Jim's Richard III Blog

What had started as a blog of Richard III rehearsal process at Cal Shakes has now evolved or devolved into a small novella. The author is petrified to change the name for fear it'll disappear, and wouldn't know what to call it anyway. Many stories are included and questions are even answered sometimes!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Zombie Voodoo first week

So here I am in Monterey, in my tiny motel room 4 days in to Zombie Voodoo Scream Party, and getting acquainted with a loaned computer. I have a Mac. The loaner is a Compac Presario. It hates me. The feeling is mutual. We are both out of date, crusty and quirky, and apt to shut down on each other when the wrong buttons are pushed.

It's been an unusual experience thus far; last Monday the cast met at the Golden State Theater in downtown Monterey, where we will be rehearsing and will ultimately perform ZVSP. For this first week only the 3 leads are called; I'll be playing Cosgrove--former Archaeologist turned hideous yet suave, David Niven-ish ghoul; Keta Bill a talented chanteuse from San Francisco will play my beautiful, brilliant assistant Dr. Dierdre, the unrequited love of my ghoulish self--Keta is also our Musical Director and arranger. Rounding out our trio is Sam Meisner, a lovely talented guy who was the Schoolteacher Medvedenko in The Seagull I did at Cal Shakes, and now playing my other less attractive but far more idiotic assistant, Neetroy. We are the Hired Guns. The pro's from Dover. The Magnificent Three.

The theatre is beautiful. Built in 1926, it had fallen into disrepair and was boarded up until about 4 years ago when it was bought up by a man who does sound in LA and who has had it lovingly restored. And it's huge--1,000 seats, a lofty ceiling, a full sized stage with a mighty Wurlitzer organ (we're not going to use it live for the show, but may record it) and a lobby that looks like the inside of......oh, how would you describe it? A Traditional Colonial Rococo Spanish Castle, Las Vegas style? The Devil's Moorish Whorehouse with American Southwest Greek revival Art Deco elements? The Alamo gone to Italy? It's got a little of everything going on for it; the stuccoed walls inside theatre support another wall, a facade of an ornate Mission style edifice with windows out of which light shines, and which rises to near ceiling height, its fancy crenelated top sweeping forward on both walls to join over the proscenium in a veritable orgy of little windows and crenelations. It's like sitting inside your room looking at the outside of a building that's inside your room. Check out the history of the place on the website www.goldenstatetheatre.com--it's both beautiful and wonderfully hideous, and has the best acoustics I've heard in ages. I'll post pics soon.

Our rehearsals have been on the 3rd floor of this building in a room restored, but populated mostly by lighting instruments, scenic flats, and the occasional amputated limb, Graveyard Devil and gorilla costumes. We've a very competent stage manager who is about 8 1/2 weeks pregnant and who appears preceded by the sound of heavy footfalls and puffing as she works her way up the stairs, both hands cupped under her belly. I have the urge to buy her a winch. About 1/4 of the room has been designated our rehearsal space as the set is being constructed in the other 3/4 of the room while we're rehearsing. Thankfully no power tools are involved, but a lot of backdrops get painted our first week. I rapidly get the impression that this room pretty much contains the entire somewhat oddball operation.

And it is strange. At least it's not the way Sam and I are used to working which is not a bad thing, we just have to get accustomed to it, adapt. We are employed under a Tier 3 Guest Artist contract, essentially functioning as our own Equity Deputies and sometimes have to inform them of Union rules they are unaware of (break times, span of day, etc.), but they cheerily call the Union office in SF and get the info if we don't have it. They are adapting as well. Keta is a musician, she works in different venues under different rules and so her security blankets are different than Sam's and mine, but all of us have common issues which we share and we're treating her as an honorary Equity member--we all need to be on the same page I think, Union or not.

Our first day we read the script through, which didn't take much time--we're largely pre-memorized as requested, though there are so many tech elements in the show that we find we need the sound and lighting cues read to us as you would a line cue. "Kabloowie! Thunder!" or "Lightning bolt strikes Cosgrove!" (And yes, this is one of the stage directions....tech week should prove interesting.) After the read thru we break, come back to sing the nine songs and to get the new words; Rider McDowell our director and author has rewritten 2 of them with words to suit. I sing my solo, Sam sings his, and Keta absolutely blows our socks off with hers--she used to sing with Zazu Pitts and has Janis Joplin pipes--a terrific singer. I have to follow her?

The next two days consist of character conferences, getting all the words in the songs divided up between us, roughing them out and then buffing them up. I get a little slicker, find the correct voice to sing in, and manage to sound passable opposite Ms. Bill. Then the choreographer comes in, roughs out our dances and drills us a bit--he's letting me do my own spastic thing to some degree, so I'm not as tense in the dance sessions as I usually am when learning choreography. Thursday and Friday we roughed out the show. This Tuesday we start plugging the others in.

Coming Up: The Others.


Blogger Ron said...

We walked by the good ol' Golden State this a.m. and saw the marquee. Looking forward to the show!!

Sorry 'bout you suffering with a p.c.

March 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw the play last night. Brought both children with us.
What can I say? I was everything we love all rolled up into one package.
I must say though - the theater itself was certainly part of the performance.
Thank you for the words here and a most memorable evening - one that my children will have a lifetime.

April 13, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

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