A Post (and a Play) for You

by Will Dennis

When I was asked to write a blog post about Becky Shaw, I had no idea what to write about.  The easiest thing to write about would be the story. 

I don’t want to do that, though.  You are coming to see the story.  A synopsis would do you all and the play no justice.

 

I thought about, maybe, writing about the cast (they are spectacular) but I wouldn’t want an audience coming in with preconceived notions about any of us. Especially because all of us, as people, are so very different from the characters we portray.

 

What is it that readers and audience members really want to hear about before the show?  You all will come to the theater to watch the story, the program will inform you on the history of the play and the author, you can meet the actors after the show… The process.  You won’t get to experience or learn about the process.  Well, let me take some time, then, to welcome you “behind the scenes” of the Becky Shaw rehearsal process.

 

There are a lot of stages in the process, and a good amount of technical terms and theater jargon that may not be interesting to you all.  As such, I’ll just give you a brief outline of the process itself, then we can get into the fun stuff.

 

Process

Read-Thru:  This happens on day one of rehearsal (and often times again on day two).  Just like it sounds- the cast, stage manager, director and staff sit around a table and read through the entire play.

Table Work:  After the read-thru, everyone gathered discusses the play including insights about their characters, the story, etc.  They also discuss the set design (what the set will ultimately look like) and other technical elements of the show.

Blocking:  This refers to the actual staging of the show.  With scripts in hand, the actors and directors work together to figure out where and when their characters will move, what “pictures” the audience will see, and they begin creating the world of the play.

Working/Playing:  After the show has been blocked/staged, time is spent on each scene.  The actors get to play with their characters and with one another, working on relationships, motivations, and moments in the play.

Runs:  After each scene has been worked, we put all of the pieces together by doing runs of the show.  We start at the beginning and run through until the end of the play.

Tech: After a number of runs the show gets “teched.”  The sound designer, lighting designer, costumes designer and director come together to add these different elements into the show.  These are the final pieces before the audiences arrive.

Previews: Before Opening Night, we have a couple of preview performances.  It allows the show to interact with the audience.  During the preview period, changes and tweaks are still being made.

Opening:  The first official performance.  The show, by this time, is locked.  That means the changes and tweaks have been made, and now the show is finalized for audiences to enjoy throughout the entire run.

 

So… those are the terms and stages of the process.  Now, what’s been happening throughout these stages with Becky Shaw?

 

We’ve been laughing… a lot.  Becky Shaw, to be sure, is comedic.  It is genuinely funny, but there is also a deep intensity to it.  When working on something this intense, it is important, or rather essential, to be able to laugh.  It serves as a welcomed burst of oxygen.  One specific anecdote, without giving away any specifics:  There is a line in the play that we have simply not been able to get past without losing ourselves in riotous laughter.  The line itself is not that funny, but something in the moment makes it hilarious to everyone in the rehearsal room.  Rest assured, though, we will have regained our composure by the time the show hits the stage.

 

I think audiences often ask the question, “Do the actors all like each other?”  There is no blanket answer to that question.  Sometimes, yes. 

Sometimes, no.  Gloriously, with Becky Shaw, we all do like each other (at least, I hope they like me).  We get along terrifically well.  I should probably qualify this by pointing out that it is not always necessary for the actors to get along in life.  In Becky Shaw, though, which is a pure ensemble play- it is certainly very helpful.

 

There is a quote, which is anonymously attributed, that sums up this blog post.  “Art that isn’t fun, isn’t art.”  I don’t offer this to be fluffy and pat, as if to say, “Oh, isn’t it great- we’re having so much fun.”  Ultimately, it is not about us.  It is about you, the audience. 

That is why theater exists.  Theater is not for the actors, the directors or the crew.  It is a relationship.  We can only exist, really, in relationship with the audience.  And so, our goal is not merely to have fun with one another in spite of you.  Our goal, as should be the goal of all good theater, is to translate that fun into a performance that welcomes you in, that embraces you, that provokes and challenges you.  A performance that, for you, is fun.

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