Father Jack Production Diary: onset

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We’re on the set! I can’t share pictures at this time, but it’s a heck of a lovely set, even under work lights and without being fully dressed yet. Although there is a squeak.

One odd thing about the difference between amateur and professional theater is that amateurs generally get lots of time on the stage before the show goes up. It’s a consequence of the amateur halls being dark much of the time—many community theaters have a month between shows, and can start putting up a set the moment the last one comes down. The set will continue to be improved and updated and decorated throughout the rehearsal process, but mostly we rehearse in the actual space we’ll be playing. I think the main piece of The Thirty-Nine Steps was in place more than a month before we opened. It was lovely.

In a professional-style production, rehearsal is done in a rehearsal room. Perhaps if there are important pieces, an approximation will be knocked up in that rehearsal room—an actual door, perhaps, or a platform if there’s something that needs to be choreographed with the levels. More often in my (admittedly limited) experience, it’s just done with tape on the floor and pretending. I am aware of the existence of places that do full set builds in rehearsal rooms, but I do not ever expect to play in them. So, as I understand it, the professional experience is a couple of weeks’ rehearsal in a room somewhere (possibly in a different city than the theater) and then a week on the actual stage with the actual set when you get to sit on the furniture.

I don’t know how that works, honestly. Every time I’ve been involved with a show that was blocked in a rehearsal room, there had to be extensive re-blocking on the set. We ran Act Two last night, and with the exception of my entrances and exits, every one of my moves was changed, at least a little. OK, I tell a lie, there’s that one place where I still sit down on the same line I did before, and that’s all right. But mostly we discover that if this part is wider than we thought, then this can move upstage, which means that this scene can be brought downstage a bit and opened up to stage left. But the sightline for that bit is screwy, so don’t sit down but do the next bit standing and then cross right behind and end up over there. Oh, and I need to figure out the timing for that one entrance, when I come up through the vom (which is a false vom, actually—it’s really just an aisle and I will have to creep under the riser seats to get to the back of the house) since I know one what line I need to get to there but not on what line I need to leave the back of the house to get there on that line.

None of which is a big deal, and we have more than a week to do it in.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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