So Serse tech was one of the most umm… interesting I have ever been a part of.  Let me just say that I will truly be an audience member when I see the show on Thursday.  I had no opportunity to even watch more than ten minutes of the show last night because of some projection problems.  Things were not communicated between all parties effectively, and as a result, there were some pretty major issues.  Things got moved that shouldn’t have, and choices were made that were pretty impossible to do without some extensive tech and some repainting.  And even if it would work for the other opera, it would still make mine look amateur.  We did finally come to a conclusion that I think was best for everyone.  Now all we have to do is finish all the cuts in the supertitles and we’ll be all set… lets just hope it goes well at the show, as we’ve never done a complete run-thru, or done anything with the supertitles before, and we will never be able to test it before opening.

The maestro said that it went very well however, and the cast seems pleased with the work.  I am a little concerned about the seating, as the orchestra has to be right in front, which means that the audience will only be on the sides, but the singers have seemed to do a very nice job adapting to the three-quarters space, and love the acoustics.  So, somehow, I think we have something of a product.

 
This weekend I was all over the place.  On Saturday I had Wrapped auditions, which went very well, I think we’ll have a cast really soon.  The only problem is I’m having trouble sending the video files.  Suggestions?  I then ran to Serse rehearsal, which also went pretty well.  I am disappointed that I don’t have more time to really work on this, as I think working in this medium is a good experience for me as well as the singers.

On Sunday I completely switched gears and had a rehearsal for The Would-Be Room.  They are going a little slowly in terms of how many pages of blocking we’ve gotten done, but I think that the work that we are doing is pretty fantastic.  Both the playwright and I are a little concerned about the lack of rehearsal time, but I have the utmost faith in this cast and have no doubt that they are going to do a wonderful job, and bring Jenny’s words to life.  She’ll get an A for sure!

Tonight I have tech for Serse.  Admittedly I am more than a little concerned about it.  We just got the slides for the translation without any of the cuts.  There is no way we will be able to do this on the fly, so we may just be doing a run-thru tonight and hope for the best tomorrow.  Luckily that is the only technical element I need to really worry about.  But this is also our first day with the orchestra, we have had no sitzprobe. A lot will be thrown in at once.  I am very happy with the professionalism of the singers, and know that no matter what the state of the tech, they will sing beautifully.
 
Rehearsals for The Would Be Room are going really well.  We didn’t get quite as far as I wanted as far as the blocking is concerned, but what we did get done I think is in really great shape.  As this play is about the afterlife, we are trying to infuse the sense of eternity into the rhythm.  (Though I’m hoping in an artistic and not an infernally dragging way! – no pun intended.)  But the cast is bringing a lot of strong choices to the table.  Its such a strange transition to be working on a “normal” contemporary drama after all this classical work.  Truthfully though, it is a welcome change.  We finally got the chance to peek into the space.  It’s definitely cavernous, and will without question lend itself to the idea that this space is amorphous and empty.

Oh – and the cast!

Claire – Bryn Boice
Jonah – Ari Rafael Rossen (www.arirossen.com)
Processor – Michael Poignand
Woman – Melisa Breiner-Sanders
Man – Alex Krasser (www.alexkrasser.com)

On another note, I saw Zac Kline’s production of I Am Jim Thompson yesterday, with one of my great friends Katie Zaffrann doing a kick-ass job.  It is definitely a work-in-progress, something Zac was absolutely clear about, but nonetheless there were some really wonderful moments (the best actually being Katie’s monologue at the end of Act I.  It was phenomenal!)   There were definitely some more things that from a directorial standpoint could have been done to activate the story more, and I know that a few of the performers felt left out to dry in terms of their process.  But that is the unfortunate truth of theater.  Often performers need to be able to bring their entire process to life on their own.  The director might be busy with thousands of other things and unable to really help you with the actor work.  I would say that I have the opposite problem.  I get so involved with the performance crafting that often some of the design elements suffer.  Note to self: find a better balance!  But as I put in my new list of goals, I would like to take a new musical through development.  Zac seemed excited to work with me, and very receptive to my comments.  I think it would/will be a nice collaboration.  I’m excited that I am able to take the time now to slow down and do some real development work.

It’s funny the yo-yo the human experience is.  I have had some great rehearsals, some great collaborative moments in the past week, and that has left me feeling very positive.  But not to be outdone, my negative feelings have been creeping in.  “I’m not moving fast enough.  Well he has this.  How did they do that, why can’t I do that?  I can’t believe he said that to me.”  I’m having to really work to keep the positivity rolling, because I’m learning that is from that place that true creativity and opportunity happens.
 
Rehearsals have begun for both Serse and The Would Be Room.  I’m pleased with the progress of both.  We have scaled down Serse quite a bit, making it a concert.  Working with opera has been very different.  But the old adage is true, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  When it got down to it, I was doing the job I always do.  There is a lot that we had to teach other.  (FYI - cutting the Da Capos are a bad idea.)  But we are working in a space configuration that they are wholly unfamiliar with, so they are having to learn that down center is NOT the strongest place on a three-quarter stage.  There is also a lot that we had to discuss in terms of physical freedom.  I am doing the concert with stands.  This is for a few reasons.  Though they know their arias, they do not necessarily know the recits that come before them.  There had been some discussion about cutting them.  I didn’t really see the point.  They wanted to add English narration.  My first thought was “well who’s going to write it?”  My second thought was “why?”  Is it a time issue?  In the amount of time you could explain what they would have sang, they could have just sung the darn thing.  And isn’t that the point of opera anyway?  I guess that’s my theater background talking.  Opera people consider the recit the boring part between arias.  I consider that the exciting part, the part where the STORY happens.  It may not be the most beautiful musically, but in my way of thinking it cannot be ignored.  So anyway, as I was saying…stands.  So they don’t want to be stuck behind these stands for their arias.  I had to explain that the stands were there for as much an audience psychological reason as their own usage.  I want the audience to remember this is a concert, a work in progress, not just a badly staged opera. (Yes, I’m covering my ass J)  We also use them as props.  (People fall asleep and lean against things…yet there is nothing to lean against…well there is now!)  But if they want to move around during their aria, more power to them!  Frankly I don't want to watch people stand like statues behind music stands for two and some odd hours either!

But when you get right down to it, my work is the same.  How do I tell this story with the “text” provided?  Especially when a singer repeats the same sentence literally a dozen times.  “I’ll stay faithful, I’ll stay faithful, I’ll stay faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiithfuuuuuuuuuuuull.  Fai fai fai fai fai fai th ful ful ful ful ful.”  And never consonants.  At least not in Italian.  Even though really nailing that consonant is ten times more effective at getting the point across.  But how does that run help you “stay faithful”.  Why are we going back to this sentence after saying something else?  What has changed?  

Apparently I’m doing something right with it because at the end of rehearsal a lot of the singers had some nice things to say.  I’m helping them clarify their storytelling.  So all in all I’m very glad to have this experience, it really is teaching me about how this process works.

And now for something completely different.  And to be quite honest, a RELIEF.  A CONTEMPORARY DRAMA!   Thank GOD!  We had our first read thru last night.  Great material, some great ideas that are already being kicked around.  Very talented actors, minimalist.  Sure its still honeymoon phase, but I’ve become jaded and am generally wary of that.  But I am honestly very excited about exploring this piece, and really believe that this will be a no (or at least low) drama, rewarding creative experience.  And on a personal note, I’m getting to work with some of my immensely talented old friends which so far has been a real pleasure.
 
After taking the day off (what a great idea!!!) I had the one on one coaching session with Annie Chadwick, the marketing coach.  She gave me a number of wonderful ideas on how to take my career “to the next level.”  From making room for new work (yes some of it was a bit on the spiritual side) to making some very concrete decisions about how I am going to send out marketing materials, who I’m going to contact, and what some good next steps are.  I’m going to be rewriting my cover letter, making some accompanying materials – really marketing myself as a complete and cohesive package.  As some of the goods come up, I might be sharing them for input.

I also had a wonderful lunch with Kelley Johnson, the director of The Tempest with the Queens Players.  He comes from the masters degree/strong regional background.  I feel like in this regard our paths have been completely opposite ones.  I like that we feel very similarly about a lot of subjects, yet our aesthetic differs enough to have a healthy debate.  He affirmed much of what I thought about R&J… and was still complementary (hence why it was so wonderful!!  Haha)  He said he understood what the challenges were and we talked a lot about our various experiences with directing.  I look forward to The Tempest.
 
I saw a wonderful one person show this week.  Myopia.  Here’s the link for the  NY Times review.  http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/theater/reviews/12myopia.html

I have to say I completely agree.  It was unbelievably specific.  I hung on every nuance of this incredibly disjointed story – but it was perfectly easy to follow.  I could give a more specific review, but just read the times, I’d say the same thing.  Its so nice to see something clear and simple, yet so intricate.  It makes me want to work on one person shows again.  Or at the very least, with one of the people who worked on this show!  Thank you to Jenny for getting us the tickets!
 
What an intense few weeks this has been.  R&J opened to some wildly mixed reviews.  Of course I feel that the negative one is disgusting and completely unjustified…for the most part.  There are definitely parts where I can at least see what they’re saying, or even completely agree.  Of course I’m not going to tell you where that is.  But there was a very nice one in the February 4th edition of the Queens Courier.  Feel free to look that up!  I would like to say more about what I felt were the strengths and weaknesses of the piece and say more about what a moron this bad reviewer was (our rivalry goes back several shows – I knew this was coming), but I’ll wait until the show is over.  

Meanwhile, due to some major staffing changes at Pocket Opera, it was completely unclear whether or not Serse was even going to happen.  Then I find out it will, but I only get two rehearsals with my lead.  This all happened on the same day as the negative review for R&J mind you... quite the stress filled day. 

After a few on-the-level conversations with the artistic director, we decided it better that we make Serse a concert.  Which is actually fine with me.  Far less rehearsal time, less pressure, and I have don’t need to hone my “blocking skills.”  What I hoped to gain from this project was aria interpretation, which I will still be able to work on.  And what’s nice, is that in the opera world, many don’t even see the distinction between the concert and the staged opera.  So who cares?


Into the Woods is in a similar state of disarray.  The children have caught illnesses and are literally on lockdown.  So we have continued to push the performance date back, cancel rehearsals, scale back our approach, etc.  Everyone has stayed remarkably positive throughout the process, and it has in spite of everything, been a lot of fun.

But I’m sure its not surprise that recently I’ve been feeling that everything, to quote myself, has been “collapsing down so gloriously around me.”  There is little or nothing I could have done to prevent any of this.  But it seems to me that the universe is saying in big neon letters “SIMPLIFY!”  It feels like that moment at beginning  of Angels in America Perestroika where the angel tells him to “STOP MOVING!”  Totally different circumstances, granted.  But for some reason an angry Emma Thompson continues to angrily flutter into my mind.

I am excited for things to slow down a bit.  I want to begin to focus on myself again.  Perhaps get in a little better shape?  Work on my website.  TAKE A VACATION!  Make me a better package so that when I’m ready for the “big break”, then I’ll be able to jump right into it.  I'm not taking a break from theatre per se, I just intend to become a lot more choosy in my projects.  I need to decide deeply if something is worth the sum of my creative energy.  If it isn't for one reason or another, then why would I do it?  I will be doing no one a service.  The time for resume building is over, now its time to rekindle the artist.

This is not to say of course there aren’t still projects to which I am attached.  I am finishing up casting for The Would-Be Room formerly Rest In Peace Jonah Dwyer, which is actually very exciting for me.  Those who have read it have really loved the new rewrite, and I’m enthusiastic to be working on it.  I've had a few good sessions with the playwrights which may lead to some additional rewrites, even further strengthening the story.  I hope that I’ll be able to announce the whole cast in the next few days, and start rehearsals in the next two weeks.  

We’ve also scheduled auditions for Wrapped, going up March 11.
  Much of the old cast is coming back, but we're looking for a few more, but I just received the new draft and am excited to read it.

So a few more projects, but the end is in sight!  But ever since my mini-breakdown, a sense of peace has come back, everything is seeming to shake out ok, as it always does.  Hard to remember that sometimes though, eh?  I still feel like I am able to give my “creative all” to these projects, and am grateful for the opportunity to work on both of these pieces.  And I think that, moving forward is what I need to focus on, really giving my all both with the projects I have in front of me, and the new ones I choose going forward.  Ok, this is getting too new agey, so enough.  I'm off to yoga.