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Louis Butelli: Mary Stuart Tech

Louis Butelli as Sir Amias Paulet

Greetings from your friend Louis Butelli. Here at Folger Theatre, Schiller’s Mary Stuart opened last night! Peter Oswald’s electric new translation is directed by Richard Clifford, and stars Kate Eastwood Norris as Mary, Queen of Scots and Holly Twyford as Queen Elizabeth I.

As I mentioned in my last post, we spent three weeks in the Folger’s rehearsal studio before moving over to the theater where we begun the process of technical rehearsals, or “tech.”

Traditionally, tech consists of very long days. We work what is referred to as a “10 out of 12,” which means that actors are called for 12 hours and work for 10 of those hours.

We’re dressed in full costume, though sometimes designer Mariah Hale and her team will pull a piece to make adjustments or an actor into her workshop to keep tinkering. In conjunction with the director, she’ll add something new or take something away. For instance, at the beginning of tech, I entered into Act III with a cape and a hat. The cape and hat have since been cut. “Too much,” was the thinking when everyone saw the whole picture.

Mariah Hale's rendering for Louis Buteli's costume as Paulet.
Mariah Hale’s rendering for Louis Buteli’s costume as Paulet.

For the actors, a fair amount of tech consists of down time while stage manager Brian Sekinger works with the director, lighting designer and sound designer to build “cues,” such as a light shift or a sound effect, while communicating with his assistants backstage who are responsible for moving set pieces and giving actors cues to enter.

Not surprisingly, it often takes several attempts to get the cues just right. The actors involved with the cue will repeat their lines or actions while Brian and his team iron out all the kinks.

This process, in particular, has been very efficient and smooth. Brian is quick, the designers did their homework and had prepared sound and lighting states in advance, and the actors were all cheerful. There was quite a lot of laughter as we built the show.

Elizabeth (Holly Twyford)  hold court with Leicester (Cody Nickell, left), Burleigh (Rajesh Bose), and Talbot (Craig Wallace).
Elizabeth (Holly Twyford) hold court with Leicester (Cody Nickell, left), Burleigh (Rajesh Bose), and Talbot (Craig Wallace).

Having been through the process of tech on other shows, the actors are familiar with the conventions: the one that amuses the most is the standard etiquette of “hold, please.” When something hasn’t gone 100% correctly, the stage manager, over the theater PA or “god mic,” will signal the actors to stop by saying “hold, please.” Sometimes the actors will have a little laugh about that and say “hold, please” to each other for the smallest infraction. If we were teching Hamlet, for instance, the joke would be:

“To be, or…”

"You have to deal with this stuff?"
“You have to deal with this stuff?”

“Hold, please.”

Meanwhile, we concluded tech with a final full dress rehearsal wherein we perform the play under the same conditions as we would for a paying audience. I am happy to report that it went very smoothly.

I was able to sneak out into the front of the house to watch a few scenes and I can tell you that the show looks absolutely stunning, and there is some truly fine acting going on.

So come on down and see Mary Stuart. Click here for your tickets or give the box office a call at 202.544.7077. We’d love to see you at the theater.

Until next time!

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