Tonight begins the first time we rehearse on the nearly completed set, constructed in wood and metal in four hundred or so square feet of stage. We’ve been rehearsing in a bare room upstairs at Lifeline Theatre’s space since early March, imagining various platforms, ladders, doors and stairs, we’ve experimented with movement through different entrances and exits to help us tell the trajectory of the story from London Above to London Below and back again. We’ve fidgeted with the script, tweaking here and there or asking Rob to rethink whole passages. We’ve speculated on what props need to be tracked onstage and off, how we deal with them, which of the characters my nine actors are channeling in each scene, how they use their bodies and focus to create the environments we need and I’ve pondered much about how lights and sound and projections will help us get where we need to be. We’ve choreographed the fights, including the epic battle with the massive Beast of London. We’ve tried to time and foresee how all of this movement will work once we get on the set. And now we get to find out.
It’s an incredibly exciting moment. We’ve been peeking in downstairs every now and then to watch the progress as scenic pieces are being built. We all have had our oohs and ahhs over parts of it and we also have had our fears – about how a clumsy step on a high platform could spell disaster, or how a whip quick costume change could affect a timely entrance on the other side of the stage. No doubt about it, this is another part of the process calling for brave hearts and flexible thinking. I assume I understood the way the space will work for us, but that vision will be tested this week.
Last night I met with members of our technological design team on lights, sound and projections for five hours to talk through the script from start to finish and decide what we want to happen when. The meeting for this is called a Paper Tech in that we technically work out on paper the results of our conversations. (In an interesting turn of technology we had four Mac laptops plugged in, our lighting designer Skyped in to attend from where he was in Wisconsin, and yet still all of us had pencils and erasers and paper in hand – it does not appear that Paper Tech will change to “Laptop Tech” any time soon.) We talk about how long a transition should feel like, what it might sound like, how our various arts can combine to help tell the story, tell the story, tell the story. We tie the cues for these lights and sounds to specific actions the actor’s have created in rehearsal or we tie them to a specific line – even down to a word. So gestures, words and movement cue the stage manager to drive the tech. Now my designers, encouraged and empowered by our meeting, will have almost two weeks to build their contributions in preparation for our actual technical rehearsals, the next big leap in our process when we put all of that theory into practice.