Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunny and cold
I have some catching up to do with you, don’t I? The decorating is getting started, but there’s still more apartment sorting to be done before I can really commit to it. But at least the front door’s done. Ran around to places like Michael’s and the garden center on Saturday, and spent the rest of the day sorting out the apartment. I have a couple of carloads of stuff stacked in the hallway to go to storage — and then I’ll bring in the rest of the decorations.
Yesterday, I was too damn tired to do any work on the apartment. “St. Nicholas” made a delightful visit and filled the shoes with candy and cute things. So that was fun. I went out early to get the newspaper, but most of the day was spent resting up, working on Confidential Job #1 (which is due on Wednesday), and writing. I had some really good writing days Saturday, yesterday, and today.
In late afternoon, my friend picked me up and we drove to Long Island to see my play. It went pretty well. For the most part, I was pleased with it. No matter how far removed a story or characters is from my actual life and experience, I always feel slightly naked when I see my work performed, even when it’s done well. Par for the course. I’ve learned to deal and smile through it and be gracious. And, of course, I sit there mentally cutting material, because once you put in an actor, a three-dimensional human being, you can cut out unnecessary words. And, since I’m not a part of the rehearsal process with this company (their contract is very specific about that), I don’t get to cut in the rehearsal room. This cast hadn’t had the series of crises that befell the last production, so the energy was much more upbeat, and there was much less tension. It showed in the performance. You could tell that the cast really enjoyed working on the piece, which is always a relief to the playwright — because, after all, if you hate the piece, don’t do it. No performance job is worth that. There are some timing issues, especially with entrances and exits leaving holes big enough to drive through convoys of trucks, and one actor went up on his lines and had trouble digging himself out of it, but that happens. It wouldn’t even be worth mentioning, except that he tried to say later that it was “intentional” — which is, of course, a slap in the face to a playwright who didn’t write those lines. Plus, I’ve spent my entire life in the theatre, a lot of it on Broadway, with the best of the best — I know when an actor deliberately adds his own material, and I know when an actor goes up on his lines and is trying to find his way back. There was one script change they hadn’t cleared with me which I wouldn’t have agreed to, and I will discuss that with the producer. One actor was particularly weak, in my opinion. The role was written so the guy is gregarious, happy-go-lucky, charming and a little snarky, but then falls head over heels in love, and, while he doesn’t reform, he softens a bit. Unfortunately, he was played at a single, frantic, one- note screech with no shading. I have no way of knowing if that was the actor’s choice or the director’s, since I wasn’t in rehearsal. I’d like to give the actor the benefit of the doubt. However, the woman playing the villain was perfect. She got every nuance, every subtext, all of it. I was delighted with her work. She actually had to improv at one point to fix something that went wrong (the joy of live theatre) and her improv was fantastic, just spot on. She had the training and the in-depth knowledge of the character to pull it off. One of the actresses in my last play done by this company was in this show, too, and she was very good. In fact, she played SIX roles in my last play, so it must have been a relief to only have a single role here! We pretended not to recognize each other until the end (the cast isn’t told when I’m coming, but since they interact with the audience, she spotted me) — it was pretty funny. She gets a lot of the timing down well.
In both of my shows for this company, the strongest actors in each piece have told me that they find my dialogue easy to memorize because it flows so well and has such rhythm. That’s my goal — to have the words flow naturally from both character and story –which is why when the less experienced/ less trained actors think they can “improve” the piece with their ad libs, it falls flat, doesn’t get a laugh, and all the air goes out. The rhythm is disrupted, and the piece goes off the rails a bit. If I was an inexperienced playwright without a world-produced pedigree, I’d have no right to say any of this, but I have the credentials and the experience so to do.
It’s always interesting to see how someone else interprets one’s script, especially when one is not included in the rehearsal process, and I’ve learned to pick my battles. There’s plenty I’m willing to let go (more than many playwrights, actually); there are some things I am not.
The producer and I discussed the next three plays I’m writing for the company, and we discussed the play that’s going to open in April, so that’s all sorted.
When I got home, I saw the first part of the ALICE mini-series on Sci-Fi (I will NOT use their silly new logo). I thought the piece was quite clever, although it looks like they used some of the same locations they used in TIN MAN. And some of the other shows on the channel. However, I think both Caterina Scorsone and Andrew Lee Potts are excellent. I wonder if they cut some of the early Hatter scenes or just didn’t develop the tea shop much due to time constraints. Anyway, I enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing the conclusion tonight.
Good morning’s writing session. I have some paperwork to gather for a meeting tomorrow, and then it’s back to Confidential Job #1, and trying to get the apartment organized so I can put up the decorations.