Thursday, March 5, 2009

Piecing the Puzzle together

written by Mo Brady (Barnaby) Feb 24, 2009

This week, the HELLO, DOLLY! Company has been working together a complete a puzzle. Only thepieces of this puzzle are not cardboard, and they don't fit together to form a photograph of a toy poodle or a New England landscape. Our puzzle pieces are the scenes and songs of our show, which we have been slowly but surely putting together, one day at a time.

For the last week, our rehearsal days have been spilt into one or two hour sections. Each section of time is used to stage a scene or choreograph a specific song. Most of the time, these daily schedule do not follow the order of the script, but how to accomplish as much as possible each day. On top of that, each day may include costume fittings, makeup design appointments, or publicity appearances. Trying to piece this all together creates a puzzle more challenging than the hardest game of Sudoku. It often takes many people, from stage management to the directors and their assistants, to create each days rehearsal schedule.

Add into the mix that you never know exactly how long it will take to block a scene or choreograph a dance. Sometimes a three-page scene will take an hour to block, if you begin to really delve into the subtext. And sometimes a song will seem to choreograph itself, and be completed in half the time you've scheduled. Although the success of finishing a rehearsal early is often short lived, as you inevitably move onto another portion of the play that needs to be completed or refined.

Recently our daily schedules have included sections from both acts of the show. On a typical day, we might begin the morning working on a Waiter's dance in Act II, followed by a full cast production number, and finishing the morning with smaller singing or scenework. Then after lunch, we might try running Act I in order, and end the day by reviewing another dance number. Although we tackle a different set of songs and scenes each day, the general flow seems to stay the same from day to day.

Creating a theatre production feels a little like sculpting a statue. Each rehearsal is an opportunity to chisel away at a song or scene, one piece at a time until the work of art is completed. Somedays you start carving the feet, and move upwards. Other days, you take your chisel to the arms and move around to the back. But eventually, the entire work will be completed in a way that audience won't see which section you worked on first: only the complete piece as a whole.

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