function (a necessary adjustment for dramatic purposes). One who may be more politically liberal may actually feel upset with the protest letters our fictional family receives in the midst of their struggle. Then again, I have virtually no independent perspective left. I’m too close. I’m all over the place.
And I mean it literally. We had, of course, discussed this at great length, but it wasn’t until I saw our technical rehearsal today that I realized just how pervasive my face would be in the production. Those of you who know me may have some difficulty with this, especially given how few scenes I have to establish myself as a character. In the second act, images of my face literally border the entire stage, and Faith Catlin and Alex Cherington—as Jake’s parents—wear t-shirts with my face peering out from them. It unnerves me in rehearsal. It will most likely destroy the tissue of the play’s reality for them what know my actual person. Sorry gang. On the plus side, it must be great exposure for my career.
Assuming the show turns out well, that is.