Note: This blog post by Brian Dykstra was written during tech rehearsals in early October. Romeo and Juliet began performances on October 15 and is now running through December 1.
“Ladies and Gentlemen: It is now one o’clock. We would like you all in costume and we would like to start ‘soon’ with scene 32. Thank you.” –Stage Manager at 1pm.
Actors start of rehearsal.
See, we’re in Tech.
Technical Rehearsals are where all the design elements get added. We’ve been in a rehearsal hall or onstage in our own clothes with general lighting and if there’s any sound, it’s run through someone’s laptop through desk speakers.
This is different.
It all gets knitted together, here.
So here’s some of the things I overheard because I have a blog and I sat in the audience among the Creative Team rather than (as is normal) in my dressing room doing crossword puzzles and catching up on whatever magazines I’ve ignored because I’ve been in rehearsal for four weeks.
Oh, did I mention that tech rehearsals are 12 hour days with a two hour dinner break. We call them 10 out of 12’s, and they’re loooooooooooooooong.
They are allowed two per production. Although, there’s nothing keeping us from extending tech into our normal 9.5 hour days.
Which, of course always happens.
Oh, did I mention that Tech can really drag for the actors as things keep getting said, like:
“I love the overlap – that’s not what I mean – I love it. I still want to see him, he’s just going to be there in a different context. Does that make sense?”
Now, to me, that makes perfect sense.
It means I got about 15 minutes while the lighting designer not only lights it, but lights it in a way whereby the “he” in the above sentence is lit so that he’s in a different reality than are the other characters onstage.
Of course, no one really expects the audience to understand it, logically. It’s really more of an emotional experience that you either track (consciously, or un-consciously) or you don’t.
Make sense? Great.
Sometimes it’s as simple as changing where an actor enters.
“Let’s bring Romeo from up center.”
“Okay, great. ROMEO!”
That last bit shouted so the actor playing Romeo, standing backstage ready to enter the scene, can be told about the new entrance.
“So, enter on; ‘Above the ground.’”
“Romeo needs to be much cheerier. Not you. The lights.”
Here, the actor overheard a lighting note. There was a slight look of confusion that the director read correctly and made sure the actor knew to keep doing what he was doing, while the lighting in the scene brightened considerably.
Remembering my first blog post – yeah, like you even read it – Everything is a Thing? This technical rehearsal (just one of many…they go on for about a week) is where everything totally becomes a thing. And I mean everything. From the color of Mercutio’s shirt, to the fact that Lady Montague’s costume needs to be re-imagined, to one of the fights having to be completely re-staged, to a scramble for rosary beads (a prop) as discoveries in tech inform everything that came before.
So, the following is a kind of found poem of phrases and exchanges overheard at technical rehearsal.
Please accept that these phrases and discussions are as accurate as I could scribble them as they happened.
“We had a bad tech with the milk backstage, and it got really soggy.”
“That wasn’t so much a question as an excellent solution.”
“Can I ask another question?”
“Do you HAVE to?”
“With Romeo downstairs, what world are we in upstairs? And what are we doing with the universes? This should go straight into the dead universes.”
Director: “You want a schmatta?”
Actor #1: “I don’t know what that is. Is it a shawl?
Director: “Well, a shitty shawl.”
Actor #2: It’s a fakakta shawl.
Director: “That’s right.”
Actor #1: “Okay. Whatever you want.”
“No, jacket open.”
“As Erin leaves, take the music with her.”
“Can we get anything that jangles against the music?”
“Mercutio, when this happens for real, you can’t do anything like scratch your nose.”
“It’s not replicating. The music is emotional but it’s not THE emotion. It’s not doing this, going the same place emotionally as the actor, THAT’S when it tells us what to feel. This is different. …This just tells us there’s a lot of shit going on.”
“Because he travels to the Apothecary, I was thinking something more extreme. Leave the dead people up there and pull in tight on just him. For all intents and purposes.”
“That’s it. Right there. Eric? ‘To the monument alone,’ hit that. And don’t be moving. Jen, that’s when we’ll start the pre-build into the monument and to Paris. We’re re-thinking the whole fight.”
“Okay, but do you think he’s still falling there?”
“No, further upstage.”
“Oh, I love that. Selfishly, that’s great for me.”
“Oh, wait. These people can’t see him.”
“How many chairs are blocked?”
“Oh well, too bad. There’s other dead people. Including some of the audience.”
(Note: Paris no longer dies in the tomb, this was all changed.)
“Yeah, rather than the lilies, how about a wonderful, beautiful, small bouquet of white flowers? Or, okay, how about red? Roses. Or black. Some black flowers.”
(Note: the flowers were soon cut after:)
“What about a shroud? Black. Wait. White. Or, you know nothing that pops too much, like off white. Or eggshell.”
“No, not fawn. I was thinking more oatmeal.”
“What color is ‘sailcloth?’”
“You know, like…cream…?”
“…Get me a shroud in cream.”
“What if not the–…? Can you take out–…? I love the offstage–… Wait. Can you take out the apothecary cabinet and the two lowest downstage ones? I love the orange-ish. Let me see them all at full. All the ones that were lit. Take out both Veronas. Oh, I like that. Great. Let’s try this for now.”
“Do we think this happens when Romeo walks to Juliet?”
“No, I think it’s when Paris walks in the tomb.”
“Oh, do you want me to add a doublewide, so when he dies, he’s already in Juliet’s light?”
“Wait. A ‘doublewide’?”
“What is this, Romeo & Trash-ulet?”