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In this edition of Tales from the Set, we’ve brought in Writer/Director/Producer and Santa Cruz Raconteur Robert Kirkendall to share rehearsal techniques and “The Method”. Enjoy!
Welcome to the premier post of Tales From The Studio, a guest blog post about my adventures in writing, producing, and directing Pacific Television Theater, a live broadcast televised drama anthology for Community TV of Santa Cruz. The first adventure I’ll be writing about is finding a rehearsal space. Rehearsal space can be hard to find, so sometimes you have to get creative. If I was rehearsing a scene with just two actors, I’d use the back area of a local coffee place so instead of spending $10 or $20 an hour I only have to pay for the price of a coffee. And for another rehearsal for a short play that took place on a park bench, we used a real park bench over at Derby Park, a pleasant neighborhood open space with no transient weirdos.
The first episode of my show, Last Call, was a one act play that took place in a neighborhood pub. I felt that two of my actors were still trying to find their characters and really needed to get the feel of a pub so as to inform their performances. I normally don’t mix alcohol and work, especially when I used to operate a forklift, but I was trying to get my two actors, one woman and one man, to go method. I decided that a more accurate setting for our next rehearsal would be good idea. I did modify the following story a bit to make it less tedious and more accessible.
The place I chose for our get together was The Poet & The Patriot Irish pub. We met just before happy hour, and the dart room was empty. We got our pints and began. The surrounding environs seemed to help. The actors were getting into their characters during the first read through as they settled into the pub atmosphere. And then…
(BEGIN WRITER’S EMBELLISHMENT)
… the shots arrived. As I cautiously raised my shot glass and only took a sip so as to not dull my thinking, my two actors downed their shots and asked for more. After a couple more rounds they were loose and rowdy.
“All right! Let’s rehearse!” the newly drunk actress ordered. They attempted to recite their lines but kept slurring and forgetting them. “These lines are too hard! Who wrote this shit?”
“Well I gotta better idea for my character. What if she likes to dance the Can Can?!” She clumsily climbed on top of the table and danced the Can Can while sputtering out, “Da da dadada da da dadada da da!” then she stumbled off the table as I and the drunk actor caught her. “Hey! Watch your hands, pervert!”
“Wait! I gotta better idea!” the drunk actor interjected. “Can my character be a transvestite?”
“Uh, not what I had in mind.”
“Aw, c’mon! You’re no fun! I have a platinum wig, a red dress, and matching pumps that I’ve been saving for a role like this! Lots a bartenders dress that way!”
“I was not aware of that.”
“Hey! I got an idea!” the actress began. “How ‘bout if my character is the spy for the government? That’d be cool!”
“I think we’re veering off course a bit,” I cautioned.
“Well if she’s going to be a spy I wanna be one too!” the actor butted in.
“Nobody is going to be a spy,” I insisted. “Now let’s go over the lines.”
They both slumped in their chairs.
“Only two weeks until show time, guys.”
“We thought you were going to be cool,” the actress said pityingly.
“Yeah, not some dictator,” the actor agreed.
I took a deep breath. “I’m not trying to be a dictator. What I have is a vision of what this script is supposed to be. Now I am open to new ideas, but they must fit within the confines of the story.”
They stared at me guardedly. “So you don’t think my character would dance the Can Can?” the actress asked.
“Well, it needs to move the plot forward. Otherwise it’s just a distraction.”
“Oh, I see,” the actress moped. “I’m just a distraction.”
“You are not a distraction,” I assured. “The both of you add a lot to the play just by being yourselves. I feel the characters are already within you, and don’t need any kind of ornamentation.”
“You know, I also have a light blue summer dress,” the actor said hopefully.
“I appreciate your creativity, but this is not La Cage Aux Folles. If the viewers see you cross dressing they’ll get a different idea of what this play is all about. I don’t want to create any false expectations.”
“But what about our ideas?” the actress prodded. “Don’t you like any of them? Or are they all just bad ideas?”
“They’re not bad ideas,” I said as nice as I could. “They just don’t fit into this particular project.”
“But could they work for another project?” the actress queried hopefully.
“Hey, how about a cross dressing bartender and her dancing customer who are actually spies?!” the actor proclaimed.
“Yeah!” the actress joined in. “And how about if they’re spies for two different governments that are at war with each other!”
“Yes, but they don’t know it!” the actor added excitedly.
“And it’ll take place in the future!” the actress chimed in louder.
“That...has promise,” I said uncommittedly.
“All right!” they both said happily.
“Hey, can you help us write it?” the actor asked hopefully.
“Uh, I’ll see if I can work it into my schedule.”
“Hooray!” they shouted in unison. “More shots!”
“Let’s go over these lines first.”
(END OF WRITER’S EMBELLISHMENT)
We went through the script a couple more times. The actors got a better grasp of the dialogue and pacing. We finished as people came in to use the dart board. We scheduled our next rehearsal then said our goodbyes and left. In the end I believe the rehearsal in an actual pub helped the actors achieve a better understanding of their characters.
Rising Tide, episode 3 of Pacific Television Theater, will live broadcast on Saturday October 8 at 7:30PM on Community TV of Santa Cruz; Comcast 27, Charter 73, and online at http://www.communitytv.org/watch/ctv-public-access-2773/