Rumors Control, Week 2: Off Book, On Track

The student in me is enjoying working on Rumors as an incredible learning experience.  The ex-teacher and still-blogger in me is enjoying them as an incredible teaching experience, an opportunity to offer readers a glimpse behind the curtain and introduce them to some of the basic terms and concepts of acting.

One of those terms, “off book”, is a trade term for actors who’ve memorized their dialogue and therefore don’t have to go back to the script when they’re rehearsing or performing.  Of course, it should go without saying that the ability to memorize lines is one of the most basic and most important skills an actor must possess.  And that was one of the goals of this first week of rehearsals, to help the actors get off book as they continued to refine their performances.

Rumors is a play of fast pace and fast dialogue, and much of that dialogue is exposition of events that happen offstage.  So the challenge for the cast performing it, and the crew producing it, is to find the right mix of chaos, comprehension, and comedy.  I can’t think of a better example than a monologue by the character of Ernie late in Act I, wherein he describes a series of offstage events that would leave Rube Goldberg green with envy, at a speed that leaves other characters nearly speechless with awe (I wish I could explain further, but trust me, it’s best seen live – HINT HINT) .  It’s a funny scene as written, but what works on paper doesn’t always work on stage.  This time, though, I’m confident it will.

It all started on Tuesday, as we worked with Dru and Nikki on the first scene of the play.  It went well, as by the end of the night the actors were mostly off-book on those early pages.  The rest of the week saw us joined by Danielle and Charles, Barry and Denise, and understudies Steve and Alex.  Steve is understudying all the male roles, while Alex is now understudying both Cassie – or Casey, as it were – and Chris.  Given that 1. Alex is male, and 2. Chris is Nikki’s role, this led to the kind of statement that can only make sense when you work in theatre: “Dru, you might be gay on August 1.”

But for all the good humor between us, we’re all serious about the work.  And that commitment has paid off with some very strong rehearsals.  The actors are finding their way to the characters, they’re finding the comedy in the material, they’re moving at a good pace, and of course, they’re getting off book.  I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop as rehearsals continue, as we all continue to grow more comfortable with the script, and especially as the set comes together and we start rehearsing the play in its natural environment.

There’s still work to do, and we’ll keep at it until the play closes and it’s time to strike the set.  But I like where we are now, and I’m excited about where we’re headed.  And I think that enthusiasm we all share for what we’re doing will definitely carry over when you see the play.  So once again, here’s my plug for you to see it when it opens on July 16.

Thanks as always for reading, thanks as always for your support, and (yes, as always), “be seeing you…”

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