April 23, 2006

A Play A Day #9

Selected Transcript of the Director's Notes from the First Technical Rehearsal for the Stage Play "The Curse of The Thing"

Setting: Interior of a very small community theater; director is addressing his cast after completion of the first full technical rehearsal for their staging of the play "The Curse of The Thing". Actors are referred to by their character names, as happens often in director's notes sessions.

Director: O.K. I know it's late, but I do have some important notes; so let's get to them right away and then we can all get out of here. Well, the first thing is what I've been saying to you all since our first read-through. This play has some technical elements which we might struggle with, but I've promised my son that I would do my absolute utmost to see his vision come alive on the stage. He spent many hours in rehab writing this play, and I think it must justly see its place in the American Theatre come alive by an accurate presentation of the play's messages and mores. I believe it has great cultural significance, and the technical elements are vital to show that significance. That being said, there are a few minor adjustments we might have to make.

(General grumbling of actors who don't like what they are hearing. They are prima donnas one and all; and they want to be awash in the play's special effects. This grumbling and chatter should rise and fall as the director makes his speech and either disappoints them or placates them with the various concessions to reality.)

Director: I know, I know, I know... it's not what I want to do, but you have to understand that there are a few things that we will have to... alter... to get the play off the ground with the resources we have. O.K.? First, we've been having some trouble with the trees. We had thought of a forty-foot tall superstructure and were going to use expensive metal ribs for the trunk, but Paul pointed out that the ceiling is only 18-feet high at the peak, and that no one in the set crew knows how to weld. We tried contacting some welders, but their base rate is $65 an hour, and we just don't have that kind of budget. We've decided to use something that's a bit more representational - two coat trees - but I really believe it will work, and Paul says we have one in the prop room and he has one on his front porch. Since they are the only two we can locate, we've decided that they really can't be burnt, so we're knocking out the trees burning in that scene. Paul will be working with our capable volunteers to glue and wrap actual branches onto the coat trees; it should look really nice. Moving on, the graves really can't be "dug" into the stage. Our stage is a foot off the actual floor of the theater. We will try to get some topsoil that we can mound on the stage, but Paul tells me we really can't do too much, because we have to change the scene, and apprantly large piles of dirt can be quite cumbersome and time-consuming to move. I know. I've discussed the situatio with actual grave diggers who have offered their professional guidance, but their base rate is $45 an hour, and we just can't afford. What we can do is, perhaps, put some dirt in a couple buckets and mime the shoveling into the stage and then careully placing the dirt into the bucket nearest the grave being dug into. Now, the car... wow... this was a tough one for me to give up, but in discussing the situation with Paul, I found out that none of the doors at this theater are wide enough to even allow the entrance of a very small car. Additionally, the floor may not have enough structural support to hold a car's weight. We are also lacking enough space in the wings to accomodate the car. I've spoken with mechanics about the possibility of cutting a real car in half and helping us reassemble it in place backstage, but their base rate is $85 an hour, and we just can't afford that, or the cost of purchasing even a very old car and cutting it in half. Paul tells me we can put some casters on a park bench that his neighbor will loan him; Brant and Melissa will then "drive" it on stage by pulling forward with their feet. We have a pie tin which should work fairly well as a steering wheel for Brant. Now on to the dry ice and tombstones. We are going to have to can the dry ice. Turns out it's really expensive and our smoke machine is broken; Paul has tried to get it fixed, but the base rate on fixing a specialized piece of equipment like that is $115 an hour, which is about what a new one costs. What we will be trying instead is a white sheeet that will be ruffled by the big fan that we found in the attic at Paul's girlfriend's house. The tombstones... well... after looking into the stonecutting industry - with a base rate of $75 an hour - and talking with a rather disreputable grave digger, and, again, having to make concessions for both the structural integrity of the stage and the 18-foor high ceiling, we have decided to make them out of styrofoam and gray paint, if we can find the gray paint that Paul's swears he just bought last year, otherwise, they'll be black. We are looking into ways to make them explode in fiery blasts of lightning, but, after discussing the matter with several professional electricians and demolition experts, apparantly, the sytrofoam will just sort of melt after exploding, and since the ventilation systems are not up to code, we wouldn't be abe to get the fumes from the buning styrofoam out of the building fast enough, and we would run the risk of people passing out or lapsing into comas from the lack of oxygen. The electricians referred us to some heating, ventilation and air conditioning guys, but their base rate is pushing $95 an hour and the newer fans and ventilation ducts would cost over $15,000. We couldn't make those costs fit in the budget. We will, instead, simply push the tombstones over with a long pole when the lightning flash occurs. Unfortunately, they cannot collapse into the floor; in fact we are trying to figure out how to keep them from bouncing when they hit the stage. So, Brant and Melissa, you're probably trying to igure out how you are supposed to "burn" convincely for the audience. You're going to have to dig deep with your acting mine to come up with some good "Help, I'm on fire" emotions. I suggest a lot of pained writhing, and we will also give you both some red saran wrap to wave about you to represent the flames consuming your flesh. And, again for Brant and Melissa here, speaking of consuming flesh... we're apparantly going to have a really hard time getting live wolves to gnaw on you. I spoke with the nearest zoo and with the Department of Natural Resources, and, well, I don't even want to tell you how hard it is to find a competent professional wolf handler these days or what they charge! The Department of Natural Resources very nicely reminded me that wolves are, technically, wild animals, and letting them loose in a crowded theater might spook them a little too much. I guess we would run into some legal issues there; I wish I could say that I could consult a lawyer about this issue, but with a base rate of $155 an hour, we are just going to have to assume that we would somehow be at fault for any wolf-mauling of audience members that might possibly take place. Paul tells me, however, that he knows some local kids who might be willing to portray wolves if we get them some candy; so we are looking into that. Paul thinks that we might be able to get his friend, Candace, to sew some wolf suits for the kids. At the end of the scene, we apprantly are going to have to nix the rain and just go with a sound effect. Paul tells me that any water on stage would run down toward the audience, go through the floorboards and damage the electrical wiring in the basement, which, in turn, could cause the building to burn down. We spoke to a local electrician who came in yesterday and looked at the situation, told us not to do it, and then asked where he could send the bill. We won't be paying him; not if I can help it. And, on that note, I guess I should mention that it may be a bit dicey trying to set the stage on fire. We had counted on the rain naturally putting the fire out between scenes, but, since we can't use the rain, we are going to have to cut the rain. The good news is that we have several roles of red saran wrap that Paul got from his Mom; we are looking into getting a couple more fans and having them blow the saran wrap in a fire-like manner. It should look great. The really good news is that, now that that new place opened up just around the corner, we should have plenty of fried chicken for you, Karl! That should really help us preserve some crucial character lines for you, Karl. I think the chicken bit really ties the scene together.

Now. For the second scene... yeah, the full-size in-ground pool... well...


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