- I participated in a reading of Kent R. Brown’s Butcher’s Cabin for RCP’s New Play Project on 7 April.
Category Archives: Backstage
David Cannon has some nice things to say about the first weekend of the Silver Spring Stage one-act festival.
When I was a sprout, I was taught to supple up the bindings of my new hardback schoolbooks the way that Malorie Brooke reminds us. And I did it, when my teachers were watching. But I don’t think I’ve done it on my own since sixth grade.
Mind you, the practice or lack thereof doesn’t explain why all our scripts of August: Osage County from Dramatists have fallen apart.
Genie Baskir gives the thumbs-up for August: Osage County at ShowBizRadio.
The entire talented ensemble replicates the bond of a family and they move around each other with a familiarity borne of generations of bloodline. …[Technical elements are] so ordinary and banal as to reinforce the idea that we really are all spying on the neighbors…
To illustrate my point about Deon’s word choices, here’s a word cloud of his entire text, common words omitted and one possessive collapsed.
The body copy for David Seigel’s preview of August: Osage County is correct in the online edition; there was a kerfluffle with the print version, as betrayed by the semantic URL. It’s all good: get the show dates and the box office web address right, and spell my name correctly, and I’m happy.
I do expect that this will be the only series of posts with three colons in the title.
Leta is in the show, but I have zero shared stage time with her. Rather, much of my scene work is with Lee; we have a once-in-a-while shared history that goes back to a silly hotel room farce called Birthday Suite that we did for the Players in 1994.
Since I have little text to work with, I can do some micro-level dialect work, aided by the audio archive of Oklahoma speakers developed by Paul Meier and the University of Kansas. Matt shared this link with the cast; I was more or less aware of the archive but I didn’t realize that the corpus was categorized by state. The unscripted samples are the best part; the researchers found ordinary people with some really interesting stories to tell ex tempore. The standard passage, “Comma Gets a Cure,” is sometimes distracting to the subjects, especially those who have actually taken a goose to the vet.
We had a good, if tiring, time over the last two days talking to the kids visiting the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Actually, I spent a lot of my time talking to the parents, who were happy to prompt their children with “When I was your age, we loved to watch Jacques Cousteau’s TV documentaries.” We spent some time today just inside the entrance to Mellon Auditorium, where many folks were distracted by just having cleared security and the urge to find the flight simulator and the hamster globe. We had more extended conversations out on Wilson Plaza, right at the point where the booths peter out and everyone is wondering where the auditorium entrance is: it was easy to figure out whether people wanted to pause and chat and take pictures and ask awkward questions like “Who was your best friend?” (Hey, this is not a online banking security challenge, lady!) or whether people were looking to motor on to their next destination. Thanks to the family from Lebanon who kindly chose not to continue our conversation completely in French.
…I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it’s usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that goes nowhere. It’s not unusual for us to go through 25 or 30 ideas and then go into production on eight or 10 and then kill everything but three or four. In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can’t tell if it’s going to be good until you’re really late in the process.
Every costume has at least one snazzy feature. My costume for Jaques followed the design concept of “things out of joint” in the early 20th century, the era in which Picasso and Braques were inventing Cubism. Other players’ costumes had bits of the wrong linings attached, or even mismatched pants legs (for Adam), but I had just this really fine vest. Alli added a pair of Mike’s socks (“his youthful hose, well-saved”) for the finishing touch.
Lessons learned: There’s a reason for the no-chocolate-chip-cookies-in-costume rule. Do not try to clean your vest with your hankie and the water from your water bottle. There are some times when an iron backstage is your best friend.
So far, receptive audiences, especially when Kate and Brian’s classmates are in the house. Saturday last was almost full; the Sunday matinee showed signs of life.
I’ve had my usual share of minor lapses in focus or breathing. Still, it’s unnerving when I think that many in the audience know the big monologue, or at last think they do. Richard in the lobby was kind.
Co-crew chief Sara called an extra rehearsal this afternoon just to practice scene shifting, and it was worth it. Someone described shuffling the tree units, two triangular units, the double parallelogram, and the 18-foot ramp as playing Tetris. Steven and I are mainly on the tree units, and the one with the big tree maneuvers like a sailboat (even with the newly-added wheels). The confetti-spray of spike marks on the deck looks like a setup for a multi-show one-act festival.
We resimplified the music for the closing dance, dropping the harmony lines. Too bad.
All that said, we had a good tech run this evening. From my side of the proscenium, I think we are where we need to be for a Friday opening.
Did you ever have the feeling that a monologue was stalking you?
…poetry is a communication from our home and solitude addressed to all intelligence. It never whispers in a private ear. Knowing this, we may understand those sonnets said to be addressed to particular persons, or “To a Mistress’s Eyebrow.” Let none feel flattered by them.—Henry David Thoreau, “Friday,” A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
For most of the arcane vocabulary in Murphy, the authority would appear to be C.J. Ackerley, Demented Particulars: The Annotated Murphy, unfortunately out of print.
(l) High praise is due to White for the pertinacity with which he struggles to lose a piece.
There are some good reproductions of the chess game with Mr. Endon in section 11. My own photographic contribution, realized with my dusty set, is the representation of the ending position, incorporating this annotation: “(m) At this point Mr. Endon, without so much as “j’adoube”, turned his King and Queen’s Rook upside down, in which position they remained for the rest of the game.” Not something easily rendered with standard notation, English or algebraic.
There’s a lot of Shakespeare lurking in the book, and in particular As You Like It (one of the characters is named Celia), but I would be utterly remiss if I did not check off the following riff in section 8:
“It is the second childhood,” he said. “Hard on the heels of the pantaloons.”
Notice that Murphy “misremembers” the quote, as do many of us, as “childhood” for “childishness.”
We had our first stumble-through of Act 1 tonight, and it wasn’t bad. It was even good, in spots. Most people are off book, or nearly so, so there is some real acting going on. Alas, I still have a lot of work to do in our scene 12 (Shakespeare’s II.vii). But we have some talented, hard-working cast members playing the young lovers, and Jay’s Touchstone is giving me a lot to work with, so I think it will be an enjoyable show.
We have most of the rolling and sliding set pieces built and available for rehearsal, so Michael has already assigned scene shifting responsibilities, and we worked those into the run.
Michael has set the play neither in Shakespeare’s time nor our own, but rather at an interesting juncture in recent European history. So the forest-dwellers, like Brian (Silvius) and me, are shaggy-haired. So shaggy that I’m counting the days until I can cut my hair in May.
Moreso than “All the world’s a stage,” Michael and I are wrestling with Jaques’ material from earlier in that scene. The passage that begins, “Why, who cries out on pride” is especially vexatious. It’s not that the reasoning is all that subtle: for the most part, it’s just variations on “I can criticize anyone, and if he complains, then I win (because my criticism strikes home), and if he does not, I win (because he’s innocent and I’m just blah-blah-blah).” But the language is a little twisted, and the trick of physicalizing the argument so that the audience can follow it has escaped me so far. The couplet “Doth it not flow as hugely as the sea/Till that the weary very means do ebb?” is a challenge. Footnotes in some of my sources suggest emending wearer’s or watery for weary, but I’m not sure that any reading makes any more sense.