Malvolio Production Diary: Three days on, four days off

Today is Thursday, the fourth consecutive day that I haven’t been to the theater. We’re not doing pickup rehearsals for this one, so I don’t see the theater or my castmates from Sunday after the matinee until Friday before the evening show. It’s kind of relaxing, although I ought to have run my lines every day, instead of missing a day in there somewhere.

Pickup rehearsals are an odd thing. This is the first time I’ve been in a show that just didn’t bother with them. Some groups do them quite seriously, in full dress and tech; some groups do them as speedthroughs in streetclothes under worklights; some groups do them as travesties, giving the cast an opportunity to send up the show and ourselves. The thing is that amateur groups (around here, anyway) will generally do three weekends of shows, with Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday dark in between, and sometimes Thursday, too. I have sometimes found that the first show back after a few days off begins a little tentatively. On the other hand, those have been shows with pickup rehearsals during the break, so they don’t fully solve the problem anyway.

In a professional regional theater, they usually have shows five or six nights a week, so presumably it’s not an issue. I have done (some years ago, documented on this Tohu Bohu) a semi-professional show that was dark only on Monday and Tuesday, and did (if I remember correctly) ten shows in eleven days, or something like that, and we still did a pickup rehearsal, of the walkthrough-in-streetclothes variety. I’m not entirely sure why, but it couldn’t hurt, right? That’s largely my feeling about pickups. They are mostly a waste of time, but they can’t hurt.

I have never experienced, though, what the professional actor does in a typical regional theater: the run of thirty or so performances over five weeks. I’d like to. I have no idea what it’s like. My longest run has been twelve performances, I think. Certainly not as many as fifteen. And while by the end of the third (or sometimes fourth) weekend, I am rather desperately looking forward to getting my evenings back, I do wonder what it’s like, as an actor, to get really settled in to a part over a longish run. Would my performance improve or deteriorate? Would I learn? How would I get along with my castmates, once we were done rehearsing and settled down to the business of putting on the play? What would it be like, after twenty shows, to have a good audience or a bad one, or a good show or a bad one? I’ve had some experience at going on when I felt tired or sick or generally crappy; I’ve done shows where the cast outnumbered the audience; I’ve had the terrible experience of feeling like the whole cast is just walking through the thing. I have had the bounce-back shows, when it feels good again. I haven’t had the arc of the thing, though, where I go through good and bad days, good and bad houses and know there will be plenty of each of them left. I haven’t ever finished a performance without thinking this was the best we’ve done or this one wasn’t as good as last Friday; I imagine (but don’t know) that after thirty performances that sort of thought wouldn’t make sense. I’d like to find out.

I’d like to do that longish run once, mind you. And I have no wish to perform the same role for years. That is what being in the elite of the profession means, really, not a month of this and a month of that, but a hundred performances of this and two hundred of that, and then another hundred of the first in a different city, if I’m lucky. And if I’m really lucky, becoming Marian Seldes and playing your part a thousand times over. Those are the hopes and dreams of a professional, if the hoper and dreamer only knew. I am an amateur, and my hopes and dreams are to put on a decent show for a dozen performances and then have some time off and do another one next year. Still and all, I’d like to know what it’s like to do thirty.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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