Father Jack Production Diary: what’s new

So, we’re getting close to Opening Night for Lughnasa, and things are pretty much right on track. By which I mean things are terrible and that disaster looms and that it is inconceivable that we could be ready for an audience in 9 days. As I say, pretty much where they should be at this point. Insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster. Wait, that doesn’t make sense. If the road is to disaster, isn’t the presence of obstacles a good thing? Never mind, then, just insurmountable obstacles on the road to eventual success. Or maybe a plain old highway to hell.


Aside from the fiddly things that still need to be settled (such as, in my case, researching what they say in East Africa when someone sneezes so that I can respond in character should that eventuality occur, and deciding whether the gesture that accompanies the flute should indicate a side-blown flute such as the agwara or the front-blown flute such as the endere or enkoloozi or perhaps the pan-pipe style enkwanzi, and determining exactly when during Michael’s monologue I see the kite on the ground and stoop to it, and also getting my gd-damned lines correct) the main problem at this point is that we have lost all sense of what is new and what is old. It’s a thing that happens when a cast has been at it for a while. We start—not so much walking through it, but emphasizing those things that are new to us, or that have recently fixed, or that we really like. It is hard to remember that the audience will not know any of it, and needs to be told the story from the beginning.

Part of it is anticipating—we know what is coming next, and we are ready for it, so one piece carries on smoothly into the next. It makes the whole thing dull, but more important even than that, it makes it unclear. The audience, lacking the signposts to set off new information, will wonder did I miss something earlier? Or they’ll miss it altogether, and then later will be perplexed that we never mentioned something so important.

For me, playing a minor supporting character, it’s less about the actual plot points. Oh, I need to remember that the audience doesn’t know about Jack’s aphasia until he actually exhibits it, and I need to figure out what clues the audience in to the extent to which Jack has gone native. But I’m not, on the whole, giving out important information. When I draw out that Chris is an unwed mother, it is the third or fourth time that information has been expressed, in one way or another. The new piece of information there is that Jack fails to disapprove—I need to remember that the audience ought to expect Jack’s disapproval and be surprised that he doesn’t object. It’s that sort of thing that falls away at this point in the rehearsal process, this just-before-tech-week stretch, when the one thing we cannot imagine is that soon there will be people to tell the story to.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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