Last night was the first read through of the play I am directing. It was a great night to get together and see all of these wonderful actors, some of whom I have not seen in ages, others I’ve worked with fairly recently and a couple I am working with for the first time.
We gathered around a very long table since this part of the process included the 8 actors in the show itself, 4 voice over artists, a producer, a choreographer, a tech guru and me! We discussed, or rather I talked, about the schedule for the rest of the process. I tried to warn them of my bad traits- talking too much, reminding them of things incessantly and forgetting to take breaks. I told them how I stage my shows and how I run rehearsals. I shared with them my expectations and how I saw their job as opposed to my job. I tried to be kind, yet firm.
When we got home, I asked my husband Tim (the aforementioned tech guru) if I was too wimpy or too tough. He said I was just myself. I immediately said, “OH! Well, that can’t be good!”
I have a clearer vision of this show than anything I have ever done before. I have to be sure that the vision is realized without stifling this amazing group of creative artists who are developing their own vision for their individual characters.
I told them that it is their job to feel their characters, to know what the character is thinking and how they would react. It is my job to help them look the way they want, to portray their role in a way that conveys their hard work and tells the story coherently as they each do their own thing. I can not feel for them, but they can not see themselves! We have to respect and trust each other to do our individual jobs to create a beautiful story together.
This show is a bit different in that it has several voice over sequences between scenes. The messages on the main character’s answering machine fill in the gaps not only of the time between scenes, but also in the story. Because of that, I brought in a radio guy to record and mix those scenes, another radio guy who studied theatre in college to play an announcer and another part, a screen writer/movie director to read another part and some Homewood Theatre alums to fill in other places. One of our rehearsals will be recording all of these “messages”- this is a part of the play I really like, but it adds another element to the production of this particular show.
The play is set in 1983 so as we read through, I felt older and older, being one of the few who understood several references. There are also many Yiddish words and expressions in the show and although I have researched and written down what it all means, last night we just kind of plowed through it all. There are also accents to be dealt with, something I am not fond of, so it will be a challenge to make those real and consistent.
Overall, I laughed during the read through, got angry at a couple of the characters and cheered for other characters. It does what a show should do- entertain you, make you feel something and leave the theatre thinking and/or discussing what you just saw. It is funny, sweet and thought provoking- what more do you want?
I was happy with how the first time reading it aloud together sounded and I am so excited to get back together Thursday for some fun and deep discussions of who these characters are, how they feel about each other and how the actors feel about the story we are telling. Discussions like these are what I live for and I hope that we can be open and honest with each other as we explore this play.
First read throughs are fun, full of hugs, laughs, and snacks. Thursday begins the real work, the foundation that we will build this show upon.