Day #6: May 31
The War of the Roses has Begun!
For someone who loves coffee, it seems a curious disconnect that I don’t know how to make a decent cup of one. And it seems to me that now is not the time for caramel colored water, nor Mud (which is the name of a coffee brand here in NY. It’s appropriately named!)
When I was 21, I was a member of the Huron Playhouse. At that time, Bowling Green State University ran the summer program which was an opportunity for many of its graduate and undergraduate theater students to gain useful experience. It was a fast summer stock rep. Rehearse one week, perform one week. Rinse and repeat for six weeks. It seems to me that the musical got two weeks of rehearsal.
Even though I lived in the town next door, I stayed in company housing. And it felt very much like summer camp all over again. We were assigned household tasks that were rotated weekly. So you weren’t stuck on trash duty all summer long.
I was assigned one week to make coffee. And I wasn’t a coffee drinker then. So apparently my coffee was, uhm, strong enough to stand a spoon in. Everybody jollily drank it, though. But you could see my colleagues gear up to do so. And everyone was relieved when my week was over.
Perhaps that experience has scarred me in that self-fulfilling prophesy kind of way. But I don’t think I’ve ever made a good cup of coffee. This morning, I saw that the coffee pots hadn’t been emptied the night before and so I thought I’d try to contribute something to the running of the ship.
And here’s the thing: coffee pots, instructions on coffee bags, and coffee machines all have different measurements. The coffee bag says two tablespoons for six ounces of water. The coffee pot has lines in quantity of four. And when you pour water that shows it is at line eight on the pot, it comes up short on the indicator on the machine. WTF?!?!?!?
And so the day began…..
Meanwhile while my weak coffee was brewing, I noticed that Hannah (our assistant line producer) was making paper crowns. I asked what that was about. And she said, “H6.3.” You never know when that elementary school arts and crafts class will come in handy in the theater, do you? And, of course, we need paper crowns for H6.3. There is a little bit of summer stock cheesiness in this whole operation.
Doug Langworthy, the translator for all three Henrys, has this idea about passing crowns from play to play. Which makes perfect sense to me. Tala Ashe, who’s reading Margaret in H6.2, asked to have the crowns in rehearsal because there’s a lot of “crown-o-graphy” to deal with in these plays.
And so it is that we have been looking for crowns. I don’t know how props departments functioned before the internet. My goodness, it must make their lives so much easier. Still, and yet, it took some research to find a crown style that would work with our budget and for all three shows.
We began our last play of the first week – COMEDY OF ERRORS. What a cherry on top that’s going to be, eh? Many of those cast members have not participated in any Play on workshop before, including the director, so there will be a bit of a learning curve on how all this works. Their initial sense of the reading is that it will be without an intermission. It is always a challenge to toss an intermission into these plays. They were not built with them. That is our convention. And there are plusses and minuses no matter where you slice it.
Anyway, I think that would be a great way to test the speed and rhythm that is required for comedy to work. Comedy is hard to rehearse, actually. There is a lot of technical instructions to it. It’s the precision that makes it funny. So often that’s the room where the most knitted-brows are.
The laughter usually is in the tragedy rooms. Because you have to laugh with each other before you step onstage and bash each other’s brains out, you know?
I managed to pull into RICHARD III just as they hit this snag trying to figure out who should take what secondary and tertiary roles. It seemed like every combo that Mariana, our director, came up with, there was a reason why it couldn’t work. As you know, I want to present these plays with 12 actors. (There will be some with nine and some with 14.) And it is hard to figure out who can come in and do those smaller roles that pop up in these big stories. Especially in the convention of a staged reading. There isn’t time to develop much difference between characters.
But I would also content that we don’t need such distinctions. I want us to hear these plays again as if for the first time. And I think they work more on an aural level than a visual one. Still, our world is visual, and our theatrical presentations are visually oriented, so it’s hard to make that left turn for these readings.
And RICHARD III has a lot of characters to bring in and out. And then most of them come back as ghosts to haunt Richard before the Battle at Bosworth Field. The playwright Migdalia Cruz and Ishia Bennison, her dramaturg, got this assignment only recently, and they are learning about the play too. So it was a group effort in there today. I will drop by tomorrow and see how where things have landed.
The day ended with the reading of HENRY 6.1. And oh my that was fun. In the talkback, the connection between this kind of epic storytelling and Game of Thrones came up. Perhaps we are finally in a period when we can appreciate these plays. They are a tough sell with theaters and audiences. There are many adaptations, which are more like conflations of these three plays leading to RICHARD III. Wait until you hear the Jack Cade rebellion tomorrow afternoon. You’ll wonder why it’s always cut.
I am of a certain age, as if you haven’t figured that out by now. I’ve seen the escalation of following multiple story lines. Let’s take TV as an example. I was raised on those single-story sitcoms, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It may have been The Wire that broke that mold. Because now we have been trained, cognitively, to hold many different threads.
I think holding different story threads is different than multi-tasking, which we cannot do, despite our protestations to the contrary. That’s a blog for another day.
Tomorrow: The rest of the Henry 6. How will it fadge?