10 November 2008

Comedy & Tragedy & Everything In Between

Because why be specific? Specificity isn't all that important, is it?

I'm involved in two very brief, very different rehearsal processes this week, both of which had their first rehearsals yesterday. Some people spend their Sundays unwinding, doing a crossword or sipping coffee and loading up on carbohydrates. Me, I have two rehearsals. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel great. In spite of how busy I've been with acting gigs this fall -- in counter-spite of my supposed priority to remain decidedly non-busy leading up to The Big Show -- I have missed being in rehearsal. It's good to get back to it, albeit on a Sunday and doing double duty. In fact, this entry title was very nearly appended with "& Commercial Work," but at the last minute ADM Productions decided they didn't need me after all. I'm choosing to perceive that as "maintaining my theatrical integrity" this week, rather than "losing paying work."

My first rehearsal Sunday was for a follow-up staged reading of Tom Rowan's play, Burning Leaves. You may remember my writing about Burning Leaves back in July, when the initial staged reading was performed. This reading around, the script has been trimmed and we're under the guidance of director Gaye Taylor Upchurch. It's being performed on two separate days under the auspices of The Ensemble Studio Theatre's Octoberfest, despite protestations from naysayers that October is, in fact, past. I find this personally fitting; I missed out on doing any performances in the actual October.

This rehearsal started out strangely for yours truly. I was a little late, in part because I was hefting a surprisingly heavy Mac CPU for later deposit at the technology recycling fair down at Union Square that day. Why then? Why lug this to rehearsal? Well, it's been sitting, 2001-like, in a corner literally for months as recycling events, er, cycled past. Plus, it didn't seem that heavy at first. So it was with aching arms and a strong desire not to have to explain myself that I arrived to discover that I was the only member of the previous cast who would be in attendance. This has happened to me before. It's an interesting position in which to be. It means that either A) you were the only one who nailed it last time, or B) you were the only one who was desperate enough for work to perform in another unpaid reading. Or some combination thereof. Either way, I was surprised. I really enjoyed the last group that I read with, and it probably held me back in rehearsal having certain expectations for character interpretations. The director, "GT," seems to have a great approach though, and I'll shake off my stale expectations much better at the next rehearsal. She reminded us at the end of rehearsal that the text was very detailed and expressive of emotion, and so that it made sense to act on the lines and not take too much time with unspoken beats. A very smart initial critique.

I got the Mac to Union, where they collected my zip code and asked if I'd like to be interviewed for Comedy Central. But I was going to be late for the next rehearsal, and shuddered to think what Comedy Central might have been filming for. Alas: I'm sure I missed a golden opportunity for my career...

Bond Street Theatre rehearses out of the loft apartment of its managing and artistic directors, Michael McGuigan and Joanna Sherman. It's on Bond Street, aptly enough, which is not too far south of Union Square, and I paused on my way there just long enough to purchase a sandwich and coffee. I'll be performing with them both on Saturday for a benefit in Brooklyn, and this pleases me greatly. I had to turn down an offer to work with Bond Street at the start of summer (conflicts with Italy, a desperate need to hang on to my day job, etc.), and such a situation can often lead to a write-off of the actor. Fortunately for me, Joanna and Michael share a lot of the same interests I do, and my skills are valuable to the kind of theatre they generally produce. Plus they're just neat-o in general. So after a really great thirty-minutes-or-so of conversation about ensemble theatres and collaboration, we got down to work on our short presentation for the benefit: an adaptation of Monty Python's famous Argument sketch. Bond Street works in Afghanistan and with artists from there, and as you might imagine has been experiencing a lot of frustration in obtaining cultural visas for their collaborators to visit and perform in the US. They've channeled this frustration into the adaptation, tweaking this hilarious send-up of bureaucracy ever-so-slightly.

It's difficult to perform the sketch without lapsing into UK dialects, but it's also a good struggle that reminds me to own the language in my way, rather than merely copying Michael Palin's famous performance. Michael (McGuigan) has also added a bit of Abbott and Costello into the mix, as though the verbal specificity weren't heightened enough. It was slow-going at first, but that's just as well when it comes to that kind of vaudeville-esque wordplay. Little, mundane decisions take up time at the start, but if you don't resolve them first you end up with much bigger questions about solving issues with pacing and the like later on. So we warmed up slowly to the text, and after a couple of hours had begun to find some rhythm and make discoveries about how to adapt the humor to the stage. It's a pity in a way, because this kind of sketch really deserves hours of continuous rehearsal to get it crackling, but we all at least have enough shared vocabulary in our work to make a few more leaps in the process than others might. I'm looking forward to the performance of it even now, and wonder what our second and final rehearsal will produce to add to it.

I staggered home happy, but incapable of making basic decisions, such as what to make for dinner. It was a fairly long run of rehearsal and improperly handled H2O/sugar intake, and gave me pause about being an actor full-time. It was a very brief pause, however. I should be so lucky to be so exhausted at the end of every day.

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