Bottompost 3: tech

Hermia's bags. Formerly Katerina's bags. I recently wrote about  the mysterious journeys of props. At the Lantern, I stumble across remnants of my own past performances. The luggage above was used in the first show I did at the Lantern, and my most recent Shakespeare. I played Katerina in The Taming of The Shrew. I carried some of these bags onstage with me when Petruchio led me back to . . . Verona? And this is the see-through hoop skirt I wore, which I saw recently hanging from a closet door as I was being fitted for my ass’s head. And the brochure which advertises the Lantern’s educational programs has a big picture of me playing Scapin there last year.

I wore biker shorts underneath it, okay?

There’s something curious and meaningful to me that luggage has appeared in both of my last two shows, this one and Around the World in 80 Days at Delaware Theater Company. I feel like I am being led to focus on the way I am traveling through my life, as an actor, and as man growing older. It also makes me think of the phrases about “emotional baggage” – baggage I have struggled to understand in my own life. Seeing this evidence of my past performances, I am simultaneously reminded that happiness is in taking the long view, and, at the same time, I am put squarely in the now. What’s passed is past and all that matters is what’s in front of me. “Which is your favorite play, that you’ve been in?” we actors are often asked. More and more I believe the only right answer to that question is, “This one.”

Main dressing room with Dave Johnson, our Puck.

Our tech has taken on a strangely dream-like quality. Some tech weekends are marked by a regimented precision. Some are full of drama and diva fits. Others, like ours, proceed in a kind of creative haze. You know something is being created, and decisions are being made, you just can’t quite figure out what or how. We are fortunate to have a cast of able and motivated actors, many of whom are steeped in the collaborative process of ensembles. These actors – for directors who can tolerate them – will leap in to help fix scenes they aren’t even in, offer options and solutions, share points of view. This is what happened yesterday around Bottom’s transformation in the woods, and thank God. Our creative process is in some strange way imitating the themes of the play: comic confusion suddenly transformed into a dramatic order, but a weird order, not entirely conventional.

The under-audience cross-over.

I have been working hard to tell the story of Bottom and Peter Quince. It’s a story David (the actor playing Quince) and I have been digging into with the help of Charles the director and Josh the A.D. The idea is that Bottom and Quince are opposites but friends and perhaps partners at the outset. Because of both of their liabilities (mostly Bottom’s grandiosity), the partnership is damaged as the right order of the rehearsal process is upended. Then Bottom discovers something in the woods that transforms him, and when he returns, there is a rapprochement and a restoration of order. Bottom learns how much he needs Quince and his friends, and Quince learns how much he needs Bottom’s energy and optimism.

From proscenium left, David Blatt, our Quince, on stage.

But there is precious little stage time to tell the story of the mending of their friendship, so David and I pulling at threads in a very short scene when Bottom re-appears. It reminds me of the “sun/moon” scene in Shrew, act 4 scene 5, in which we had to make it make sense that Kate falls in love with Petruchio. Oy. This is when I wish had another week before previews.

But perhaps we will make glorious discoveries in front of our first audiences. The challenge of course, is that some of those discoveries will land with a thud. We will find out as much about what doesn’t work as about what does. This is the crazy courage of the comic actor, to go out on a limb not knowing if her choice is going to get a laugh, and then being able to shrug it off, to smile about it even, when it doesn’t.

We add costumes today. Onwards.

My dressing room - loft.