Dislocate a Metatarsal

"Overture, curtain, lights, this is it, the night of nights..."

"Overture, curtain, lights, this is it, the night of nights..."

Tonight is our preview for The Real Thing.

“Our.” Isn’t that sweetly presumptuous. Like I’ll be out there trying to remember lines, blocking, emotions while facing a live audience – with critics – for the first time. Not that I think the company will have any problems. They’ve seemed confident in rehearsals and been deepening their portrayals with each passing day. It has been a joy to watch, and as I rap on wood, I predict the opening on Friday will be perfect.

Tonight, though…well, there could still be a few kinks. But that’s ok. That’s what previews are for, and any good critic will take technical miscues or sluggish set changes (our only bugbear, really) into account.

John the director seems pretty satisfied, even as he has juggled two dozens things at once, and some of them way beyond what the typical director must endure (an oft-flooded basement theatre just one of the problems). Last night’s dilemma: a missing hand-written list of costume changes. Entire cast and crew went over every inch of the theatre at least three times on the hunt, to no avail. The doggedness of it seemed heartfelt and absurd at the same time and brought to mind Slings and Arrows, the absolutely best show ever made about theatre (of course, it might be the only one, I don’t know). Everyone involved at any level of theatre, in any capacity, should go to Netflix now and order it (good luck finding it at Blockbuster; if the ones in a city like Chicago don’t carry out, I can’t imagine too many others do). After about 20 minutes, the list was still MIA, the actor drew up another from memory, and we trouped on. Ah, theatre.

Our opening night should look just like this. Still working on getting a tux...

Our opening night should look just like this. Still working on getting a tux...

John asked me if I have any sense of the cast’s nerves or level of preparedness going into tonight. I wish I could have helped, but it’s not as if the actors have brought me into their confidence. Maybe it’s just a case of, “What happens in the green room stays in the green room.” Or that I  don’t interact well with people. Or casts and crew just don’t mingle. Or I’m not really part of the crew, not like Al the stage manager and Sue the costumer. I am, as in many aspects of life, on the fringe. In some ways I rue it, but at times it just feels right. Or else I have no choice.

This is the first time I have been so enmeshed with the rehearsal process of any play. I have read and heard the TRT script so many times that I replay large parts of it in my head as I fall to sleep (usually about 2 am these first few nights of tech week, after the late rehearsals and post-midnight beer-to-unwind and a last check of emails). Snatches of conversation replicate a word or phrase of the play (like a spiral of self-replicating DNA, eh Henry?) and I go off on a line that springs to mind.

"...pineapple, pineapple, come on, darling!"

"...pineapple, pineapple, come on, darling!"

I’m sure actors do this all the time with each play they do, then they push all those words out of their brain to make room for the next play. For me, it’s new and fascinating, and as I’ve said before, I welcome the diversion from the solitude stage of the Crisis.

I know tonight I can’t wish the actors good luck; that taboo is part of the rituals and superstitions of this sub-culture. It’s “break a leg,” of course (which this website helps explain the roots of, kinda). But for a preview, “break a leg” seems too powerful a talisman to ward off theatrical evil. I’ll save that for the opening.  Tonight, then, guys, it’s dislocate a metatarsal. I can’t wait.


~ by mburgan on April 21, 2009.

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