All of my fans – the Cohen-heads – know what the main endeavor in my life has been of late: Fraggled Productions‘ upcoming run of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The Cupcake Theater in Hollywood. After a long, arduous month of rehearsal, we open in two days (Friday, May 2nd). The entire cast and crew is primed to make a big splash in the world-famous Los Angeles indie theatre community. But such quality can only arise from hard work, dedication, and hours of talking and singing in weird voices.
Every rehearsal process starts the same way – the read-through. It is the first opportunity for the cast to interact and form the bonds that will lead to a strong production. It is the first opportunity, but that doesn’t mean the cast will actually do that. They are more likely to clump into the comfortable groups that may have existed prior to the show’s formation. God forbid no one in the show actually know each other before the read-through; if that happens then you, as the weirdo surreptitiously observing this process from the shadows, will be witnessing an awkward gathering of semi-sociopaths who may, at times, pretend to be social.
The read-through may go well. Alternatively, it could go terribly. It doesn’t really matter. The whole point of this day is for everyone to meet one another and begin the classic phase of silent judgment. Attraction will bloom, inexplicable loathing will begin to fester, and in some cases intrigue may lead to legitimate camaraderie.
All of that is temporary, however, as allegiances and rivalries can flip like a switch during the next period of rehearsal. We in the biz call this the “learning phase.” Specifically, learning about each other. And maybe the show and the characters. Not the lines though. Definitely not the lines. Every once in a while the performers may begin learning blocking (or singing and dancing, if this is a musical), but the learning process is an opportunity for everyone to decide whether or not the conclusions they jumped to were correct.
Before you know it, the show is looming. There may be two weeks left before opening night, and this is “crunch time.” This is when you (you creep) will notice the director and stage manager urging everyone to get off book. And the actors will try. They really will – the night before the off-book deadline. So when the first off-book rehearsal arrives, everyone will be floundering and calling for “line,” but at least progress has been made.
All of a sudden you’ll find the show in “tech week.” This is when the people with marketable skills will set lights and microphones and all of the other stuff that most actors don’t know anything about. At this point it is their job to stand there and look pretty, so that the show can be built around them. By now the actors either know their lines, or they know paraphrased versions that will be about as good as it’s going to get. And relationships – of whatever nature – are set in stone. Love or hate, it is too late for cast members to change allegiances. Otherwise that would throw the whole social hierarchy into disarray, which no one can afford this close to opening night.
And how close it is! It is already time for dress rehearsals. You, you nasty voyeur, get to watch as actors really experience the show for the first time, probably losing confidence in choices they made weeks ago. If the director is worth his or her salt, he or she will help the actors find their self-esteem once again, while correcting the little flubs, snubs, and grubs that have somehow managed to worm their way this far into the process. Nothing should change too much at this juncture, aside from some basic blocking logistics, because the show is about to open, and we just don’t have the damn time!
And now! Now! It’s opening night. I won’t spoil what happens next, but it will either be amazing or awful. You probably have a better idea of how it’s going to turn out than I do anyway, since you’ve been observing developments this whole time. What matters is that every one is going to do their best. They’re a unit now. In the words of Jack from Lost, “Live together, die alone.” Hopefully everyone is on board, and no one is isolated, typing away on a smart phone to avoid contact with other human beings. That would be ridiculous.
Oh! Do me a favor, tell the cast to break a leg.