So things are just zoomin' along here people...I just got my epidural this morning - and apart from not being able to feel below my waist for two hours, it was completely worry free. It takes a couple days to really kick in - but I think it's gonna fix the prob. My whole long-term headache thing seems to officially be TMJ so when I get back I am expecting Dr. D to cure me. Because if it's one thing the Pack Leader can't live without - it's me being able to flap my jaw. (insert Rich snorting mountain dew through his nose here).
Apparently Rich has been a busy bee in the auditorium - for all you folks that are convinced we never would actually start work in that room. With the help of a visit from Bob and Janice, the Najuchs have removed all the old seats from the entire main floor of the auditorium. Which means we now have a great big open concrete floor area which can be refinished and treated. I'm really excited to see it. They also worked on the last coat of paint for the new box office area (which occupies the half of the old storefront closest to the street... the rest of it now functions as the prep area for catering). So pretty soon we'll have regular box office hours during the season and you can have quality time hangin' with the Pack Leader.
So I'm working away on the Mickey and Judy show. I've got about twenty pages done in the script - which doesn't sound like much - but normally my Supper Club narration runs about 21 pages - so I probably am, once the whole thing is done, gonna have to trim a little. Which is just fine.
So flashing back... rehearsals in new york were just a whirlwind of madness. Rich and I were working from 9 am until 6 in rehearsal - we gave the cast a lunch break but I was insane enough to think we shouldn't really take one. Which meant in a ten minute break period we would attempt to scarf down a Subway cheesesteak like Pac Man with binging disorder. This only contributed to the exhaustion and the fact that we couldn't get anything at all done during the day. I had to be there to direct... Rich had to be there to stage manage. We needed an intern like nobody's business...but we couldn't find anyone we could afford - so we had to wing it. From the day I arrived in New York until the day the show closed we didn't take a single day off. We were so harried that the only picture I personally managed to take the entire time we were in New York was this. Which frankly, sums the whole thing up:
The actors had staggered off days - but we rehearsed every day. Which was my incredibly stupid stupid idea. Because I learned that me having time to catch up on work - and my preparation and my SLEEP maximizes my total rehearsal time WAY more than the 8 hours I gain by NOT taking a day off. Bad bad bad bad. Next time I try and do that, the closest blogger in proximity has to come smack me in the face.
I can be taught. Slowwwwwlllllly.
So I continued the horrifying pattern of go to work... come home crash for two hours...work until 6 am... sleep 2 hours... get up and stare at my script and the model forever and ever ever.
It was just nutty and eventually I probably started to come a little unraveled. I probably would have been fine if I hadn't caught the killer death flu which suddenly started sweeping around the cast. I mean thins thing was NOT fun. There was a point where I just nearly had to send everyone home during rehearsal.
Working with Tony was just one of the most amazing experiences. He had this huge role to handle - and he was just so collaborative. And no matter how overwhelming it all was, or how much stuff I threw at him, he just soaked it up and approached it all with such enthusiasm. Every so often I would say something that he would really like and his eyes would kind of squint for a second and he would nod - and that made me so happy... when you're approaching material that could feel so dated and stale, and yet find things to suggest that excited an actor playing them. Especially an actor as smart and experienced as he is. It's always pretty freaky and daunting when your first in a room with a star and you have to start guiding them and making suggestions. Usually they are making way more money than you are, and they know that tickets are being sold because of their name. So really they have a lot of power in the dynamic. And sometimes people just aren't receptive. But I've been really lucky, and when I've worked with people that were famous, they really DESERVED to be famous. They've been brilliant and hardworking and incredibly excited to create together. So I've been really lucky. I've actually had a lot more trouble and found obstacles with people who have reached a point in their career where they are bitter that they AREN'T famous. And then ego can kick in and certain walls get put up. Luckily - with Tony - who set a wonderful tone for the rest of the company - it was a pure delight.
Oh and remember how I told you his lodging was really cool... here's a picture from the AKA website of a room just like his looked.... So it was a kitchen, bedroom area, study, bathroom and laundry nook (with washer and dryer) for the same price as a reasonably priced New York hotel room... Soooo nice:
This was a really weird show to rehearse because The Tempest is structured with three totally separate groups of people who converge at the end of the play. So until the final like fifteen pages of the play, I was rehearsing three totally separate groups of people the entire time. Which was nice for the actors - because they got more than one day off a week usually. But it was also weird - because it was kind of isolating for them, and each group took on it's own totally unique dynamic.
A week into rehearsals we had a little drama. For personal reasons the actor playing Ariel (who doesn't have the most lines...but is the only character who is in almost every scene and DOES interact with all three of those groups) had to leave the project. So a week into our three week process (yes - that's 1/3 of the entire rehearsal period) we had to replace the second lead in the show. And the character sings about five songs. And he's supposed to be a mutant bird-person that an actor probably should have been working on weeks and weeks ahead of time to figure out the physicality.
For some crazy, insane, totally mental reason I took a gamble. I had a hunch. I dunno why. I dunno how. There was this kid in the cast named Mark. Mark was playing one of the smallest roles in the show - actually the smallest. He had six lines. But in the first week had been working so hard...and he was so smart...and he was so focused. And he was nice. He really deserved a shot. And, frankly, he was the same size as the other actor and he would fit the costume - which was not a whole lot. I mean this guy was pretty much gonna be more than half naked in feathers and painted in white body paint. And Mark looks like an olympic swimmer. So - he was gonna look just fine in feathers.
But my GOD - this was like the best decision of my life. He was brilliant. He soaked up direction like a sponge. I had forgotten that he had a pile of puppetering experience (he played the Dad in the musical of Finding Nemo at Disneyworld) and he had a singing voice like an angel. I don't think i've ever seen anyone work harder in my life. Every single second he wasn't rehearsing with me he was over in a corner looking in a mirror watching himself and figuring out how to act like a bird. It was really insane. He just blew everyone away in the first two days of working - and he energized the cast and really helped keep everybody's spirits up.
The hardest part of the whole show was the first scene in the show. It's like famously one of the weirdest toughest scenes in Shakespeare. It was by far the toughest thing I've ever tried to stage in my entire career. I'd like to blow my own horn and say I knocked it out of the park. We did really well - but it's still something that I wish I had more time to perfect. It's a storm on board a ship... for about six pages at the very beginning of the show - and then it's never a ship again for the next 100 pages. Which makes it a little bit of a challenge. Frankly, I think one of the biggest problems with the thing was that I was terrified of it. And it just felt like something I had to figure out in the room with actors (which isn't normally how I like to work, when I can... I mean I like to have a safety net figure out and then try and create everything in the room - KNOWING i have the safety net.) But i just couldn't figure out the freakin' safety net. And the problem was the whole thing revolved around so many sound effects and lighting effects and things that it just was a totally fustercluck to figure out. The cast was great and everybody really kind of chipped and worked in a fabulous way to put it all together...but it just took a long time. Not in a normal situation - but when we only had three weeks to stage the whole thing - it took a LONG time. It was such a complicated sequence and now, having finally gotten through the whole thing, it's something I still wake up at night thinking I have a rehearsal the next day and I'll get to tighten it up. Yup - that's me - expert and letting go :)
Meanwhile, back in Bermuda, my poor mom was still slaving away finishing up bits and pieces of stuff I couldn't get completed before I left. The bane of her existence was a set of magic trays that were supposed to transform from platters full of seafood and fruit and yumminess into a scary platter piled with skulls. A wonderful guy named Alan was building them for me - cuz he's like the nicest man alive - but Mom was desperate for these things so she could get them decorated etc. and Alan was takin' more time to put them together than we had anticipated. At the same time she was applying countertop resin to two lobsters (to make them hard and sealed) for use as props, finding me giant ship-size chain, making the stakes for Leonard the talking/flying/satanic pig, tracking down logs... No, really logs. In Bermuda you can't just like go out and cut down a tree. You have like buy firewood. Which, considering that my mother has the same body temperature as a penguin, is something she uses a lot. In like July. So she knows firewood. But I needed big logs. So she called the firewood people and ordered a load of HALF cut firewood - so the logs would be twice the length. So our logs - cost $200. But I needed logs. And the deal with mom was that she would take them for the house and dad would cut them up with the chainsaw.
Yes. My father has a chainsaw. Janice just spit up HER Mountain Dew.
Actually if my back is feeling better I think I'm gonna take a crack at it - simply because I think the 'joel cut all four of his limbs off in three seconds" would be a fun blog topic.
Now I know this blog is very very low on pics - I promise though, the ones coming up are CHOCK A BLOCK of awesome backstage and rehearsal and show pics. Promise promise.
So to tide you over I will share with you my favorite picture of last year, that never made it into a blog because I got behind on my duties. Remember when I sang the Grinch song for the Christmas show, Luke was very perterbed that I did not have a Grinch costume... So he made me one of out of lego: