Monday, March 8, 2010

Standby Mackenzeie - Chapter 3

The first day of rehearsals dawned sunny and clear, another beautiful summer’s day in Sheridan’s Falls. Last summer it would have been the kind of day Mackenzie would have called up Bethany, her best friend, to see if she wanted to head down to the lake for a swim and some boy watching.

Sadly though Bethany’s boy watching days were over, as she’d just moved away after school had ended in June to start a new life with her new boyfriend in a big new city. Mackenzie’s boy watching would have to be put on hold for a while too now, and as she walked downtown to the big old stone theatre something told her that she wouldn’t be spending much time enjoying the fabulous weather this particular summer.

The theatre was a buzz with the energy of a new play coming to life. Trudy was sitting in the box office, taking phone orders while typing an email and stuffing brochures into envelopes for her latest mailing, furiously gnawing away on her lips as she fretted about whether or not the box office was looking clean enough to welcome customers when the box office opened. Marlene was standing in front of the theatre smoking a cigarette and tapping out a message on her Blackberry when Mackenzie arrived.

“Are you all ready for the big day, kiddo?”
“I think so.”
“You’d better be. We’ve got a problem. One of the actors is lost. Frank’s not gonna be happy with you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Didn’t you call the actors and give them directions?”
“Nobody told me I was supposed to do that.”
“You’re just supposed to know enough. It’s called common sense. Nothing we can do about it now. I suppose you forgot to get some timbits too.”
“Tell Bret to go for them.”

And with that Marlene pitched her cigarette butt to the sidewalk and went back inside, muttering something about rookies. Mackenzie quickly followed after her.

The actual read-through wasn’t too bad. Mackenzie met the actors, and neither one of them seemed very shocked that she was their stage manager. The one actor who had gotten lost quickly found his way and was there on time, so there were no delays in getting started, and Frank was generally happy. As the actors read the play they brought it to life, and what had been a dull and dreary play about a couple of country hicks became a warm, lively, touching experience.

After lunch it was time to start blocking the play. Frank came up on stage just before they started, and for the first time seemed to notice the set design taped out on the floor, and the props table that was set up with a bunch of props with big “R’s” written on them.

“This will do,” he grumbled demurely. That was about as close to a compliment as you could get from Frank.

As an assistant stage manager Mackenzie had taken blocking notes before, and she had learned to reset props in between scenes. But she’d never done both at once before, and she’d never done it this much. It took a few angry glares from Frank the first few times before she got on to automatically getting up to reset the props every time they stopped. In the first two hours of rehearsal they had only blocked the first five or ten minutes of the play, but already Mackenzie was feeling exhausted, and her blocking notes looked like the aftermath of a war zone. Thankfully, one of the actors suggested that perhaps it was time for a break.

“Capital idea,” said Frank. “Mack, go see if there are some timbits left in the lobby. But when you get back I want to go over something with you.”

What Frank wanted to go over with her was scheduling. Again, it was another one of those things that she was just magically supposed to know, but apparently the theatre could get into real trouble with the actor’s union if there weren’t enough breaks scheduled. In fact there were rules about how long a work day could be, how much time there had to be for lunch, even that the actors had to be provided with a water cooler! Frank shoved a dog-eared book into her hands.

“This is your bible,” he said. “From now on make sure we’re doing everything by the book.”

Mackenzie looked at the black and silver-covered spiral-bound book. It was entitled The Canadian Theatre Agreement. Before she had a chance to look it over Frank called the actors back to the stage and the rehearsal continued. After a few more hours of mind-numbingly repetitive rehearsal Frank summed up the mood in the room.

“Well, stick a fork in me and turn me over, because I’m done.”

The actors giggled, and everyone was thankful that this first long day of rehearsals had come to an end. Frank invited the actors out for a drink, and though they both had a lot of memorizing to do they decided that yes, they had time for a quick one. Before he left Frank pulled Mackenzie aside for a quick confab.

“Tomorrow you’re going to have us working by the book, right?”
“Now these rehearsal props, these are great and all, and they were fine for today, but I want you to get Steven and Juan off their lazy butts and get us some show-quality props for tomorrow. We’ve only got six days to pull this puppy together and I don’t want to be working with stand-ins any longer than I have to.”
“But weren’t Steven and Juan in the shop all day building the set?”
“No. They probably spent a couple of hours on set building and then decided to make an early day of it and hit the bar. If you can’t find them you’ll have to get us the show props yourself.”

And with that Frank and the actors left.

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