ENTER THE REHEARSAL HALL -- WHERE THE MAGIC BEGINS!
There is something magical about sitting in an audience as the house lights dim.
The buzz in the room settles into quiet anticipation as we wait to be transported into someone else's world, someone else's story. But what we see on the stage is just the culmination of weeks, sometimes months of work behind the scenes by artists of all description: actors, directors, designers, wardrobe people, carpenters, painters, sound and light experts and others.
This blog will give you a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into that unknown world, following the rehearsal process. This will be your guide to the hard work, fun and weirdness of putting together a play for a professional theatre company.
You'll never watch a play in the same way again!
Friday, April 17, 2015
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES - Blog Post #3
Now blogging: Ann Hodges, Director of The Hound of the Baskervilles
My sides hurt from
laughing:In the rehearsal hall with
Gord, Toby and Aaron
Audiences are often amazed to discover that most professional
plays are rehearsed in three and a half weeks. We work 6 days a week, which
gives us 21 days. It still strikes terror into my heart when I buy a carton of
milk in the first weekof rehearsal and
notice it expires on opening night. Yikes, really?We have to finish this show before the milk
But then again, we are all...ahem...trained professionals, and take our task very seriously. And when
you are as much fun as Gord, Toby and Aaron, serious can be very funny.
Rehearsals at PTE usually start with “Meet the Donut” - an
informal meet and greet (with snacks) of the entire PTE staff, production team
and actors - all facing the same challenge together - that is, to create
theatrical magic for the audience who will be arriving in 3.5 weeks whether we
are ready or not.
The designer (Brian Perchaluk) then does a design
presentation, using a scale model of the set, and gorgeous full-colour
renderings of the actors’ costumes. Most of the production staff are already
building many of the items, but for the actors, it’s kind of like Christmas
morning - they finally get to see what they’re going to be playing with over
the next few weeks. Frankly I was surprised Gord Tanner didn’t quit on the spot
when he saw how many costume changes were in store...
Next, we read the play aloud. With a play like The Hound of the Baskervilles, you can
already tell then how funny it’s going to be. It’s a relief for a director to
find that the actors work together as well as you hoped they would when you
cast them almost a year ago. Next, the remaining PTE staff depart to go play
their own parts in preparing the production, which leaves me, the actors, and
two stage managers (Chris Pearce and Leslie Sidley) alone...in a room...for
Fortunately the staff heard very little but shrieks of laughter
wafting up to the PTE offices (many of which have windows which look down into
the rehearsal hall.)In the rehearsal
hall there was a constant good-willed collaboration and lots of hard work to
ensure the comedy was precise, fresh and repeatable without being heavy-handed.
These three actors have such an amazing chemistry together, and even the breaks
found us all hysterically laughing about the most mundane things. It was
exhausting, and yes, my sides often hurt.
Hound involves a lot of
physical comedy, and quick costume changes, so timing is everything. A slightly
late entrance may kill a laugh, so everything is plotted and planned to the
milli-second backstage. During rehearsal, Chris and Leslie track all the
elements the actors and I are developing so that things happen smoothly onstage
and off. To help us, the production staff give us rehearsal versions of most
props and costumes, such as a muslin mock-up of Cecile’s dress for Gord, or
towels for the sauna scene. Having those items helped us discover some of the
play’s funniest bits of physical comedy.
While we are working in the rehearsal hall, the production staff
have been busy building Brian’s set, and constructing the costumes, hanging
lights and building sound cues. Finally, all these elements converge about 1
week before opening, when the actors and I move from the rehearsal hall onto
The final week of rehearsals involves many 12-hour days as we
incorporate the lighting, sound, quick changes, fog, revolve, projections --
all the elements that make the ‘magic’ onstage. Believe me, at times the magic
seems quite elusive -- like when the fog seems to have a mind of its own and
completely obscures the actors, or we have to do a quick change for the 15th
time, or when the wrong sound cue happens, resulting in a lamb’s bleat instead
of a frightening musical sting. But fortunately, this dream team of actors and
production staff always chooses to chuckle and bear down, until ultimately
their efforts result in a smooth integration of the work from the rehearsal
hall and the technical elements onstage.
As for the director, my job is to guide and inspire and lead when
it feels like we are all going to drown in a bog-like quagmire of missed cues,
challenging costume changes, and headstrong fog. So, often in tech week, I will
make myself a cup of tea. With milk. Which hasn’t yet reached its expiry date,
meaning we still have a few more days to bring this Hound home.
PTE is Winnipeg's most exciting place to see contemporary professional theatre, with a focus on new and local work, but also showcasing stories from across Canada and around the world that speak to our own community.