The Purpose of Dress Rehearsals (REDUX)

Yesterday, I wrote this about our final rehearsal BEFORE dress rehearsal for my new show that opens at Penangpac on May13. Here were my last minute thoughts:

You come to the point when constraints within and constraints without shape the product of your show whether or not you are satisfied with it. Am I? Satisfied? I am delighted by my wonderful actors and the myriad of helpers who have done everything from costumes to sets to sound to lighting. I am completely satisfied with that. It’s time that truly tests my patience. It keeps clicking away whether ready or not. And so it’s time that I’m not satisfied with. It’s gotten the better of us. For now. But when dress rehearsal comes, even time can’t stop the exuberance and passion from within us. We shall offer our best to our paying customers and be happy that we left it all on the stage. 6 days until opening. “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.”

So now, as dress rehearsal is here, on May 12, 2016, it made me think back to a post I wrote from two years ago. It still very much applies. My emotional roller coaster as director has finished. I’m going to sit back and enjoy.

 

THE PURPOSE OF DRESS REHEARSALS

I’ve been directing stage plays for seven years now. I’m no professional, and I’ve learned a lot throughout the years. Dress rehearsals are the emotional peak that every director has to scale before a new show. Once it arrives and the actors poke through the clouds and stand on that emotional peak, a director’s job is, in essence, over. Not officially, of course. There will still be production meetings before each subsequent show, but the main work is done. Everything now rests in the laps of the actors.

Dress rehearsals accomplish a few important items. First, there’s the technical aspects of the dress rehearsal that must be perfected. In our productions, oftentimes, dress rehearsal is the first and only time the actors performing at the actual venue. This is, of course, stressful because the stage is different. We are working with lighting we haven’t seen yet and it takes hours for the actors to get familiar and comfortable in their new surroundings. As a director, I have to make this happen, step by step walking through the set, the new blocking, and the lighting scheme with everyone. I’ll be at the venue for many hours with the tech crew prior to the casts arrival.

Once the technical aspects of the performance is clear, I have to encourage the cast that they can, indeed, do this. And this, for me, is the ultimate meaning of dress rehearsal. Its instilling in the cast the idea that the show is now theirs -they are in control – they can be successful – they are prepared for anything to happen. This last point is key. In live theatre, the unexpected can happen at anytime. Dress rehearsal is instilling in the cast that they can overcome any obstacle, be it a missed line, a broken prop, or smudged make-up. No matter what is thrown at them, the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where the electricity went off in the final act. Yes, it was awkward. But the show must go on.

I’ve had shows where actors completely blanked out on stage.

I’ve had shows where actors forgot to bring a crucial prop on to stage.

I’ve had shows where a singer started off-key, or a backdrop started to fall. In this particular case, a quick thinking person backstage stood on a chair and held up the backdrop in excruciating pain until the end of the show.

This is what dress rehearsals teach – no matter what, the actors and crew can handle it.

So I love it when dress rehearsals are finished because my job is done. I can sit in the audience and enjoy the show and the actors can relax and have fun on stage.

Here’s to dress rehearsal day! Our show opens tomorrow.

An Overview of My Dramatic Productions

As I finished my first re-staging of one of my own dramatic works over the weekend, it made me a little nostalgic for all the full-length productions I’ve produced, written, or co-written over the past eight years. I’ll list them in chronological order with the show’s venue as well. Lots of good times here.

2008 “What I Wouldn’t Give for a Monkey Love Potion” (comedy – staged at Dalat Chapel) (unpublished)

2009 “A Tad of Trouble” (comedy-drama-musical – staged at Wawasan Open University) (unpublished)

2010 “Take Two” (comedy-musical – staged at Wawasan Open University) (available in paperback)

2011 “Spy Blue” (thriller – staged at Wawasan Open University) (available in paperback)

2011 “Romans on the Couch” (comedy – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre) (available in paperback)

2011 “The Road Less Traveled by the RLT PLayers” – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2012 “Life with Stewart” (drama – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre”

2012 “The RLT Players Present: Drive All Night (Back into Your Arms)” (variety – staged at Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 “Grandparents’ War” (comedy – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2013 “The RLT Players’ Present: Captured in Time & Space” (variety – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 “Boardwalk Melody: A Musical” (Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2014 “RLT Players Present: For All Generations” (variety – Penang Performing Arts Centre)

2015 “A Tad of Trouble: A Musical” Penang Performing Arts Centre

Future Works

December 2015  RLT Players Christmas

May 2016 “The Magic Pool”

 

Wow! That’s a lot. I absolutely love writing and producing my own work. What a privilege. There’s nothing like doing original drama for the first time ever. Lots more to come. Stay tuned.

Readers Theater – Here we come!

My “Intro to Theater Arts” class is conducting our first ever Readers Theater at the end of March.  It’s a term many people seem not to be familiar with, so I wanted to highlight some of its features and how we are planning to produce our show.

Generally speaking, a Readers Theater is a dramatic performance where the actors do not memorize their lines; rather they use vocal interpretation to bring the script alive. Usually this is done without costumes, sets, or props.

I wanted my class to have experience producing a show, but with limited time I knew that a full-fledged production would not be viable.  I heard of Readers Theater through a friend’s friend who actually used one of my scripts for a Readers Theater performance (“Spy Blue”).   So I chose “Pillow Talk” (because we already had the script) as our work. (Remember the Doris Day-Rock Hudson film of the same name?)

I assigned a director and co-producers from my classroom, chose parts, and are now head-long into the production.

But the class wanted to go all out. They will be using limited sets, props, and costumes to bring the performance alive. We’ll be setting up four portable stages around our all-purpose room and use the par-can lighting to give it that theater flare.

Yesterday, we shot a trailer for the show. I’ll try to post when I can.

It’s going to be a ton of fun. March 28 in Penang. If you are around, I hope you can make it to our first Readers Theater ever!