Wednesday, November 10, 2010

8 hours later, im at it again....

between now and the last post has been nothing but sleep. and sadly, i didnt have one of my epic dreams that tells a whole story as vividly and with the same narrative flow and depth of character as a movie. that would have been so convenient. the first time i had a dream like that i was in grade school and wrote it down in creative writing and felt a little guilty about it. cuz it really felt like writing down a movie i had seen and passing it off as my own. it was a story about a family of raccoons, and was, like many stories about animals, an origin story. it told how they got their masks and rings. spoiler alert: they were burglars and had done time in prison. i realize just now that i probably got that imagery from this disney robin hood scene (1:47 in).
anyway, thats not the story i will tell you today (tho i bet i could find it in my files in my parents basement and give you the original version on yellow lined paper).
today marks the first day of rehearsals for the play Local Wonders co-written by and starring my friend paul amandes (he wrote all the songs too). ive worked on multiple projects of his over the (9!?) years since college and i know two things about this show before we even start: 1) its going to be beautiful and true (in a sincere, down to earth sense, not in a broadway sense) and 2) its going to be a fun process. now, every stage management gig comes with frustrations and snafus and headaches and what feel like insurmountable obstacles that you find a way to get thru, and i know that going in. thats part of the allure. god help me, but i love a challenge (did you read the 'i wanna buy a run down old house and fix it up myself without knowing the first thing about how' post?). but, every gig also comes with the feeling of being utterly present to a collective project, the quality of attention that misses nothing, but nothing, about every detail of the show from the actor's barely flubbed line to the set of keys on the props list to the exact way of letting the director know that none of the production team thinks that one visionary idea is physically possible without derailing everything. if i think about it, in a lot of ways, i was born for this gig.
but it also scares the bejesus out of me. im not quite organized enough as a human being to do this job, prolly cuz it calls for a super-human level of organization. the systems you need to create to keep track of everything or appalling, and for me, they come up organically with the people involved. that only works well if you work well with your co-creators, and its been proved again and again that paul and i are of one mind on many things and work pretty seemlessly together. however, he is not directing this production. a friend of his who lives in nebraska is coming in. i have faith that we will be a good group, but the scary part (aside from tech week, which im not even allowing myself to think about for fear of hyperventilation) is that directly after opening night, the director will leave. and at that point, as she said in the phone interview we had, i will be the only responsible adult in the building. the designers fly the coop once their stuff is perfected, there is no run crew (its 3 people on a stage the whole time, no intermission, few props, one set) there arent even board ops for lighting and sound. i wont be calling the show, i will be running it. (which will make me feel like the evil genius pulling all the strings behind the scenes, the one with complete control...mwahaha) i know its a simple, small production, but this is still a huge responsibility. if something goes wrong during performance, its all me. the actors have to have trust, not in the workings of an entire production team, which, in a collective art form one has to have faith in generally, knowing everyone is committed to a good show and the combined efforts of all these people will make a net that is safe to fall into, but in me. just lil old me. i know each of the actors, im friends with two of them and friendly with the other, but these next 3 weeks will be an exercise, not just in being the directors right-hand man, thinking of things that need done before she even has to say them and the source of all info about who needs what when and how we are all going to come together the two days before thanksgiving and put all the components together, but in building an extreme level of trust with the actors that will outlive what they give the director and carry them thru the entire run which closes in january.
by december 3rd, it will be my show. and i will have to be present with it and take care of it and know exactly what it needs and be sweet to it for the next 5 weeks. it will be (in terms of the amount of work) my baby. but by then i will know every inch of it, every moment, every word, every note, every breath. 90 minutes, no intermission. it will be the kind of workout that conducting an orchestra is. on point every second, barely with time to breath, except you must breath thru everything, cuz you are the heart and lungs and brain. the actors are the face and voice. and you have to be synapse-fire-to-finger-wiggle connected to them. it will be grueling and exhausting and the most fun ive had in a while.
it will get me high, night after night. and it will feel so good. until it doesnt. until i come down. those of you who will see me this december, if its a weekend night, i will prolly crash before your eyes. if its sunday night, after a matinee and an evening show, you prolly wont see me. the part of this that takes me from anticipation to fear is knowing what happens in my body (and, if im not careful, can reverberate thru the show) when something goes wrong. when i miss or flub a cue, or someone else does (which is worse cuz i can fix my mistakes but have to watch and wait and pray they can fix their own) and i feel like i just shot battery acid into my veins and liquid hydrogen flows down my spine and the gas stove burner in my collar turns on and i have to keep the audience and actors from feeling the fire, ice and acid or my fear will infect everyone and the show will fall apart. just like that. sometimes you can get it back on its feet in a minute or two, sometimes quicker, but that falter which can lead to full-on failure is the stuff of my nightmares. (the fear of that failure spikes the high i get from the connection to the play already, bumping me to a rare peak, when near misses are avoided. god i sound like an addict.) but ive seen minor and major failures happen in real life and the threat of them is the only stress dream i have anymore.
in my dream its always the same: there is a huge production of some elaborate musical or erudite shakespeare play or something equally grand. its in a gargantuan opera house with what feels like hundreds of people a part of the productions scurrying around getting ready, trying to get me into costume and makeup and character, cuz its opening night, and hour before curtain (or 10 minutes depending on my level of stress) and im just this moment becoming acquainted with the script. sometimes im still hazy on what the play is and usually have only the cues from my costume and how people treat me to guess at my role. its always a lead, which means there is no way to minimize the failure of the production by virtue of being a minor part in it. its usually equivalent to trying to put on hamlet with someone who has never read it in the title role (80% of the lines in that show are his or depend on one of his). my standard reaction is full of fire and ice and battery acid and involves trying to read thru the play to get at least an idea of what my scenes are about, who my character is, who the other characters are to me, and what i am trying to accomplish, with the stage manager giving me 5 minutes till curtain. its an immanent disaster and its going to be all my fault. and my imagination invariably spins out of control over what havoc i will wreak on stage and what horrible reception i will get, not just from the audience, but from all the people involved in the show who trusted in me and are depending on me to make their efforts worthwhile.
such a nightmare. i always wake up breathless and sweating. i predict that i will have at least one such dream before opening, most likely not the night before, prolly leading up to first tech.
i did not, however, have it last night. which is a good sign. i have nothing to fear about this play. its a beauty and is made up of only the best people. and whatever comes, we can handle it. trust me.

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