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!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pegging the Oddometer

Wow. Another peculiar week--this project just seems to draw oddities to it like little fluttering moths of strangeiosity -- a Weird Magnet, if you will. And understand, it's nothing massive all at once but every day there's something--some small but strange occurrence that is out of the realm of the ordinary rehearsal day you'd have at say, Cal Shakes, ACT or Berkeley Rep and it adds up to a big ol' pile of weird.

The week started off sluggishly--we'd had a 3 day break and what we'd done the previous week felt very distant and unconnected--they gave us new scripts on Tues. and we didn't have time to transfer all the blocking and notes we'd written down, so it was a clunky, stumbling rehearsal all around.

Sam Meisner has been struggling to give Rider (our Director) what he wanted and Rider has been unable to define what it was he was looking for well enough for Sam to give it to him, which is a hellish place for any actor to be; the poor sods that this happens to often turn out to be the directors whipping boy, eternally unable to please and forever getting notes, line readings and forever insecure in their performance. Wednesday was a dance session, then a work-through with a "character conference" for Sam at the end. Rider had a blowup at me--not abusive, but angry which of course pissed me off too--there was a brief glaring session, the rehearsal went on and apologies were exchanged on both sides at days end.

After that rather brutal day we all met up at our hotel, and vented; Me about the blow up, Keta about a musical issue and Sam about his character conference with Rider--I'd tried to coach him a bit as to what to say --"I need more specific notes or I can't give you what you want" kind of thing, but it hadn't helped and Sam came back more disheartened than before, still not knowing what Rider wanted. We talked awhile, commiserated, drank root beer, laughed a bit and went to bed.

We came in the next day and really attacked it, really tried to see just where it wasn't working and why--Sam came in with a lateral lisp for his character and the occasional sound blurted out in a Daffy-Duckish,Tourette's like fashion, which he was throwing out in sheer desperation and which was actually quite hysterical, though we did get sprayed a few times before he'd gotten it under control--Keta finding a little glasses wiping shtick. We had quite a good days work, Rider seeming very pleased with the progress and with Sam's new found character. Ahh, the lateral lisp--a lifesaver! The only minor odd notes sounded were the costumer coming in and running the sewing machine during the rehearsal--I finally asked if another place to run power tools could be found..........

The next day we were on the Stage! Very early in the process to be doing this, but we were grateful to get to know the theatre well in advance, and ran the show repositioning and adjusting the blocking we'd set to the new space, and seeing the set units in place for the first time--very tight backstage it will be indeed.

We'd just run the seance sequence and were on a short break, sitting onstage in our chairs and chatting when I noticed a young man wander onto the stage--we sometimes have problems with outsiders just wandering in and gawking, so I cocked an eye questioningly at the Stage Manager and back to the young man and she said "Oh! Let me introduce you to Michael--he's part of our running crew for the show--Michael these are our lead actors." Since I was facing Michael I introduced myself first, and the following dialogue ensued:

Me: "Hi, Michael, I'm Jim"
Michael: "Nice to meet you Jim."
Keta: "And I'm Keta."
Michael: "Hi, Keta."
Sam: "Hi, my names Sam."
Michael: "Hi Chssam, I'm Michael." ...................

Chssam.........? Our Sam, dear sweet Sam, the Sam that Michael had just greeted, had frozen in his chair, and looking back on that glacial moment I find it impossible to describe the look on his face. Rapid startled glances were exchanged amongst us --- had we heard correctly? "Soooo---Michael, are you from the area?" I ask struggling to maintain my composure and trying to ascertain if my hearing was going or just my mind. "Oh yeshhh!" he replied brightly, "But I work all over the plache--Shanta Crooch, Shan Franchiscko, Shan Joschay, you name it!"

Oh Dear God Please No.

The term Irony doesn't begin to cover this moment. By the time I'd finished talking with Michael, Sam was slumped over and staring dully into his open palms, a stricken look on his face, I felt mildly hysterical-- as if I might break into wild, mad laughter at any moment, while Keta chewed on her lower lip, wearing an undefinable expression as we watched the young man stroll up the theatre aisles and out the lobby doors.

What are the odds on that one? What are the odds of getting probably the only stagehand within at least a 1,000 mile radius who had a lateral lisp to be in the show you're in, playing a character who has a lateral lisp--a lateral lisp I might add, that has just rescued your character and redeemed you, a lisp which was the veritable floating piece of timber onto which you'd scrambled in your attempt to find something character specific and comedic in a sea of acting choices?

Truly Phenomenal. And hysterical. And deeply weird--you just couldn't make this stuff up.