Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hollow

Going to take a bit of a departure today from my musings on the trials and tribulations of preparing for Resurrection at the Elora Centre for the Arts next weekend and let you know a bit about what I'm doing with all my free time, getting ready to direct Agatha Christie's The Hollow, going up this March 27th - 29th at the Fergus Grand Theatre.

You may remember me talking about the audition process last week in preparations for this past Saturday's "Cattle Call," as those in the business facetiously refer to mass auditions as. It was, contrary to the stereotype, a very pleasant (though oddly draining) experience, and I'm pleased to report that we have been able to cast the show with much less and pain and suffering than is always entirely possible when working with such a large cast (6 men and 6 women).

We have a nice mix of people too, from experienced veterans of many shows (with Grinder and others), to newcomers who are trying this theatre thing for the very first time. I noticed we had a lot of "born again" theatre people come out to audition - those who hadn't done anything since their teens and 20's and who were now in their 50's and 60's and looking for something to do with all their free time. I'm sure there's a sociology thesis in there somewhere for some university student with community theatre parents.

Tonight I'll be meeting with my design and technical people to go over that aspect of the show. Far more than simply conducting rehearsals, there's a whole host of time, money and human resources that go into making even a small show a reality. In fact, if you were to assign the actors as simply one "department" in the entire structure of production, they would only take up about 5% of the total space, and that's if the show doesn't have complex technical requirements. As a director, it's important that I give a reasonable amount of my time to considering the other 95% of the show that has little to do with what's going on in rehearsals. I ignore that 95% at my peril, for in that lies the base of the production, the environment in which it will take place, the mechanisms that will ensure someone actually buys a ticket to see it, and the people who will take my thoughts, combine them with their own and those of others, and make it a reality.

I started out in this business, like so many others, in production, working as an unpaid, badly treated lackey. They were the best of times and the worst of times, certainly. To be a part of something that impressive (and when you're putting on plays for the first time it doesn't take much to be impressed), to struggle through the stress and pain of long hours, little sleep and being screamed at by the director and then see it all come together on opening nights, that was something unlike anything I'd ever imagined. It's probably that high that hooked me on theatre in the first place. I could look up onstage and say "I did THAT. Cool." And it is cool. To this day I get a great feeling of accomplishment when I see a full box set go up onstage and look marvelous. When I hear a beautiful soundscape that fills the theatre and transforms it into someplace else. Even when an actor walks onstage with an letter in his hand and I see that someone has taken the time make it look like the letter has been through the postal system of whatever time and place the play is set, that is something cool for me.

I don't begrudge people their acting. If that's what does it for you, if that's why you want to be involved in the theatre then who am I to say it's not right. But I think that for every actor biting their nails, feverishly cramming lines before they go on, there's a techie out there somewhere too, have the time of their lives.

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