Mega Season is Upon Us

Each year for my drama group the RLT Players (Road Less Traveled Players), I institute mega-practices. A mega-practice is simply an extra-long, nitty-gritty practice focused on one particular short sketch for a show. Our new show coming up in December has 10 original sketches we are working on. Therefore, we will have 10 different mega practices to focus particularly on one of those. As I was organizing my binders, getting ready for our newest mega practice, I came across my mega practice notes from last year. Here’s what they looked like.

2015-09-18 11.32.27

What’s all included in those notes?

Title of Sketch (this photo was for “A Pinch of Fate” and “More Heart, Less Attack.”

Stage layout – you’ll see the triangular stage that we employ with RLT.

Running Time – I keep a list of running times, so we see if we are improving with firming up the sketch. Nothing is worse than a 6 minute piece which takes 8 minutes.

Performance notes – words like “enunciate,” “slow-down,” etc… – where the blocking went wrong.

We’ll work each piece for about 2 hours, and if we have done well, by the end of that time we will have succeeded in solidifying the piece and we will at that point be ready to perform it.

As you can imagine, 10 mega practices take a lot of time. That’s why we start them in September for a December show. The actors are required to walk into a mega-practice with their lines for that sketch completely memorized.

This same procedure could be done with a full-length play as well – having a mega practice per scene, if you will.

This is a procedure I have found to work very well. Chunk the pieces, get one done, maintain it overtime, and by show date, you’ll be ready to role.

2:08 – A record (plus lyrics for a new song)

We had our first of three all day Saturday rehearsals before the big show. It also signified the first time we did a complete run-through, which is always a big deal, and I’m happy to report that the show will go on!

Actually, for a first run-through, it was quite superb – not for how clean it was because it was not remotely clean – a lot of dropped lines, missed lines, mangled lines, missed cues, missing props and nearly everything else that can go wrong did go wrong.

But for a first run-through, we clocked in at 2 hours and 8 minutes. Excellent!

I’ve had comparable run-throughs in the past which lasted an excruciating 3-4 hours. I really wanted it to flow and see what we could do, and I was happy with where we are at with still 16 days before dress-rehearsal.

It was also the first time we added our “Irish Saloon Song” called “I got me a girl” and it was an immediate hit. Here are the lyrics written by yours truly:

Oh, I got me a wish that this day would end,

with a large battered fish and a pint with a friend

It’s a fine, fine world to forget all your cares,

in a battered saloon where nobody stares

Oh, I got me a girl, who is pretty and smart,

but her brains aren’t important if she has a heart,

and her heart’s not important if she knows how to cook

and if her food is that good I don’t care how she looks

I got me a cart that I push all the day

I look for said fools who can spare me some change

and I pinch the wallets from all the fine folks

so I have me some money for drinks with me blokes

Oh, I got me a wish that this day would end,

with a large battered fish and a pint with a friend

It’s a fine, fine world to forget all your cares,

in a battered saloon where nobody stares

I got me a boy who doesn’t say much

and wife who worries about such and such

so I escape with me wallet and small spending change

to my kin at the bar where I’m never to blame

Oh, I got me a girl, who is pretty and smart,

but the brains aren’t important if she has a heart,

and her heart’s not important if she knows how to cook

and if her food is that good I don’t care how she looks

We’ll do a double run-through next Saturday and at that point we should be ready to soar. I can’t wait. “A Tad of Trouble: A Musical”.

a tad of trouble flyer 2a

The Necessity of Bad Rehearsals

There is no such thing as a bad rehearsal if progress was made.

My drama group had a three hour practice this morning, gearing up for our show less than three weeks away. Unfortunately, due to a variety of circumstances, we worked on our last two pieces for the FIRST time today. Not ideal at all!

For the first two hours we sloshed through my musical “A Woman at War”, first working on the singing (yes, some people didn’t know the lines or melodies yet), and choreography. (Yes,it was extremely sloppy.) But at the end of the second hour, we actually made it through the entire 10 minute musical without stopping. It was pretty much a disaster.

Hour three was spent on a little piece called “What was it like?” that keeps asking questions about the past. Here’s an excerpt:

What was it like to be asked to go to the back of the bus because of the color of your skin? 

What was it like to have the Star of David embroidered on your sleeve? 

What was it like to see the paratroopers come – to watch them drift from the sky just so a girl who was different could go to school? 

What was it like? I wasn’t there. I didn’t experience it. But it was real. And it shaped our world.

A different person is speaking each of the lines while someone else is acting it out. Over top of it is a beautiful original piece of music written by Hui Min Tang which is wonderfully evocative, and really brings out meaning in the words and actions. While all of this is going on, two dancers will be doing an interpretive dance as well. It’s our final piece and should be quite meaningful if we can put it together.

Today it was horrible.

But by the end of the second hour, we made it through the three and a half minute piece, and while it was still cringe-worthy, we made it through the three and a half minute piece.

So the bottom line is this:

  • You have to start somewhere.
  • Messy comes before perfection.
  • Keep your eyes on the goal, not on the failure in front of you.
  • Learn and move forward.

Bad rehearsal always lead somewhere. And that place is a great performance.