We are closing in on the opening of You Have the Right to Remain Dead with only two rehearsals left.
Wednesday night was our open dress rehearsal. For this rehearsal we will open select friends, community groups, and board members to come in and see the show. This is helpful in giving the cast a feel for how the show will go with a live audience, especially to see where laugh lines are. This is doubly helpful due to the nature of the show. The script is written to have audience involvement in solving the murder and the cast must think on their feet. We had somewhere between fifteen to twenty people in the audience Wednesday night, so I was pleased with the turn out. The audience had a good time and several stopped me on their way out to let me know how much they enjoyed themselves and things were in good shape with this being a dress rehearsal. (Well, okay, I wanted the show to be ready at this point but we weren’t quite there yet). We had several parts where our cast hit mental walls and stalled in the lines, jumbled a few sections, or even cut material entirely. After giving notes at the end of the night I changed Thursday night’s closed dress rehearsal to a line rehearsal. More on that in a moment.
Before rehearsal started on Wednesday, one of our cast members asked to speak to me privately. He told me that his mother had just returned from a doctor’s visit to treat flu-like symptoms, and was diagnosed with “innumerable nodes in her liver and lungs”. The test came back that these nodes were malignant and inoperable. He and his family had just found out the news (he’s in his early 20’s having just graduated from high school not too long ago). The doctors hadn’t given her any kind of time frame yet on how aggressive her cancer is, or what they were looking at as far as treatment, but she had her next appointment on Monday. He told me that he and his mother wanted him to finish his commitment to the show, but he wanted me to know in case he had to leave for something. We agreed to tell the cast so they could be aware of what was going on with him and we brought everyone up to speed at our pre-show meeting.
Okay, Thursday. Not too long after work I got word that our programs were finished and could be picked up. I swung by the printer’s and got two boxes full of programs and headed down to the theatre. Thursday’s rehearsal was going to be a line through. The idea here is, the cast goes through the show essentially on fast-forward. Each line can be said quickly and they can go quickly through their blocking (their stage directions) but each line has to be said. This will helps with pacing and line pick ups (the space between one line of dialogue to the next) but it also forces you to go more on autopilot and move through a scene rather than “thinking about” what you have to say. Lines has been our consistent issue though rehearsals and this was a good way to really attack them head-on. Guess what? This cast knows their lines! We ended up being able to go through the show twice and everyone said they felt much better about where they were. So was I!
We were short one cast member though. The guy who told me about his mom the night before messaged me and said that his mother was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot in her lung. She was on medicine to treat it and was feeling much better than she was the day before, but was staying overnight in the hospital for observation. Obviously, he was there with her and I told him not to worry and we would see him for opening the next night.
So, here we are. The show opens tonight. Through our entire run we have had only two rehearsals with the entire cast present. I have one cast member who is replacing someone who dropped out two weeks ago and still has a book in her hand; I will let the audience know before the show starts. We have had to do things like this before with sick cast members and our audiences are incredibly understanding. (I’ve both stood in for an actor in a show to allow him to attend a funeral, and been so sick I wasn’t physically able to make a noise where the director filled in for me on most of the run). I have another cast member dealing with horrible family news who may need to leave at any time, but is sticking with us as much as he can.
That’s one of the cool things about theatre; there’s no other medium like it. For my guy who is dealing with rough news on his mom, I’m glad he is doing the show for several reasons. Selfishly, I’m happy he’s here because I can’t afford to replace another actor. If he isn’t able to do it, it would be me up there with a script in my hand. The other side of it though, is when we do a show, we take the audience out of their own lives for about two hours and give them something fun and brings humor and joy to their lives. The thing is, that feeling also comes to the ones on stage. This is a release for us almost as good as therapy (some would argue it’s better.) In doing the show, this guy can set aside the feelings he has for most of his day, and lighten his burden by brining laughter to a warm audience. He’s good at it too. He’s a natural talent (this is his first show ever) and his character is written to steal the show. Laughter truly is the best medicine.
By the time this post goes up, the cast will be about six hours or so from taking the stage. I’ll be by to do a special post to recap the evening’s events with pictures and all (look at me go!) Wish us luck and break a leg to the cast and crew!