I’ve just returned to my room from a three hour meeting that was held in Kelly’s room. Tonight’s dress rehearsal was a fiasco of sorts.
There are major props that aren’t finished and have yet to be seen. There are major prop pieces that haven’t been painted yet. And the most annoying thing to “The Director” is that one of the major prop elements of the show was not designed according to plan and doesn’t function in the way he wanted it to. I was in all of the meetings with the prop person on this and this prop doesn’t even come close to the concept that he was going for. Not even close.
The scenery was a mess. The show we rehearsed tonight takes place in a forest. There are no literal trees on stage. They are made up of step ladders that the actors manipulate and use in a variety of different ways. And there are vertical ladders that are hung above the stage that are painted different shades of green that are flown in and out during the show creating a forest. I have yet to determine if the idea works or not. I do know that when all the ladders (16 in total) are flown in at different levels it creates a very interesting look on stage. Here’s the problem. There is no set designer. So Kelly and I have picked up the slack. So it’s up to us to figure out when these ladders move, and where they move to. Which is great. Except that we can only do this in her room. So we have to guess at all of this. So we take the script and wind our way through it looking for appropriate times for the ladders to move. And then we guess at what ladders should move (did I mention there are 16 of them). To what height. And when. And then to complicate matters even more there are 10 vertical panels upstage (think vertical blinds) that can rotate 360 degrees to any angle we want. So while the ladders are flying up and down, the panels are moving and behind the panels I’m lighting the sky. And we have to guess at all of this.
And so today we saw our guesses for the first time. The first part of the show was okay. But then we got into act 2 and I was tempted to turn around and punch “The Director”. He kept tapping me on the shoulder asking things like, “Is this where we talked about this moving?” “Is this called in the right spot?” “Is this supposed to move that fast?” Why are the panels moving now? This is not right!” When he asked the last question I had the fly guy stop the panels mid move and then very obviously move them back to where they started. I know, I know, it’s passive aggressive. But I have to take my shots where I can get them. The worst thing he did tonight was tap me on the shoulder while I was watching a fly cue happen so that I could tell the fly guy when the ladders were in far enough. Turn your head for a second and you hit someone in the head. So I held my finger up to tell him one moment. And then he tapped me again. And I said, “Just a moment.” And then he tapped me again and said, “Can I ask you a question?” And finally I yelled stop at the fly guy, told Kelly to hold that thought and turned around. And his exact words were, “If you are busy we can discuss it later.” Ugh. What I wanted to point out to him during all of act two was that if he’d been willing to discuss this last night, instead of getting drinks with the cast he might be a little happier. But I didn’t.
And then the lighting sucked. We cued almost an entire two act musical today in about four hours. It usually takes days. I didn’t even look at the stage. If someone was standing there I turned on a light to light them, recorded the cue into the computer and moved on the next part. I worked as fast as I could. (Remember that sprinting post from last week? Today I was in a Nascar race). At one point Kelly told the actors to hold because she couldn’t keep up with me. And that’s very unusual for Kelly. And we moved and moved. And we got about 20 pages further than Kelly had expected to. Which was great. But it also sucked because that meant we still had about 50 pages to go. But rehearsal was over.
So tonight I watched the first part of the show to take notes on the cues I had already written. Then when we got to the end of act two. I started my engines again. And I cued. Fast. And I was almost able to stay up with them. I got a place holder in the computer for every look in the show. It doesn’t mean that it’s good or that it works just that the actors will have some light. Tomorrow we’ll go in and fix cues without the actors in the morning and then tomorrow afternoon we have an orchestra and final dress rehearsal.
And while I’m talking about dress rehearsals, we saw the costumes for the first time tonight. Usually I’m pretty ambiguous about the shows that I’m doing in my posts. It’s a small effort on my part to be able to post what I want, without being fired. But the only way to discuss the insanity of the choices of this play is by actually talking about the specific characters in the play. So don’t tell anyone I’m being specific.
So lets just say that in the course of the dialogue and lyrics the following items are mentioned. A cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, slippers as pure as gold, a cow as white as milk. Let’s just pretend that three of these items are costume items. We’ll start with the shoes as pure as gold. What color would you guess them to be? White? Red? Gold? Black? You’re right. Gold. NOT BLACK!!!!! Now let’s talk about the hair as yellow as corn. What color would you guess that to be. Red? Blond? Brown? Blue? You’re right. Blond. Very blond. NOT STRAWBERRY BLOND, LEADING MORE TO THE STRAWBERRY THAN THE BLOND!!!! And then the final and most recognizable costume piece in the whole show. The cape as red as blood. What color would you guess that to be? Blue? Pink? Red? Mauve? You guessed it! Red. Blood red. NOT PINK!!!! NOT fucking pink!!!!!
And these aren’t even the worst choices. These are just the things that a third grade costume designer should have been able to figure out. In fact they could have gone out to the local junior high school who probably did this play last spring and borrowed the items they needed.
The things that are really bad. Everyone woman in the show has to climb a ladder. It’s part of the concept. We’ve known this before I ever got here. It’s based on the original design ideas that were kept after Ashley was fired. (Have I mentioned today that she’s the costume designer)? So everyone has to climb a ladder in a floor length gown. The character with the hair as pure as gold almost fell off her 12′ ladder twice today trying to climb with her hair and dress. There’s one character dressed in some shroud thing. Who knows. One of the major characters is dressed in a Donna Reed dress. The character with the cape is dressed in a catholic school girl uniform. And then character that climbs into the air to fetch his fortune is dressed in some sort of punk rock outfit with green hair. There’s a grandmother in the show that’s played by a man and his costume looks like something Edna Turnblad would wear. The character brings the show to a halt even though the musically and dramatically the show continues to move.
There are at least seven people dressed in all white. She might have wanted to mention this to me, since I was told by her and “The Director” that the show was all bright colors. Try lighting someone dressed head to toe in black, with their counterpart dressed head to toe in white. It’s almost futile. I have to constantly keep adjusting levels which would be fine if I had two weeks to tech the show. In four hours they are lucky I even turned the lights on.
And I haven’t even discussed sound yet. Which would only be worth a mention, perhaps, if we had a sound designer. But that’s another role Kelly has taken on. So she’s been responsible for finding the sound effects, getting them into a format we can use, editing them, discussing them with the sound board op, and then hoping they work. They are a mess as well, but what do you expect from someone who’s doing everyone else’s job at the same time.
And so we had our little meeting. First we discussed props. The props mistress is 12 and is annoying to everyone who has to deal with her. I’m surprised Kelly hasn’t bitch slapped her into yesterday yet. Then we discussed the actual construction of the scenery. Seems the tech director decided that he didn’t need to be at our first dress rehearsal so he went home. So he wasn’t at the theatre to see all the problems that we were having. Then he got defensive in the meeting. I wanted to bitch slap HIM into yesterday. Then we discussed sound. Which lasted about two minutes because Kelly said she’d just deal with it and we could talk about it tomorrow. Then there were ladders and panels. This is a bit of a chore because by this time “The Director” is getting tired and is on his second glass of wine so we are having a hard time getting him to focus. It’s takes a while, but we walk through the show and do the same things Kelly and I did. We GUESS! Let’s hope these guesses work better than our first guesses. Then we discussed lighting which took about 15 seconds because “The Director” knows that he can trust me to make it look good.
And then we got to costumes. He wanted us to assure him that they were going to be okay. And this time I couldn’t do it. I went straight for the obvious choices. The cape HAS to be red. The slippers HAVE to be gold. The hair HAS to be yellow as corn. And why is one character dressed as a punk and another character dressed as Donna Reed? I went down my list and he tried to explain it to me. But the answer we kept coming back to is that Ashley had provided him with ideas and renderings, but nothing she discussed or showed him originally, was on stage. And then the conversation turned to what could be done. And he didn’t like our answer. You fight the fights that you have to fight. And you accept the rest. And only you can decided what you can live with and what you’re willing to live without. And you move on and strike this one up to experience and NEVER, EVER hire this woman again.
And so now it’s time to bed, because we get to do this all over tomorrow.