So, all that studying of lines and mental review of songs and dances actually came to something. In our intense 80-minute performance, we also conclusively proved that more rehearsal makes for a better show. The three hours we spent before the show working through and fixing stuff was probably the most useful rehearsal of the last month.
Best Beware My Sting went off without a— Well, I can’t say “without a hitch” because there were hitches, of two types (mistakes and marriages). Actually, three couples got hitched, and uncountable tiny errors crept into, well, everything. We had some bigger problems, too, and I had to cover the biggest one. (Don’t worry about it, Nathan. It was fun. :))
There were some people who had all their lines down pat—the ones who always do, the ones whose names I expect to see in lights someday—and the rest of us, well, didn’t. But we covered each other and made the best of it.
I stick by the “learning lab” description of this particular production. We learned a lot of lessons, most importantly that it’s very, very hard to pull off a very polished show with as little rehearsal time as we had. Best Beware My Sting was a longer script than usual, and it definitely showed in the frayed edges between scenes where the stitching couldn’t be finished in time. But according to informal audience polling (a statistically insignificant sample, considering that it was only two people) it went all right.1
My major blunder was skipping about half a dozen lines, most of which outlined a major part of the plot. Really, though, in every show I’ve done in my 11 years with the program, there’s always one person who does it. I was long overdue for my turn. It’d been years since I last made a big mistake, and it had to happen again sometime.
Line-skipping is nothing, of course, compared to dropping a musical number, which is what almost happened. The focal character of that number, Baptista, left the stage just before the music was supposed to start, which left me (Hortensio), Lucentio, and our two servants struggling to cover. Oh, and the four backup dancers came in and huddled up stage right. Awkward… But I just started the next scene, and Lucentio followed. When Baptista came back, I tried to play it as if he was supposed to wander across the stage. Finally the music started and we got back on track. Whew!
“Live theatre is special and exciting. […] Even I don’t know what’s going to happen!”
— Minrod Mier, director of the Morris Park Players’ 2010 Cinderella production
Minrod, I’ve got a case illustration for you right here…
Anyway, once those two epic flubs were out of the way, the rest of the show progressed pretty well. Call it a rough start, I guess.
The show did have some short pauses—it wasn’t quite tight yet—but that can be traced right back to a lack of rehearsal. With no time to really do a whole lot of work on just running the show and getting the transitions down, it was bound to be really loose. The only way to really tighten up a show is to do it over and over, to figure out how the timing, the beats, and all the other million-and-one details can be tailored to fit together perfectly.
So I’m not unhappy with the show. The show would have been ten times better if we’d had rehearsal time for more than three run-throughs over the last four months (that number includes the performance, sadly) and/or more time to do the sort of polishing we did at the eleventh hour over the whole process instead of just at the end. As far as I’m concerned, though, that doesn’t matter. We pulled it off.
My feet have mostly recovered from spending seven hours in jazz shoes (no support, at all), and I can now spend the next month with lines and songs from Best Beware My Sting going through my head. That’ll be fun while I’m trying to learn the music for Bye Bye Birdie this week. (If I can’t play Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I’ll play a different show, thank you. Too bad if I missed the pre–tech week rehearsals; nobody got me involved in time.)
As long as these words are going through my head anyway, maybe I can write some (bad) paraphrases. Keep an eye out. 😉
“Well, it’s one part of a happy day: You have tamed a 404 error.”
— Best Beware My WordPress by Voyagerfan5761
As I’ve described, much about this show was no different from any other I’ve done: songs, dances, scenes, all performed with varying degrees of polish. I’ll not spend any more time describing all that, but there was one very special piece that deserves to have its own section.
One of our cast had to miss last week’s rehearsal because of a serious illness that landed her in the hospital. We kept her in our thoughts during rehearsal and through the weekend, and received news that she’d recovered on day. This past weekend she expected to come and perform, but her illness reasserted itself and brought her back to the hospital. While we rehearsed, she was waiting for tests and hoping that the doctors would allow her to come and perform.
We made adjustments to the show in case she couldn’t get out in time, and prepared to have her on stage in a wheelchair if she did make it. Showtime came and she hadn’t arrived yet, so we put our contingency arrangements into action: three different people (two cast and our director) prepared to stand in for her role in different scenes; dance numbers had already been adjusted to use one less body.
Right as we were all about to go on for the final scene, she made it! Everyone pitched in to clear the way and help get her on stage; I rolled her on just in time to start. That last scene was, in my mind, the best part of the show, because we had our whole cast together again.
In her four years with StageCoach, Breanna never missed a rehearsal. Up until her hospital visit last week, her attendance had been perfect. To hear of her attitude at the hospital reminds me of the Alex Killian story in Colorado Springs last summer. Breanna was chosen as Student of the Year for her hard work and commitment in the past, but I think her commitment to this show made the award twice as appropriate.
Theatre people are tenacious when it comes to making commitments; both Alex and Breanna are terrific examples of just how far we’ll go to stay in a show. I can only hope that, should I ever be in a similar situation, I will demonstrate a force of will even half as strong as they have.
- Perhaps it helped that I panicked as much as possible over the last two weeks, to project the image of a show that quite possibly wouldn’t come together at the last minute, as is the norm. 😛 [↩]