Closing Time: Part 1/3

Posted by A Quiet Man with a Loud Voice | Labels: , | Posted On Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:17 PM

“Closing time – time for you to go back to the places you will be from.
Closing time – this room won’t be open ‘til your brothers or your sisters come.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits – I hope that you have found a friend.
Closing time – every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

-Closing Time by Semisonic


I’d like to start off with an apology to any readers who were hoping for regular updates. I apologize for letting you down. It was fully my intention to continue to blog about the experience of performing in For Every Man, Woman, and Child. But a point was reached where the actions of one person overshadowed the actions of the rest of the cast and crew. For the sake of confidentiality, I am going to refer to this person as “A”.

There was a moment in the process when the ego of “A” took over so wholly, that the process became less about the show and more about what “A” was going to do next and how we were going to overcome it. I’d like to end all suspense right now and praise my fellow cast members and all the members of the crew – they took all the drama “A” caused in stride and with the utmost professionalism.

Blogs, by nature, are intended to be a chronicle of your thoughts on an experience. When my thoughts began to shift away from the process of the show and towards the cloud of negativity that “A” was producing; I realized that I could not, in good conscience, post anything on the blog about it. It would be unprofessional and immature. No matter how much I may be upset with “A” – I would have to wait until the show was over to discuss the effect that person had on the show.

This is not to say I didn’t complain. I did. Everyone needs to vent about things. Especially when it is as important as this show was to me (and I’m sure, to the other cast members). But I kept my complaints to a minimum – and I only spoke to two or three people about it; people I have known for a long while and trusted. Because when something you perceive as bad happens to something you care about – you do need to get things off your chest rather than just let them stagnate inside you.
So that, in a ways, is my long-winded apology.

But the show is now over – and I am free to go into as much detail about the bad things and the negativity that sprung up as a direct result of “A”’s actions. But I would like to stress, once again, that there were lots of good things to come about as a result of this show in spite of the drama caused by “A”.

With the said – I’d like to pick up at the moment when the show came dangerously close to being cancelled.

Let me preface with this – I have known the director, Dan, for almost twenty years now. I have always found him to be the calmest, collected, and even keeled individuals that I have ever met. I have worked for him as a stage manager, master carpenter, and assistant director. I have acted in a show with him before. And I have never once seen him lose his temper. Usually when he is disappointed, he lets us know – with an upset (almost dejected) tone to his voice. But in twenty years – I have never seen him yell.

Ever.

The night the shit hit the fan, I was sitting in the audience away from the rest of the cast. People forgot their lines, people forgot their blocking, and people simply weren’t taking it seriously. There was a lot of joking onstage, screwing around, and just a general sense of: “oh, it’s just a show – let’s have fun!” I noticed it, some of the other veteran actors had noticed it, and Dan noticed it.

Up in the audience, I was growing increasingly (and visibly) frustrated with the group to the point where I seriously began to wonder if it was worth it. I had come all the way to Ohio from Chicago – and all I saw before me were people who were not taking it as seriously as I was.

Then an entrance was missed again and Dan lost his cool.

The next day he apologized for it, because he is a lot better of a person than I am. If it was me, I wouldn’t have apologized at all. I probably would have left the rehearsal that very night and cancelled the show. But Dan is the kind of guy that continues to believe in people, even when they don’t deserve it. And none of us deserved it that day.

The day after, we came, and the mood had changed.

He’s right, we seemed to be thinking. We have been screwing around. We need to do better. For me, it was more of the need to prove to Dan that I could overcome whatever resentment I had been feeling towards the process and move in a positive direction. He deserved as much for putting up with our nonsense.

From then on we seemed to attack the script and the process with a renewed energy and a desire to get things right. It is a credit to every single actor onstage that they rose to the challenge. They listened to what Dan said, and they each seemed to realize that he believed in them and that they were capable of putting on a fantastic show.

And from that moment, even though it was a bad moment that I hope I’ll never have to experience again, I felt like everyone truly became a member of a cast dedicated to bringing the script to life.

Excuse me.

Everyone except for one.

“A” never quite seemed to get it. As one of the lead roles “A” seemed to think the show was all about her. While the rest of the cast was helping each other learn lines, “A” was out smoking and talking. While the cast was working together onstage to create an ensemble, “A” would cut off people in the middle of their lines and even take lines from other cast members for herself.

The worst part is that “A” refused to acknowledge her faults and improve upon them. When something went wrong “A” was never at fault, no. Instead it was always the other person’s. For example:

At one point I was onstage between two actors, including “A”. Let’s call the other actor, “B”. “B” said his line, so I turned to him to see what he was saying. “B” finished his line.

Silence. I waited for “A” to say her line to give me a reason to turn.

The stage manager pointed at “A” to indicate it was her line. “A” immediately goes, “It’s not my fault! Cleric wasn’t looking at me; I didn’t know it was my line!”
Really?

Fine. I apologized just because the rest of the rehearsal was going pretty well and I didn’t want to do anything to sink back into that negativity that we had finally managed to claw ourselves out of.

There were more incidents during the course of the rehearsal process. At one point the five “lead” actors decided to get together before rehearsal to work together. (I put “lead” in quotes, because I feel by the end of the show there weren’t any lead actors – but a true ensemble of actors.) We were all there on time, except for, you guessed it: “A”.

When “A” arrived, she went outside to smoke while the rest of us waited inside. Ten minutes later I went out to tell her to hurry up and went back in. Ten minutes later, I went back out and told her to get into the theatre now. What we had hoped was going to be an hour of extra work had now shrunk to a half hour.

When “A” finally decided to come in, we started work. Only to find that “A” had not memorized the lines she was supposed to. “A” and “B” had to work very closely together during this show – and because “A” hadn’t done the work properly, “B” was thrown off. I felt nothing but sympathy for “B” because I had witnessed him working hard before rehearsals. I know he worked outside of rehearsals. But when he got into rehearsal – there was nothing he could do to help things along if “A” hadn’t done her work.

During this pre-rehearsal, “A” suddenly stopped, and began to complain and shift the blame onto other people. While Carol and Dan tried to talk with her – the rest of us went outside of the theatre – disappointed. We had come in with the intention of helping both “A” and “B” fix a lot of the things that were going wrong. We had tried to get her to join us as a group and work together. But at every turn – we were rebuffed…

But it is to “B”’s credit that he persevered – and one of the great privileges I’ve had was watching him grow as an actor. This was his first show (as far as I know) and he managed to do something special in spite of “A”s continued attempts (subconsciously or not) to derail the process. “B” and the other two leads never took on the diva attitude that “A” did, and for that I’m grateful.

Because there’s only room for one diva in any given show. And that’s me.

Coming Next: Tech Week to Opening Night!

ADDENDUM: I could go on for quite a while on more of the dramatics caused by "A" but I don't want to. I'm ready to move on.

SECOND ADDENDUM: For a while I considered changing "A"'s pseudonym to "Lamesauce". But I suppose I should attempt to be mature for once.

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