Sunday, July 29, 2007

Technology

Can someone tell me how a computer is unable to find the mailboxes that are sitting right where they always were? And how it can lose the outgoing serving settings so that I can't send any messages? And why it takes 10 hours to attempt to fix it and you still get nowhere?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Breakthrough

At the end of the day yesterday, I felt like Crash Davis from Bull Durham. "Don't think. It will only hurt the ball club."

That seemed to be the key. We had been trying to fix blocking and my scared actor was still scared and wrapping themselves around the text to protect themselves and not really being open to anything, even when I grounded it in the text. I felt like I was in a mine field, watching this person move around the stage because they felt safer yet feeling like I couldn't say anything because it might set them back even more. But when I finally said that a particular movement looked like an actor wandering the stage, they said something I couldn't hear than thanked me for that comment. After that it got better.

The whole key to making this play of ideas sing is to ground it in the character relationships. And by forcing them to concentrate on that, by just letting the thing run without stopping them, it clicked. The nuances and levels I was looking for appeared, and I even saw glimpses of the things that I was trying to establish that were being resisted showing up naturally. Adam's an incredibly talented writer.

Heather Lacey, our wise stage manager, told me to stop trying to figure out how things had changed to try and fix it, but to just accept that it had happened and not take it personally. And I realized just how defensive I'd become. I had put up my own wall that had to be torn down. When I actively started to do that, when I really made an effort to get past looking at that actor as an obstacle and instead look at that person and think, "I've got you, I'm not going to let you fall", I think I was able to connect with them. At the end of the rehearsal, that person looked at me, really looked at me, and for the first time it felt like we finally got each other.

So now they're off learning lines and I'm working to put the tech side together. Monday and Tuesday are crunch days, with Tuesday our load-in at the theatre. After that we can concentrate on fine-tuning before we open on Saturday. I'm really hoping it's smooth sailing from here.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Crunch

We go into the space and tech on Tuesday, so now is the process of gathering all the things we will need to bring in with us. This weekend is gathering all the props, confirming the set pieces, try and find a screen for the projector and build the (most likely) powerpoint presentation that will run the images. On Monday I have to both pick up a projector and a prop gun before we start rehearsal. I just keep telling myself that we'll find everything we're looking for and it will all come together in time.

In rehearsal, our actor in crisis appears to not trust me. That person questioned my approach in rehearsal today, expressing a feeling that I was imposing things onto the text. What's really interesting about that is that's the kind of thing that drives me crazy watching other shows - the stupid director tricks that are done to say "look at me, look at how cool this idea is". I've always tried to ground everything I do in the text. What I'm trying to do with this show is riding the edge, I will firmly admit that, but the text does support it. I couldn't go through with it otherwise. I'm just trying to build three-dimensional characters so that the play isn't just talking heads but are people you find yourself engaging with.

I don't honestly know what else I can do to earn that person's trust. I understand that they are wrapped up in fear and can't see bottom. I know this is a very dense text to learn. I've been as open and understanding as I can without losing sight of my own vision, which is what got the show in the festival in the first place. I'm really at a loss for what to do. I just have to trust that it will all work out in the end and just let the current situation be ok.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Crisis time

The previous post was written yesterday in long-hand. I just didn't have computer access to post it until now.

After that was written, there was a crisis of faith from one of the actors. It's pretty expected at this point in the process. You're right in the middle and you feel you won't find your way out in the time that's left. And if an actor has some personal stuff that's knocking him or her off balance, like this one did, it pushes you right into questioning why you're there.

So we did a lot of talking last night. The person talked about what they felt was missing, which was hard to hear because I thought I was doing a great job. However, if that person wasn't feeling safe, that is a failure because a large part of my job is to create a safe environment for the actors to experiment. It's best if I know that now so that I can do something about it. After all, this is a learning process for me. I want to always grow as a director and I am trying some different things this time. And I listened as the person talked and tried to find a way to help them get what they need, something we eventually did find.

In the end it's going to make for a better show because it's forcing me to be really detailed about each moment and how it should be. I can't slough things off if they're just ok. It's also making me be more open and aware as I reach out and try to help. And it really emphasized that this is a journey that we're all on together, a journey which goes beyond the play. We have things to learn from each other. We will grow from this time we're spending together and we will all be richer from the experience.

Fundraiser aftermath

The fundraiser was a great success. I with there had been more people there but we still made around $900 dollars, with possibly more still to come.

For my contribution to the evening, the entertainment bill was fantastic. On the readings side, Steve Flett did an amazing job on his reading, especially considering how little time he had with the text. He told me that people were wondering when he would be doing the show. Ramona Katigbak seemed a little nervous, something I've never seen before from her, and she lost her place a couple of times but considering she had even less time than Steve did, she did really well. The Kingship cast rocked the house. People liked what they heard and we hadn't really worked that section yet.

On the music side, Jeff Burke did his usual virtuoso performance. It's amazing what he can do on solo bassoon. He told me that it was nice to play to such an attentive audience. Brock Simpson wasn't sure how prepared he was but he did a great set, playing to his strengths in musical comedy. He also ribbed Jeff, suggesting that he was whacking any bassoon rivals. Tyler Yarema was his brilliant self and he got the response I was hoping for - people wanted to see him play more and were asking about a CD. (So get on it already, Tyler!) It was great that for once I was able to have a conversation while he was doing his set. More on him in a minute.

I can't believe how many photos I had to pose for. I was just the host. It was those incredibly talented people that made the night a success.

I still can't quite believe that Tyler played my fundraiser. And even more so, persuaded others to play with him. (Thank you Mike Carson and dummer guy who's name I'm completely blanking on.) Everyone else, with the exception of the Kingship cast, were friends of mine so that fact that Tyler was there must mean that we're friends too. Which is hard in a way to wrap my mind around because I've been a Tyler fangirl for so long - I'm not ashamed to admit it. I deeply admire him and I'm so in awe of his talent and sometimes he's just so good it literally hurts to watch him do his thing. I'm always so blown away by him that just thinking that I mean enough for him to do this, to use his art to help me...well, I'm feeling quite amazed and humbled. To be his friend...I have no words. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it and I don't know why.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Putting it Together

Today's rehearsal was very exciting. I got the idea on the way home last night of giving each character a dream between scenes 1 and 2 to raise the stakes, since scene 2 is the climax of the play. It paid off even better than I hoped. The first time they ran through it, all I could think of was "wow". I had goosebumps. And now that we've refined it, it's so alive and vibrant it could go on stage now.

Flying in the face of conventional wisdom, I decided to block this scene first for two reasons. 1) Scene 1 is so bloody long that it's going to take two whole days to do. 2) We were taking production photos this afternoon and this scene had the best material to translate to stills.

The plan now is to block the first scene over the next two rehearsals, with the final scene in the rehearsal after that. Then revisit the scenes over the rest of the week, running it on Friday when we're in a space that has a real stage.

So now I'm finalizing everything for the fundraiser and praying that there will be lots of people there so that Kent's hard work won't go to waste and the performers will have people to play to. I'm having to constantly fight my brain which seems for some reason to want to believe every worst case scenario will happen. Can't let that stand as thoughts are powerful things. Wish I knew why I seem so attracted to the failure option but I've learned that examining that question just re-enforces the thought's power. All I can do is catch myself doing it, release it, and re-direct. Just like breaking an actor out of a bad habit.

There's someone I hope will make an appearance tomorrow although he's so unpredictable I have no idea what he's going to do. But I would love for him to just hold me and tell me it's all going to be alright, as I'm worried I'm not going to get all my tech stuff nailed down in time. I don't need his support but I sure would like it. It would be nice to shut down the producer and the director for a little while and just be. That's not asking for much, right?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Playwright

This was posted in the comments on the last entry:
Since your mandate is to help playwrights develop new markets, is the playwright involved in the rehearsal process at all? Can you go to him/her as a resourse? Would you want to?
So I figured this is as good a time as any to talk about Adam Burgess, who wrote this show. One of our actors knows him from Edmonton but he and I have never met (Adam lives in Montreal). We have talked over the phone and have exchanged many emails. This is an unusual situation in that Adam is in Europe and will miss the run. He had already booked his trip when I approached him about getting the rights to the play.

However in this case he is a definite resource. In rehearsal today a couple of questions came up about punctuation and an odd word that I've written him about. He and I wrote back and forth making changes to the text before he left. It's really the best of both worlds in that he's available for us to ask questions for clarification, yet I don't have to worry about him in the rehearsal hall. The script has been produced before so he doesn't need to be there. It's a first for him and he told me he likes it.

Generally after the first production the playwright is not there in rehearsal. And since our whole thing is to help get the scripts the second, third and fourth productions, there isn't the interaction that you would find with a new piece. But both Adam and Anton Piatigorsky (and no, we're not related), who wrote The Kabbalistic Psychoanalysis of Adam R Tzaddik that I did in the Adelaide Fringe, have been really open to answering my questions and going along with my ideas.

I never wanted one big umbrella to be a development company. I know a lot of people who are much better at that kind of thing than I am. But we did want to do a show in SummerWorks, which is a development festival. That's why this show is a co-production with actwright theatre. Adam has never been produced in Toronto, so it fits obu's mandate, and he's studying acting at the National Theatre School, which is a fit with actwright.

This really is obu's baby though and it's been interesting doing the development thing. It's helped that Adam had written this a few years ago and moved on so he's not really attached to it the way you are to a newborn. We've had some debates but things never got heated and I'm really happy with what we've got now.

Well, except for some very odd punctuation. But that's another post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tablework

So now we're in the depths of table work. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is the time we sit down with the script (the text) and break it down. It's a time to ask questions about words, lines, characters, motivations - anything the actor is unclear about.

Because of the nature of this text, we spent a lot of time today just deciding what the story we are telling is and who these characters are. Because it's a political satire we're having to build the characters from scratch, extrapolating a background for each of them by looking at events hinted at in the text and then finding something that seems to add an extra dimension for the actor to play. The biggest criticism I could find about the earlier NextFest presentation was that the characters were just talking heads, and so much of the text is argument, that we're looking for any way we can create levels in the performances.

As we were working through part of scene 1, which is really half the play, something came to me that I can't wait to try out when it's on its feet (the actors are moving around). I think it might help me find the likability factor I'm searching so hard to find for the character who inhabits the "right-wing" viewpoint. He's on stage practically the whole time and he's invested with a couple of not-so-nice traits that it would be so easy for the audience to turn on him. Yet it's what he had to say which brought me to the script in the first place and I want to make sure his voice is heard. It's going to be tricky, it would had been easier with the actor I had initially wanted, but we're going to pull it off.

Yeah. Positive thinking.

It's proving to be an interesting experience for me because I have never worked with any of these actors before and none of them were who I initially envisioned in the play. It's forcing me to challenge all my assumptions and it keeps me on my toes. This is a good thing. Otherwise, where's the risk, right?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Opening Day Jitters

So we do our first read tonight. I'm madly trying to remember how it was done on Oxford - well, really trying to remember everything I learned doing the Soulpepper Directors' Lab and working with Richard Rose so I can incorporate it. I wish I had a photographic memory instead of the tiny bits and pieces in my head.

I'm also finding myself drifting off to Facebook. I did have stuff to do there but now that I've done that, I'm having to pull myself kicking and screaming to do work. I know that's my way of dealing with stress - avoidance. We all have our ways, don't we?

I'm looking forward to having the director take over. The director doesn't play well with the other aspects of my personality, which is a good and a bad thing. Heaven help someone who has a production question while I'm in rehearsal. And as for conversation, you mean something exists outside my show? But when I'm in the room, or in the theatre, and things are flowing...well, there's nothing better in the world.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Fundraiser

The fundraiser is fast upon us. Even though we've been talking about it ever since we've gotten in, things got confirmed so late that now there's a mad push to try and get as many people there as possible. Everything is a flurry of activity. It's pretty much consumed Kent's free time and since I'm responsible for the talent, more of mine than I would have liked.

It will be worth it to hear Tyler Yarema play a set of completely original work. He's amazing and I'm an absolute fangirl. When he said he would do it, I was just over the moon. It will also be nice to hear the words of my beloved projects actually live. Kent has knocked himself out getting auction prizes too so I really hope there will be enough people there to justify the work that's been put into it. It will be nice to have an evening of celebration for getting this far.

The restaurant is undergoing a makeover this week, so we don't even know what it's going to look like when it's done. I really hope they don't ruin the comfy vibe of the place or the really fantastic food. They're really great people so I hope they don't get run roughshod over.

It's also crunch time for show expenses so I'm hoping we can make enough to cover most of them. This way everyone involved in the show will get to see some money at the end of it. It's pretty intensive for everyone at this point and I'd really like to see them get some monetary recognition for it.

So remember, July 22nd at the Central, 603 Markham in Mirvish Village. Doors open at 7, entertainment starts at 8. And if you can't come, you can still bid on the auction items by proxy. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Opening Thoughts

Welcome to the company blog. It is my hope you will find it interesting, entertaining, and sometimes thought-provoking. I'm going to start off by talking about working to prepare Kingship de Facto, which will be playing the Tarragon Mainspace as part of the Summerworks Festival.



I've now seen 20 shows at the Toronto Fringe. I'm sure I'd be able to get more done if I didn't do so much fringing. But the Fringe feeds me in a way very little else does. In a short period of time I get to see so much work in different genres and performance styles, exploring many different ideas. Or I can bask in watching a story well-told. I get to see the stupid director tricks I want to avoid and see some fabulous things I want to steal.

And I adore the networking part of it. As a Gemini, I thrive in this kind of environment. Meeting new people, catching up with old friends, or making new ones - I love it all. Doing karaoke in front of my peers is a particular highlight. I don't act because I'm really not interested in becoming someone else and I have a hard time not paying attention to everything that is going on around me and trying to figure out how it fits into a larger picture. But I do love performing, and karaoke and dancing allow me to express that part of myself.

A friend of mine is touring Europe at the moment after having gone through a bad artistic experience. He's now trying to rediscover the artist within and figure out where he's going from here. It reminded me of how I blogged throughout my last trip to Australia and how blogging forced me to document more than I would have by journaling alone. So I'm going to try to be regular during the rehearsal process and see what comes out at the end. Paul Rainville wrote a beautifully poetic blog during The Oxford Roof Climbers' Rebellion. There's no way I'm going to reach that level. Being honest has always served me well, so let's see what I can do while preserving the integrity of the process.

It still doesn't feel real that I have a project in Summerworks. I've been involved before in other people's projects but it's always felt a little remote to me, especially after Franco Boni started moving it towards a juried festival (which was a great move to help it find its own identity). Maybe it's just being on the fringe for so long, not having a project to do here for almost 5 years. I'm not sure. But I never dreamed of being considered in the same company as the artists who participate. In my venue alone, there are projects by Jordan Pettle, Jeanie Calleja and Gord Rand, and Tom Rooney and Gina Wilkinson - and that's just what I'm aware of.

Frankly, I'm feeling a little intimated.

The desire is very strong to look on this as a showcase, a way to show that I belong in this community. Scott Walters pointed out to me recently that I can't do the show for anyone but myself. He's right, it's a recipe for disaster. I've also strongly felt that the fringe should be a place where one could safely fail, where one can experiment. Summerworks bills itself as a development festival. Where else would I be able to learn how to use multi-media?

I wish I could shake this feeling that a lot is riding on this show and just explore. Yet I keep coming back to this is one big umbrella's first show, or maybe now Richard Rose will finally let me assist him because he got to see my work, or if this is really good it will really help our next grant application and press for the next project, or Andy McKim will like what he sees and will let us do Bare on that wonderful, perfect-for-the-project stage at Passe Muraille.

So where is the balance? I don't know.

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