Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Try not to suck

We had a good rehearsal last night, I think - the play was run, worked through bit-by-bit, and then run again. Good questions were asked, good choices were made, and by the end of the evening there was a noticeable improvement in both the look and the sound of the entire piece.

A small step, perhaps, but an important one for me, as I soldier on in my quest for creative renewal. To be honest I was exhausted last night - between the early morning wake-up (plus the light sleep the night before), a day of heavy farm work, four hours of production work, and the oppressive heat, I had to hold onto the side of the barn just to stay upright. Despite this I think we had one of our better rehearsals.

Such is the lifeblood of theatre.

But I can't rest on my laurels, or congratulate myself on a job well done - at least not yet. A good base like this must be built upon, improved upon, and the opportunity must not be missed. Seize the moment. Suck less. But how?

Certainly my preparations for the next rehearsal are part of it - I must take some time to sit down and really think about what I would like that rehearsal to accomplish (and the one after that, for that matter). But I usually do that without being consciously aware of it anyways and besides, we're now back to the shows that I've written, so I'm back on familiar turf - there's only so much a director can do to get inside a playwright's head.

I could pour the energy into organization - I'm slowly cleaning up and re-arranging all my scene stock, props, costumes, lighting/sound equipment and stage management supplies, as well as digitizing and sorting all paper and media inventory (I seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff). But that's an ongoing project, one better suited to brain-dead Friday afternoons and frigid winter nights than today, when the creative juices are flowing so vigorously.

I think the big winner will be the new play that I'm working on - an as-yet-unnamed post-apocalyptic action-adventure-romance. I had planned on working on it today anyways, but already I've had a brainwave that will make my time with it all the more productive. While this play won't be hitting the boards any time soon I hope it will eventually turn out to be the best play I've ever written, and in my attempt not to suck when it comes to making theatre a new personal best would most definitely be a step in the right direction.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thinking Life and Death

You take it all so casual, second nature to you now,
You drive away assuming that you'll make it back somehow

Life and death, life and death a whisper in the air...
                                           - John Gray, from the musical 18 Wheels

It seems that I've finally figured out where I'd heard the phrase "Life and Death" before. I was the ASM on this irrverernt masterpiece of Canadian musical theatre back in the 90's. It's a production that features an actual semi truck on stage (or at least we made it look like it was a real truck) and while it's not the deepest show I've ever done (it's written entirely in rhyming couplets) it is one of my fonder memories of my time in the rat race. It was a show that brought out some of the better skills in me (and it was around this time that I earned my "Grinder" moniker, if I'm not mistaken), and while I certainly must have made many, many mistakes and disappointed a lot of people (as I routinely surmised from the way I was treated and talked about at that point in my life) nobody could have argued on closing night that we hadn't together done something amazing.

That was one of the first shows where I really learned what it means to love theatre.

A dozen or so years later and I'm starting to wonder if things have come full circle. I've certainly come a long way, and there have been many shows, good and bad, since that time. Our production of Life and Death is a lot different than Gray's spectacular, but for me it feels much the same. I'm on familiar ground. I know this territory. I feel like I can bring something special to this project. It's not just another show. I'm sure that I will make some mistakes, and I'm not counting my chickens just yet, but I've got a feeling that this is going to be something good.

It's not going to be for everyone - there's plenty of coarse language, violence, adult situations, and yeah, a few people get shot. But mature content doesn't bother me, and if it doesn't bother you I think you'll enjoy this.

Life and Death goes up for two performances only - Saturday August 27th at 2pm and 8pm at the Ennotville Library. Tickets are $15 each, and are available from any cast member, at the door, or by calling 519-780-7593. Seating is limited.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Theatre of faith

I'm listening to tracks that I might want to use in Life and Death right now, and I have to admit that it's having quite the experience on me. I've been adamant for some time now that one of the ways I was going to suck less when it came to theatre was to pay more attention to the sound design - less utilitarian filler, more compelling narrative and counter-narrative.

The effect is, in this case, faith. No, I haven't found God (or organized religion - many people confuse the two). I haven't found anything new per se, but I do get the feeling that I'm beginning to rediscover a part of myself that has been lost for some time, a part of myself that comes from making great theatre.

I'm psyched for rehearsal this evening, despite being considerably tired. Maybe because we'll have everyone we need there tonight (someone better knock some wood). Maybe it's because we're moving into the second half of the play tonight, towards the plays that are perhaps darker in nature that those in Act 1, but that are ultimately more hopeful. Maybe it's the music, as I finally see another layer of commentary being added to the show's mosaic. Maybe it's something else.

It's been a while since I've felt that buzz that I get at the end of a great rehearsal. Every night it's been getting closer and closer. Hopefully tonight it will be there. Until then, I have to have faith that the moment is coming, that point where everything crystallizes, and turns into something amazing.

A theatre of faith - who knew?