28 January 2009

"There is no world without Verona walls..."

I came into this development/rehearsal process for The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet with food poisoning, which I considered a good omen. After all, I arrived for the very first collaboration with Zuppa del Giorno, way back in 2002, with a fever. Now I am recovering (knock on wood, cross your fingers, pray and sacrifice small woodland creatures) from a cold that arrived just in time for yesterday's day off. Hence yesterday was spent largely lying about and feeling sorry for myself (though I did learn a line or two more, as well). Yesterday also, however, delivered some exciting news, with which I must merely taunt you -- I don't want to jinx it by letting on too much. Suffice it to say, I need to get back to New York after rehearsal Thursday night in order to attend an exciting audition Friday afternoon, after which I will HAUL REAR back to Scranton for our last rehearsal before teching.

Things in the world of R&J are good. Good and scary, that is, which is as good as it gets in my personal little circle of hurly-burly. We had a nigh-disastrous "run" Sunday, which has focused our intents to getting the show streamlined and specific. Specifically, David has requested that everyone learn the text in order to depart from it at our leisure (as opposed to the other way around) and the ensemble has been tasked with getting unerringly specific with its foley effects. We are, in brief, starting to fuse together as an ensemble, as our many directors make their choices as specific and consistent as possible. Is there enough time now? No, absolutely not. But that is the status quo, and worser works have saved themselves through a similar schedule.
Today, awaking for the first time in a few days with a little energy, I am spending the whole day at the theatre working on lines and my upcoming audition before this evening's rehearsal. It's more than a little harrowing, having two such important things to prepare for, but it's thrilling as well, and makes me feel a lot of faith. How likely was it that an audition that requires clowning and commedia dell'arte skills should come up just as I'm rehearsing for a show involving both? In this context, even my cold seems to me somewhat fortuitous. It has kept me rested just prior to the news, and given me a lot of time to think about what I'm doing. Actors in general are tempted by perceptions of fate and destiny even when we're not working on Shakespeare; I'm trying to keep my head straight through all this . . . but also to be open to omens, such as they may be.

I wrote some time ago (see 11/28/08) about turning down an audition for a very lucrative commercial because it conflicted with teaching work I was doing out here in Scranton. I have never wavered on the decision, as fruitful as such work may have proven, and if this new audition couldn't be compromised with R&J, I would probably not have committed myself to it. Foolish? Yeah. Then again, I'm the one who has to live with my choices, and I'd rather being doing the work that has something more to do with me and my creative life than someone else's. I feel very lucky indeed to have an opportunity to do both over the next few days.
Now if only I can get off-book for act five at the same time...

22 January 2009

Classic Construction

NOTE: This is an older entry, only being posted now, because I can haz bizyness...

So. As I have noted in previous posts, Zuppa del Giorno has been building up for a while now to the project in which we are now embroiled in earnest -- a comic version of Romeo & Juliet. What may not have been entirely clear from my previous posts (largely because it was not entirely clear to me at the time of said posting) was just how ambitious and ridiculous this adventure would be. I mean: Really. We are reinterpreting the play using traditions of commedia dell'arte and clowning, verse and prose and improvised dialogue, not to mention passages spoken in Italian. The set is being built specifically to be sturdy and climbable, the floor is padded for falls and it is looking somewhat optimistic for Juliet's bed to be, in fact, a circus silk from which Friend Heather and I can hang and climb. We have two Italian collaborators working with us, one of whom is a maestro of the commedia dell'arte. We've been at it for little over a week now, and we're definitely finding our stride, with maybe ten days' real rehearsal left before tech rehearsals begin.
It's all very exciting. And difficult. And cold. Why didn't anyone tell me it would be this cold?
(They did; I just didn't listen.)
"So how is it going?" I hear you ask from behind the folds of the interwebs, your multitudinous voices betraying just the slightest strain of deep-seated desperation? Be calm, Dear Readers, or, as Angelo Crotti screams at Romeo when he's a little more than worked up: "CALME TE!" It is going well. As with any theatrical enterprise, the show is not shaping up to be exactly what I imagined, but that is probably for the best. There's a lot risk in it now, and certainly a great deal more variety. For example, I was thrown to discover just how much of the scenework would involve improvisation over the text, and for a couple of days I wanted to gouge my eyes out with icicles of my own anxiety. That sounds bad, I know, but neither is it hyperbole. I really get that worked up over the work. Hopefully you'll give me the benefit of the doubt, and see this as evidence of my passion for what I make. The fact is, I'm not making this show -- I'm helping to make it, and it needs to be what it will be. So I'm finding peace in the idea of a show with ample modern language mixed in with the Shakespeare; and anyway, I overreacted. The original text is proving just as virulent as contempo-speak. Our Mercutio, potentially the least comfortable with the original text (next to the Italians) frequently slips into the original text mid-improvisation. Billy-boy just wrote good, and it's that simple. That having been said, the man did write a whole lot, and the past few days have been much-consumed with line-memorization for yours truly.
It's rather like this thus far, all-in-all: Today was great work, yesterday was terrible, tomorrow -- who knows? And that's part of the joy. Where will it all lead? Hopefully to many laughs, and at least a couple of well-earned tears. That's all I ever ask for, really, from the theatre.

17 January 2009

Re Cap

So I journeyed to my parent's place in Hagerstown, MD, on the world's crappiest "Chinatown bus" on the 23rd of last month. It was the 24th by the time I got there, jangling Chinese karaoke still resonant in my head. The next day Wife Megan drives up from her parents' in NoVa and we attend my mom's Christmas Eve service. That night we celebrate Christmas with my parents.
Christmas Day we drive down to NoVa to spend it with her family, and there is much present-opening and nephew-adoring.
The day after that I spend largely at Friend Mark's, with Friends Davey, Steve and Adam, pretending to slay things with our mighty weaponry, there being no mightier weapon that our imaginations.
The next day it was back to Maryland for me to get a little more time with the 'rents and help them with their open house, New Year's buffet the next day. Much food was made, quite a bit (not nearly enough) consumed, and I felt well-fed to return to New York.
Return to New York for a few days and New Year's proper, whereupon Megan and I stay out way too late with Friend Geoff, then have to leap into a cab (pre-packed) for JFK.
Wake in sunny San Juan, January 1, 2009. We burn as we wait to be able to check in to our hotel, cunningly soothed off our guard by the cool breezes and sound of the waves.
The next day, Megan's friends get married on the beach and we bear witness, and dance barefoot on a plywood stage.
In the days that follow we enjoy the luxury of our beachfront hotel, do some sightseeing, then move into our more bohemian quarters in Old San Juan. More sightseeing, more friends, some good alone time too. And then it's back to New York.
A couple of days there to acclimate, unpack, do laundry repack, and then I'm off to rather-less-than-sunny Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Where I have been ever since, working to bring to life an entirely new interpretation of Romeo & Juliet to life with commedia dell'arte, clown and classical work, using poetry, Italian, and improvised dialogue. But more on that anon, now that we're all caught up.