Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #14: Who am I?

Again, I missed a couple rehearsals. One was mandatory, but I was out of town. The other was optional, but I was previously engaged. As a result, I didn't play preview weekend, but I did take notes on Friday night.

Monday's rehearsal we focused on singing and some of the different types of songs we might need to sing during the show. We also wanted to make sure, while practicing, that we were hitting the genre. During the shows last weekend we tended to get a little side-tracked by Dickens and the genre didn't creep in until a few scenes into the show. Even though Dickens' pace is very slow, we need to hit the genre running because we don't have 1000 pages to play around in.

We started with environment songs. We've worked on these a lot because we're starting the show with an environment song. We generally find it handy to pick a type of song for the opening number just to get the show moving.

What we've discovered is that environment songs are really the opposite of the narration. The Narrator starts with broad platitudes about the world and focuses in to the scene. People in the environment songs need to start with something specific ("beer for sale") and then generally broaden to a platitude ("drink cures all ills"). Our environment songs have had trouble when we get stuck in the specific and just sing "Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub. Pub." over and over again.

Then we attempted to move on to "the way the world works" songs. I say "attempted" because we had trouble nailing them. Not because we were getting the song wrong, but because we were attempting to do scenes into songs and the scenes we were doing weren't naturally lending themselves to that type of song. Merrill, for instance, sang a lovely "who am I?" song because that's what the scene called for.

We did discover, as a result, that you can pretty much pull out a "who am I?" song at any point and they're fairly easy to sing. You don't need to come up with any new information, you just articulate who you are, doubt whether you want to be that, and then conclude one way or another.

As a side-note, Les Miz has come up a lot during this rehearsal process. Partially because it takes place in a similar era, but also because you can find an example of just about every type of song in Les Miz. For instance, a "who am I?" song is like "Who am I (24601)?" Just about every character has a "need" song, even ones that die a few scenes later. It's just full of examples.

In fact, here's the 2nd Encore from the 10th Anniversary Concert special featuring 17 Jean Valjeans from around the world. See if you recognize the Japanese Valjean:

ToTG Week #1 Show Summaries

Jasper's Lot - Thursday, November 18
Suggestion: Stephen King

Trouble is brewing. Young Cecilia Holmes (Joy) has reached marrying age and her father, James (Michael), has not yet chosen a suitable husband for her. So, in an act of rebellion, she has set her sights on the opium-smoking, servant-killing, secretly vampiric tanner, Jasper Diehl (Gregg). What she doesn't know is that her father and his friends Muriel, Dudley, and Pamela (Mandy, Paul and Merrill) are members of the Mystical Order of Immortals. As the waring sides battle, James is turned into a vampire. Cecilia must find her own inner strength in order to stand up to Jasper and defeat him once and for all.

A New Dawn - Friday, November 19
Suggestion: Stephenie Meyer (Twilight)

Young Jason Watson (Michael) hopes to start his life afresh at the Twitchwit Boarding School, but soon finds he is tormented by the closed minded students and people of the town who do not accept him because he is a poor orphan. Still, the haughty Dardanella Pickwick (Melissa) finds something about him irresistible and takes him under her wing, but Jason is more than just an orphan: he is a vampire. Can their budding romance survive his true self or the werewolves that hunt him? With a little help from Miss Modesty (Joy) and the visions that she needlepoints, anything is possible.

Friday, November 19, 2010

ToTG Stephen King & When I'm Playing

The first performance of A Tale of Two Genres was last night! I did not see it, but I hear tell the genre gotten was Stephen King. (Last night's backstage white-board pictured above.) This resulted in: "Edwin Drood if Jasper was a vampire and Rosa's dad was the Highlander." Sounds pretty awesome to me. I will be at the show tonight, but as I was unable to attend any of this week's rehearsals, I am not performing.

If you want to know when I'm performing, without having to slog through the entire play schedule, here you go:

November 26, Friday
November 27, Saturday 3pm
December 2, Thursday
December 3, Friday
December 4, Saturday 8pm
December 9, Thursday
December 10, Friday
December 11, Saturday 3pm
December 16, Thursday
December 18, Saturday 3pm
December 20, Monday

Thursday, November 11, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #11: Going Long

No, you didn't miss anything, or rather I did. There were no posts on rehearsals 9 and 10 because I did not attend them. Rehearsal #9 was an optional rehearsal and I had a prior commitment that night. I stayed home from rehearsal #10 to try and nip "malingering low-grade cold" in the bud, which I did to questionable success.

So, rehearsal #11. This was also an optional rehearsal, but all but 2 people were present. After warming up we dove into doing the first half hour of a show, without music.

Frequently, in shows past, when getting a genre from the audience, we ask the audience to think of a story they like, but then rather than shout out the story, we have them say what type of story it is. For this show, we're experimenting with actually having them say the story they're thinking about. Last night we got "Big". Then we discuss with the audience what type of story that is. What about that story do they want to see? What other stories are similar? We got "Freaky Friday", "13 going on 30", but we also got "My Fair Lady". The crux of the genre was someone being transformed and forced to be something they're not. The "magical" element was not the most important part.

I'm really excited about this path to a suggestion. I think it will give us a better idea what the audience really wants to see, while giving us concrete examples to build on or incorporate (without having to recreate "Big" specifically in Victorian England).

We told a very fun story of an inventor who's daughter's brain gets swapped with an orphan's in an accident in his lab. Along the way, we discovered a few things about narration and tag-team narration. I also did not play a single character in any scene, but because I spent various chunks of time as the narrator, I did not feel I had been "shut-out of the story".

Then we did another one. This time we got "Much Ado About Nothing", but the important aspect was not Shakespeare, but the love/hate romantic comedy of Beatrice and Benedict. Other examples were "Taming of the Shrew", "10 Things I Hate About You", "Moonlighting".

Then we tried it. Somehow, perhaps because of the original Shakespearean suggestion, we ended up with a main character who was a woman pretending to be a boy at an all-male boarding school. This did not leave much opportunity for a Love/Hate RomCom. I tried, highly unsuccessfully, to shoe-horn a love interest into the story (a man pretending to be a woman teacher). While, the whole thing was very messed up, we laughed a lot at our mistakes and the giant holes we kept digging for ourselves.

We also learned, from both runs, that we can name people ridiculous things, and while everyone off-stage and in the house is dying from laughter, the cast and narrator can play it straight and hold it together. (We accidentally named characters "Thurston Howell" and "Hamburglar" last night.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ToTG Play Schedule

Here's the current play schedule for A Tale of Two Genres:

November 18, Thursday – Greg, Joy, Mandy, Merrill, Michael, Paul
November 19, Friday – Christian, Greg, Joy, Melissa, Michael, Scott

November 26, Friday – Alan, Greg, Joy, Melissa, Merrill, Scott
November 27, Saturday 3pm – Alan, Joy, Melissa, Merrill, Michael, Paul
November 27, Saturday 8pm – Christian, Joy, Mandy, Michael, Paul, Scott

December 2, Thursday – Alan, Greg, Joy, Merrill, Michael, Scott
December 3, Friday – Alan, Christian, Mandy, Melissa, Michael, Paul
December 4, Saturday 3pm – Christian, Greg, Joy, Mandy, Merrill, Scott
December 4, Saturday 8pm – Alan, Christian, Greg, Merrill, Michael, Scott

December 9, Thursday – Alan, Christian, Greg, Joy, Merrill, Michael
December 10, Friday – Alan, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill, Paul, Scott
December 11, Saturday 3pm – Alan, Christian, Greg, Michael, Paul, Scott
December 11, Saturday 8pm –Joy, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill, Michael, Paul

December 16, Thursday – Alan, Christian, Mandy, Merrill, Michael, Paul Scott
December 17, Friday – Christian, Greg, Joy, Melissa, Michael, Paul
December 18, Saturday 3pm – Alan, Christian, Greg, Joy, Mandy, Melissa
December 18, Saturday 8pm – Greg, Joy, Mandy, Melissa, Paul, Scott

December 20, Monday – Alan, Christian, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill, Scott
December 21, Tuesday – Greg, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill, Michael, Paul
December 22, Wednesday – Christian, Mandy, Melissa, Merrill, Paul, Scott

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #8: Focusing on Dickens

Monday night we started a little late as a few of us huddled in the lobby of Off-Market listening to the Giants win the World Series on the radio.

In rehearsal, we revisited some of the narrator exercises we did last Wednesday as a warm-up and then moved into doing straight Dickens scenes. We didn't worry about another genre. We just tried to get the Dickens right.

This allowed us to not only improve our Dickens chops, but really fine tune some of the narration technique. Mandy keeps saying the narrator in Dickens is there to heckle. They point out the absurdities and the amusing bits. They give us backstory. They tell us how the actions of the characters make them feel but only to a degree. This was one of the subtle points we got into last night. The Dickensian Narrator doesn't give us piercingly deep insights into the character's inner psyche. Remember, this was the world before Freud. A world where it's hard for us to imagine the Victorian sense of the mind. The feelings the Narrator relates are largely observable (but are perhaps missed by the other characters).

The Narrator also doesn't relate actions, unless adding context to them. It's not just "he walked up the stairs." It's "he walked up the stairs, barely able to keep his feet after such a fright."

I also had opportunity to play a 4 year-old boy in one scene. Dickensian children are generally just little adults, because Victorians treated children like little adults. They worked as servants or in factories after all. It was good to practice that.

We ended by practicing scenes from different places in a longer story. A first scene, a scene from the end of the half, and a scene from the end of the show. In between we talked through the rest of the show by having the actors stand in a line and step forward to relate a short sentence describing what happened next. This worked quite well. While we didn't choose a genre, we let it naturally become a supernatural story that became something like a Dickensian version of the Little Mermaid with demons.