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Malvolio Production Diary: 12 days

I haven’t updated the Malvolio diary for a few days, it seems. Not a great deal of news. I went through my usual two-weeks-out panic, more or less on time, so that’s all right. For those who have not experienced this sort of thing, about two weeks (more or less) before the opening of a show, we start to run whole big chunks of the thing, staggering through the whole first half or the whole second half, or perhaps attempting to do the whole play. Before that, we usually are working individual scenes multiple times through before moving on, doing no more than four or five in an evening. When we start dong larger sections, the strains show. Unable to cram a half-hour’s worth of script for that night’s work, we start discovering great gaps in our memorization. We find that we don’t remember our entrances and exits when they follow on from the previous scene, or sometimes we discover that the blocked entrance is simply not possible, given what else is happening. The set furniture is in the wrong place, and we don’t know when it was supposed to have been moved or by whom. Acting choices that made sense in the individual scenes may have to be rethought in the bigger context. As rehearsal props (or mimed props) begin to be replaced by performance props, we discover new ways to clumsily bring the action to a halt. Actors develop fits of giggles. Stage managers start to wear That Face. Panic grips everybody.

And then we solve all of those problems. Two weeks is a lot of time—hell, professional summer stock shows often go up with only two weeks of rehearsal altogether—and most of the problems are easily solvable. If you can’t come on from UL, you can come on from DL, probably, or from UR if being upstage is the important part, and once you know your new blocking, you do it and it works and the problem disappears. Or a new problem appears and that one is quickly solved. The worst part is the memorization, and I fully expect that after everyone panicked last week, the rest of the cast, like YHB, spent a good chunk of the weekend getting it right. Improvements start to happen quickly at this stage, bumpy spots smooth out, we start to hit a rhythm. We get better.

In truth, if we were completely ready to go with two weeks left, we would run the risk of being stale on the night. Two weeks before opening is about the right time for panic. It’s kind of comforting, actually.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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