Sunday, 30 October 2011

Twirling and Gliding in Time - The Gifts of the Magi opens Friday!!!

The Gifts of the Magi is rehearsing on stage now, and we open in just a few days. This is juggling time. The addition of a set that twirls and glides as an extension of the story takes time. In our note session at the end of Saturday, Deanne Bertsch, our choreographer, flew me a paper airplane with requests for more time. Bill Hamm has musical nuances he needs to rehearse Monday. And I have a list of scenes, moments, transitions and more to work that can’t possibly fit into Monday. So, we’ll set out to do the impossible.

A show is a giant orchestration that involves so many details - all of which are important. And that’s what makes this time coming up to opening so exhilarating. Everything we do is exponential. It all adds up to more than the sum of the parts. The movement of a set piece becomes story - a physical manifestation of something going on in the heart of a character in the play. A staging problem must be solved, and it leads to a deeper understanding of the story. It’s like Michael Angelo’s sculpting of stone. He stated that the sculpture was inside, waiting to be released. Well, our stone consists of lights, sound, musical instruments, set pieces, and above all - emotional people in motion. And we’re in the process of pulling the story out of all of those elements.

In the end, it’s about the people who make the technical elements, the people who speak and sing the words, and the people who come to participate by receiving the story - the audience. The theatre is ultimately an orchestration where an audience interacts with performers who are staged in a living story-telling environment. Every audience becomes as much a part of the story as the performers themselves. It’s all wonderfully mystical and communal.

But we’ll have to wait for preview and opening to add them to our orchestration. Right now we have to alter the dance step that happens when the New York brownstone apartment scoots our street carolers up and around the stage during a traffic jam. Bill may have to rearrange the piano part that Sarah plays so that it times out for Soapy the beggar to arrive across the street, avoiding the cars that are whizzing by him, in time to catch the penny one of the carolers tosses him from the middle of the street where he is trapped with a woman he does not know, who has just slapped him after he saved her life from an oncoming cab. That moment could take a while. And we only have 34 hours of rehearsal time left before opening!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Moment of Glory

Queen Milli of Galt closed last night. And as with most closings, there was a nagging wish in everyone to hold on to the magic just a little longer. Performers left the stage after playing a scene, noting they would never play that scene again. The Stage Manager called the intricate lighting and sound cues for the very last time. Costumes were hung up, props carried off the stage and the set went back to the shop where it was so carefully created. Actors, Stage Managers and friends gathered at our house to ease out the rest of the evening - a bit like a wake where family and friends gather to hold on the story of a life for a little while longer. And like a good Irish wake, the house was filled with conversation and laughter and the thankfulness that comes from having lived out something glorious together.

It seems the moments that matter never last forever.

There are so many moments in Queen Milli of Galt that still hold me captive: Heather Pattengale as Milli in the moment that I dubbed “The Fish Ballet” swimming towards Prince Edward’s astonished face; Karl Sine as Prince Edward saluting a little boy in the classroom; Heather Pattengale as Milli and Alysa Van Haastert as Mona laughing themselves silly as only best friends do; Steve Waldschmidt as Godfrey trying to calm Edward down in most every scene; Emma Cobb as the journalist taking a bold step into Milli’s garden; and of course, Marie Russell as Mrs. Milroy in the moment where she realizes she will be the Queen Mother!

These moments live in memory now, aided by photographs, just like most of real life does. A play performed live is the most complete, elegant and authentic expression of life. It is impulsive, communal, funny, sad and inspiring. And it comes to an end, just like all the most significant moments in a life. And I love the theatre for that, hard as it is to see something beautiful like Queen Milli of Galt come to an end.

And, of course, as in real life, there is always a new story waiting in the wings. The Gifts of the Magi is about to be born in just under two weeks. And it too has the promise of glory!