Last night the rehearsal process took me somewhere new. I am still contemplating if it was “fun” or not. I do think that it will add a lot of interest and fun to the show, and that is what counts.
In between many of the scenes in this play are answering machine messages. It is a great vehicle to set up scenes and ideas, move the story along and bring in extra characters. In looking at the notes in the script for the original New York presentation of Isn’t It Romantic in 1983, some of these messages were recorded by Kevin Kline, Swoosie Kurtz, Patti Lupone and Meryl Streep.
My son works in the radio industry and records podcasts for several people in his home studio/office. I was fortunate to be able to get his expertise in on this production. One of his friends, who is the assistant news director at one of our local stations, graciously lent his exceptional voice to the show. My son’s new wife also worked in radio for several years, has a podcast and writes and directs short films, so she was a great fit for one of the roles as well.
With the main cast of the show, the producer of the show and his wife (who also has a pleasing voice) and even a line thrown in by yours truly, we had all of the people we needed to have a recording session.
As the recording area was set up, the cast and I welcomed a high school senior that I have taught in several workshops and directed in a couple of youth productions. She presented her scholarship audition pieces to us and we “workshopped” them with her, giving her praise and constructive suggestions. I was so proud afterwards to be able to tell her and her mom that the people who had just critiqued her were some of the best actors in the area. That we had people in this show with performance degrees, advanced directing degrees and decades of theatre experience.
I always love giving young people concrete things they can do to bolster their confidence, which is usually the main stumbling block to pursuing their dreams. Most of the work I have done with solo competitors and group workshops is helping with stage presence and self esteem, two things that help not only on stage but in every moment of life.
After the student and her mom left, we began the recording session. Most of the cast had their character down pat and after a couple of takes we could move to the next sound bite. The new people that came in to record took only minimal direction to achieve the sound I wanted. We even had a friendly competition for the role of Schlomo, a small child, between a couple of the cast members. I don’t even know the results of that!! I will listen to them both and decide which one to use at a later date. Who knows? Maybe we will use them both!
Now my son Jon has less than two weeks to not only break the bites down and then group them according to the script, but add sound effects- beeps between messages, operator comments and music.
Theatre takes a village and I am so fortunate to have such a talented and willing village to make my ideas come to life. Although there were a couple of moments when not everyone adhered to my rule that ultimately the final decision is mine, this new experience of recording so much dialogue for the show went pretty smoothly and quickly.
As a side note I will say that I had a director once who told us that theatre was not a democracy, that he was the dictator, but a very benevolent one. I liked his style and have always thought of my role in that way. I will kindly listen, work and explore with you during the rehearsal process, but bottom line, the buck stops with me and I have to take that responsibility seriously.
After the microphones and computers were put away, we ran through the one scene that seemed to be confusing us and hopefully fixed most of the problems while running the scene three times in a row. After putting away the set pieces, we all headed out into the frigid night, knowing we are one step closer to the goal.
For the next week and a half we have book signings and even a magician infiltrating our space, actors with real life responsibilities taking them away from the theatre, and a hodge-podge of rehearsals scheduled in alternative spaces to work on specific scenes with the actors who are available on any given night. I hope that after next week, most of the bugs will be worked out, lines will be learned, everyone will be available and we will spend the last two and a half weeks of the process refining and polishing this work we have been doing.
Someone asked me yesterday how the process was going and I honestly stopped, thought for a minute and said that I hoped we didn’t peak too soon. I can see so much love, emotion and joy between these actors, who are real life couples, friends and coworkers away from the theatre, being brought on to the stage. It is a joy for me to watch.
For the record, I feel I am merely an observer of the show as it grows, forms and molds into a story that will hopefully make people laugh, remember and think. For the record, I have kept them on task and on schedule, but they have done the work. For the record, the buck may stop with me as the benevolent dictator, but the people you see on the stage, the faces you see and the voices you hear, are the ones who actually put their hearts and souls on the line to tell this story. For the record, they have my undying admiration and love.