Saturday, December 05, 2015

Thoughts From Beau Jest rehearsals

I know we've already covered this, but I'm a compulsive writer.

I've been keeping a "rehearsal diary" for Beau Jest...I've done this a few times with other shows, and I always love going back and reading them later. There are usually both funny memories to smile over and important lessons to remember. So I thought I'd share some of the highlights of Beau Jest's rehearsal journal here! I've tried to edit out any spoilers from the show, but in an effort to embrace my vulnerability, I have left a few very personal thoughts in--some of the struggles I've felt during this process, ways I've connected with the character, or times I've felt weak or pretty or confident or mean. (Because I'm a human being, okay?! I FEEL ALL THE THINGS!)

I feel so absurdly lucky to get to do what I love with such amazing people.

Saturday, November 7, 2015
I spent so much time being both thrilled and terrified to begin rehearsals. Like all actors, I think I have a neurotic need to be adored. But once I got there and got to working, that need went away—it always does. I can just fall into the world of the play, and the words in the script, and the thoughts and feelings of the character. Eric was very kind and very complimentary, and that gave me a giant boost of confidence, which I’ll use in the times before and after rehearsal when I get neurotic again.
I only really know Andy and Ben P in the cast, so I’m excited to get to know the others. Just from the read-through, I can tell they’re all wonderful actors AND wonderful people.
Also, Ben Parkes can’t pronounce the word “memorial” and it’s hilarious and adorable. There’s a line where he has to say the name of a hospital—“Northwestern Memorial”—and he struggles.

Monday, November 9, 2015
First blocking rehearsal! Eric likes to block before we get on our feet—we start rehearsal by sitting and having him explain our movement and beats and bits. It took me a minute to orient myself in his directing style, but I generally have a pretty clear idea of what he’s looking for. He talked a lot about rhythm during Saturday’s read-through, and it’s been fun to find some of that.
I’m suffering a little bit from “I’m not pretty” syndrome. After “Oklahoma” I just felt so frumpy. I need to remind myself to not compare, and to embrace my own beauty.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
It’s funny…I feel like I know everyone so well already. There are so few of us, it’s easy to become friends.
In some ways, it feels like it hasn’t been years since Ben P and I worked together—his acting and his sense of humor is still so familiar to me, it’s like we sort of picked up where we left off. And I love working with Andy. I wish both of them could somehow be in my cast.
A few of us got there earlier tonight to help Bryan go over the blocking he missed last night. There’s a point at which Dave/Bob is supposed to fold the napkins on the table all pretty, and we all sort of got distracted by that for like…twenty minutes. We found a variety of different folds—the “Rose,” the “Turkey Fan,” the “Pope Hat.” (Some of these names we made up.) Bryan struggled to create anything for a while, and then made the perfect rose, which ended up being the favorite of the props master. We didn’t get to the blocking, but we all had fun.
I also curled my hair to help me feel pretty today, and I prayed for a little extra confidence, and I felt pretty and funny tonight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015
So much sitting in rehearsal today! It’s kinda nice—forces us to focus on the moments and the acting and the relationships, instead of the business. The stage picture could use some variety, so we’re giving it that wherever we can.
Oh! And Ben Parkes correctly pronounced the word “memorial”! We just told him it rhymes with “oriole” and he did it perfectly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Mixed feelings about rehearsal today—they’re mostly positive, though.
I feel like I’m really understanding Eric’s vision, and I love working with everyone. People make me laugh all the time. There’s a bit between Bob and Sarah, where we speak at the same time for three short little lines, and Bryan kept quoting incomplete song lyrics, which killed me as soon as I noticed it. I told him this was bad news, because I break so easily, and he said it was REALLY bad news, because he LOVES making people break. I finally suggested that we both speak incomplete song lyrics and see if at any point during the run, we say the same ones.

Friday, November 13, 2015
Confession time. Sometimes when I get afraid, I become sort of "mentally competitive" in rehearsals. And I don’t like who I become when I start competing with my double—I’m constantly comparing and either thinking I’m better, or being furious that I’m not. I don’t want to be that person. I want to be open and kind and welcoming. I don’t want to spend my energy in rehearsals fighting off those awful feelings. I want to just do my work. So that’s what I’m going to try to do. To be open to the discoveries that my double makes. To just DO MY WORK.
That seems to be the best solution to all the problems I’ve had in rehearsal. Just DO MY WORK.
During rehearsal today, I spent some time taking some character development notes—filling out the worksheet I’ve created over the years. I made some cool discoveries, and I’m feeling a little more connected to the character. I already felt connected, but now I feel I understand her even more.
And on a completely completely different note, here’s the other thing that happened tonight. And it sounds absurd to get this serious after the rest of this entry. But that’s the human experience, I guess. Tonight in Paris, there were massive coordinated terrorist attacks. Over 140 people are dead. And it’s just senseless and heartbreaking. Here’s what I finally posted on Facebook tonight—I can’t think of a better way to phrase it.

It's been difficult to try to process the events in Paris tonight. I found out right before rehearsal, and it felt odd and wrong to go rehearse a comedy in light of everything that was happening. After working the scenes, a handful of us stayed afterwards (me, Ben A, Ben P, Bryan, Betsy, Andy, Becca) and just talked...about Paris, about leadership, about dating, about world history, about all kinds of things. At one point, one of us asked, "How do we make it better? How do we make the world better?" And before I really thought about it, I instinctively said, "Keep doing theatre."
But I really believe it's true. It's not quite a direct way of helping. But anything that connects human beings to each other is something that makes the world better. It's harder to kill each other when we all see one another as connected. After rehearsal, I went home and my husband and I wept for the pain that's being felt all over the world tonight. We wept for those who never got to finish the things they started, and we wept with gladness for the good of those reaching out in love and solidarity.
This sounds so cheesy, but I'm reminded tonight of the importance of connecting. Through talk, and through tears, and through laughter. I am so so so grateful for the people I had tonight to remind me of the beauty of humanity, through all of those things.
Write stories. Tell jokes. Make art. Sing songs. Talk to people. Weep with people. Tell the truth, both little truths and big ones. We'll make the world better.

Saturday, November 13, 2015
I prayed for help in overcoming my feelings of competition in rehearsal, both last night and this morning, and felt so much better today. Last night, as I was falling asleep, after my prayers, I had this thought. In order to overcome my sense of competition, I need to let go of my need to please (just like Sarah does). It won’t be a sweeping change, but this is a need that Sarah and I share. I think both my and Sarah's competition is rooted in that oh-so-human desire to just have everyone love me. It was a good revelation to have, and I think it’s helped me.
I also have begun marking places in the script where I think Sarah begins to fall for Dave/Bob—specific moments that make her heart beat a little faster. It’s been fun to discover those moments.
There’s usually a point in every rehearsal process when I am completely enamored of the entire experience. When rehearsing a show feels like falling in love. All I want to do is talk about the show. I am so so so so lucky.

Sunday, November 15, 2015
I’m so madly in love with Beau Jest, it’s all I can do to keep from talking constantly about it.
I’m coming to truly love and care for the cast of Beau Jest. I love that so many members have a lot of improv experience, or at least SOME experience. They are all such good listeners because of it—they “yes and” things so well.
I’m so excited to get the scripts our of our hands—when we’ve got lines and blocking in our heads and can really explore moment-to-moment stuff and timing and relationships.
I’m so obsessed with acting.
I think one of my goals for this show is going to be to balance active listening with staying in character. I am notorious for breaking character, which I’ve been told is actually evidence of strong listening and being in the moment. (I’m choosing to believe that.) But to take my work “to the next level,” I want to improve my ability to stay in it. To stay in the moment AND in character. To not break the momentum because I think something is funny. Generally, the way to “stay in character” has been to sort of put up walls, to harden against the laughter that comes. But in a way, that breaks the momentum too, just not as visibly. It disconnects you from the other actors and from the scene, anyway. The majority of the audience won’t notice it, but the work will not be as strong as it could be.

Monday, November 16, 2015
I love rehearsing. We spend so much time laughing, and it is such a joy. Ben P is losing his voice, and it was both so sad and hysterically funny. (“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” –Mel Brooks) He also was the winner of the “Kramer Award” tonight (something I just made up), for a 15-second-long battle with the coat rack. It was incredible. That coat rack just turns everyone who interacts with it into Kramer. We got a new one tonight, but apparently, the physical comedy magic is still in that corner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I love my job. I LOVE MY JOB! In the parking lot, as we were all leaving, Ben A said, “Good night everyone! It was a great rehearsal! And not nearly as awkward as I thought it was going to be!” And it was the best description of the night.
Ben A, Bryan, and I were all there around 6:45, so we all sat and chatted with Eric for a little while. Ben said that he was a little nervous about tonight’s rehearsal--it was the "big romantic" one between Bob and Sarah. And I said I was too, but that I figured it would be fine. (I had actually said a prayer in the car beforehand, asking for help to “just calm down and do my work.”) And it was fine! Even sitting there and talking made it feel even more fine.
There’s a bit towards the very end of the scene that we struggled with—we tried it 800 different ways, and we wanted it to be funny without pushing the boundaries. I think we figured it out? I’m confident we’ll get it there, though.
It is such a joy to work with such capable and funny and creative people. I can’t believe this is my job. THIS IS MY JOB!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Rehearsed Joel’s big victory today, and both Ben P and Andy did awesomely. It’s such a big shift for both his character and mine. This scene is the angriest we ever see Sarah, and afterwards, I was realizing that the anger will probably need to be tempered with some fear, sadness, desperation, etc. It felt so over-the-top angry tonight. But I also sometimes don’t know if what I’m feeling is what’s being communicated. I’ll watch the rehearsal video and see what kind of balance I need to find. I know I’ll find it eventually. It’s like with the Oklahoma breakdown scene. I had to do it a few different ways for a little while before I could find what it truly was—what the show truly needed.
This is a scene that I feel confident will “arrive” after we’ve spent more time in it. In the meantime, onward and upward!

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Did promo shots today (the promotional pictures that will be used for the press). The wig combined with the floral print dress is the greatest thing—it’s a fantastic wig, and I look like a totally different person with it. Just got one of those faces, I guess.
On an unrelated note, the floral dress is “quick-rigged,” because every single costume change in this show is a quick-change. It has snaps all down the front, and I can’t express how tempted I was to just rip the snaps open! But I couldn’t quite get myself to do it in mixed company. I did do it when I changed out of it, though. I felt like the Incredible Hulk.
We were a little short on numbers for rehearsal tonight—two out sick and one late. But we were able to get things down pretty well.
The great thing about doing a show with so many improvisers is that when someone makes ONE joke, there are dozens that follow. Despite the jokes that are CONSTANTLY happening, we did get to some serious stuff tonight, and it took a little work for me to really be genuine and vulnerable. I think it will be easier when I don’t have a script in my hand, but I really REALLY have an opportunity to use some of the skills I developed in Ben Hopkin’s class towards the end of Beau Jest. I don’t think it will be terribly difficult—I found myself getting teary-eyed tonight already. But I do want to make sure it’s honest, and not forced or anything.
There’s the most awful flu going around the theatre—and it’s not just us, it’s EVERYONE. Christmas Carol, Big Fish, Beau Jest, staff. Tammy told us we’re not allowed to kiss each other. Ben A is sick, but Becca, Bryan and I are all fine, so I told Becca that as long as she and I don’t kiss, we should all be fine. I feel a bizarre sense of pride in not being sick. I suppose I should find some wood and knock on it.
Tomorrow is the LAST NIGHT OF BLOCKING!!! And then we have a show, and we’ll just be working on scenes. Wit-whoo!

Friday, November 20, 2015
I spent part of this morning going over lines and then reading through some notes from Ben Hopkin’s acting class. There are some great reminders there about connecting and vulnerability.
Tonight’s rehearsal felt a little bit rough…rougher than any of our previous rehearsals. We were all so tired, and it was the LAST blocking rehearsal, and half of us are sick, and the scene is kind of naturally slow. Between the naturally slow scene and trying to read our lines and blocking, it was just so so so low energy. But I know it’ll get to where it needs to be with time.
Although, tonight, at Andy’s suggestion, Ben LICKED my FACE onstage instead of kissing me on the cheek like he’s supposed to. Which, of course, meant that when Bryan is supposed to dip and kiss me, he dipped me and licked my face too. So many germs. Both cheeks.
I’m excited to start reviewing scenes and working them—this is where the real fun begins. Now to buckle down on memorization. (Deadline is in a week?!)

Saturday, November 21, 2015
There were some great moments in today’s rehearsal, even though it was a little rough—the show is completely blocked, so we reviewed all the new blocking in one big chunk.
I had this realization about Sarah today. She (like pre-married-to-Jacob-me) avoids communication at almost any cost. The thing she says to Chris more often than she says anything else to him is “I’ll talk to you later. Now is not a good time. I’ll call you tomorrow.” She never talks to him directly. And she often chickens out of other important conversations…she chickens out the first time she asks Bob about the David kiss/Bob kiss, and when he first tries to explain the Dave/Bob situation to her parents. It’s cool that the audience gets to see her transformation into someone willing to say things. Almost losing her father is the thing that helps her realize that it’s always worth it to be honest.
On a lighter note, there were some funny moments during rehearsal. At one point, Andy reached for a candy from the candy dish on set, but he did it in this funny way, and Bryan thought he was fist-bumping a nearby plant. So we decided to start fist-bumping inanimate objects much more often.
Also, this conversation happened…
Bryan: Hitler's kids could be anybody, if they changed their name.
Me: It could be like Shia LaBeouf or something.
Ben: I had such high hopes for him. 

Bryan: Who? Hitler? 

Ben: No, Shia LaBeouf.
(We were all laughing about this exchange when I got a text message from Andy, who was onstage, that said, “Stop having fun without me.”)
We start working rehearsals this next week—yippee!!

Monday, November 23, 2015
FIRST ACT = MOSTLY OFF BOOK TONIGHT! Boom! We definitely stumbled through bits of it, but the fact that we still have a month and we’re already mostly off-book is so awesome.
I was realizing how cryptic my notes from rehearsal are. I think I can interpret them, but it’s so funny to read them out of context.
- Chris missed kiss “not in front of Bob” gesture
- add click click to whit-woo
- hearts/brains? No hint to Dave/Bob
- smile/freeze/drop/“what” on video bit
- shush Joel like a cat bit
See? Nonsense.
Tonight’s rehearsal was actually kind of strange for a number of reasons. Onstage, things made sense. But offstage: I got a FB message from a friend basically asking for advice on entering the LGBTQ world, and Andy sent me a link to all of these terrifying paranormal search and rescue stories, and I was texting Kieffer about moving to Utah. It made for an overwhelming time. And I’m still terrified about those paranormal search and rescue stories.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Things that kept distracting me during rehearsal today: My belt buckle! It’s a new belt I got from DI today, and the clasp is this gold seat belt thing, but if you unbuckle it, one side looks like the pinchers of a bug. I spent a lot of rehearsal today pretending it was a bug. Sort of a roaring bug. Maybe I need to wear a different belt to rehearsal.
I feel like with every show I do, I am required to be more and more vulnerable. (Well, not every show—not “Damn Yankees.”) But from Maggie in “Dancing at Lughnasa” to Eller in “Oklahoma” to this role, each one is progressively more open to sharing my inner experience. I noticed during the confrontation scene with my parents, I was getting into “sincerity pose” and “sincerity hands.” I think we do that as actors to try to protect ourselves from the emotional experience of the scene. It’s pretty scary to just feel all of that, and to let the audience see into you. I’m going to work on it a little on my own.
Our lines were a little rough as a cast, but I can tell we’re in a great place. The off-book deadline isn’t even for a week! Eric pointed out that usually at this point in rehearsal, he’d just be giving us notes about blocking…making corrections, etc. He is making a few of those, but he’s mostly giving character notes, or asking us to try small adjustments. In his eyes, we’re way ahead of schedule.
I’m actually kind of really sad about not having rehearsal over break. I will love being with family, but I know I’ll miss everyone and the chance to act. I really love rehearsals, and I really love acting.

Thanksgiving Break
Wednesday, November 25 – Sunday, November 29, 2015
Since Beckah and I have arrived in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, Oma has demanded that we take pictures, because "when we have the family together, it's special!" and interrupted a game of Uno to tell embarrassing stories about our childhoods. It's kind of like rehearsing Act One of Beau Jest.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sarah’s relationship with her parents, and my relationship with mine. On Thursday, Beckah and I found out that Dad is in the hospital in Germany, with abdominal pain. They were thinking about medi-vac-ing him to Washington DC, which is still a possibility, but they’re doing what they can for him there in Munich. Apparently he’s got a blockage in his liver or gallbladder duct. They did dozens of tests to try to find it, and exploratory surgery to try to relieve it, but not only was that unsuccessful, but it also caused his pancreas to become inflamed. They finally brought that down, so they’re going to try and find and release the blockage again tomorrow. In the meantime, he’s on a liquid/bread diet, and laying around in the hospital.
I can’t help but think of how Sarah's relationship with her parents. The idea of something actually happening to Dad—of actually losing him—is so terrifying I can’t bring myself to imagine it. I know I’d survive it, in theory. But I can’t get my brain to process the possibility. Not yet. Not now. But I feel like I understand just a tiny bit more of Sarah’s experience.
I want to bring all of this vulnerability to my performance as Sarah. I think it’s meaningful and human to do so, and there is great capacity for communion in it. But I also want to stick to Eric’s vision. I will try to go where it feels right to me to go, and maybe I’ll just tell Eric to pull me back if he thinks I need it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Finally got some real Jews to help us out! The Ginsberg family came and helped us with the Seder and Shabbat meals, and it was great to have all of our questions answered (and lines pronounced!).
I kind of got stuck in “character acting” for a minute in rehearsal tonight. I want to be open to BIGNESS in my acting, but at one point I realized that I was doing so by closing everything about myself off. It was a nice moment to check back in. I know I can balance the two—big comedy and honest vulnerability, and I’m excited about the journey to finding that balance. I LOVE ACTING.
We’re kind of struggling with lines—I could tell Eric was getting frustrated. (Or maybe I’m projecting?) We’ll get it. It’s just been a long while since we’ve done this. Almost a week. Bleh. We’ll get there.
Ben P, Bryan, and I also spent a few minutes trying to balance umbrellas on our chins, because for some reason Sarah has like, SEVENTEEN umbrellas in her house. It sort of descended into “That’s what she said” type innuendos, but I sure don’t remember how.
Andy, Ben A, Ben P, Bryan, Becca and I have gotten into this habit of talking in the parking lot after rehearsal. Which I like. In my mind, I've begun calling them "Parking Lot Talks." We stand and shiver and talk and laugh. We did it last night, and tonight as well. It’s cold outside, but the time there warms my heart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Had a fun, productive rehearsal tonight. I started it wearing the most well-coordinated outfit, but kept shedding layers as the night went on—things get athletic in scene #2 and I was roasting by the end of it. We discovered a few new moments and solved a few problems. This cast makes me laugh so much—I love them.

Thursday, December 3, 2015
Had a fun talk with Ben A, Bryan, Andy, and Ben P before rehearsal today. Topics covered included cartoon animal clothing (a continuation of last night), modesty, and Star Wars vs. Star Trek.
Rehearsal itself was a delight. One of those times when, even though everyone is still kind of searching for lines, moments of magic are happening. People kept making these wonderful discoveries, and I spent half of rehearsal laughing hysterically, and the other half feeling funny and confident about my own work. Those days are nice—to feel proud of what you’re doing. And I feel like I’ve come to a good place, learning from my double instead of competing with her. Although offstage, there are a number of things I got distracted by: the books on the set (including a travel book about Paris which featured a New Kingdom obelisk from Egypt), and whisper-singing through an entire verse of Smashmouth’s “All Star” with Bryan before getting shushed by Tammy.

Friday, December 4, 2015
RECORD-BREAKING AMOUNTS OF DISTRACTION TODAY. I just have too much fun! The people are so fun! Tammy is always shushing me. And Bryan. It’s a little bit of a problem, even though there is a general spirit of fun and laughter—Today, during notes, Eric said I’d have to stay after one minute for every time he had to tell me to focus. But I was focused when he was giving ME notes! But it’s not just me. It’s Bryan and me. Bryan just always makes me laugh. At one point, after we got in trouble (again), Eric said, “Ugh. You two are just…sittin’ in a tree,” and Bryan swiftly replied, “Uh, she’s M-A-R-R-I-E-D.” Which is brilliant. And true.
Not much else to report from rehearsal itself. We’re in that awful phase when we’re like 85% on lines, so enough to rehearse without books, but not enough to get a good flow or pace since we keep having to call for lines. But we’ll get there! (I know I keep saying that, but I believe it!)

Saturday, December 5, 2015
Ugh. Rehearsal felt ROUGH today. It’s just that awful situation with lines. For ALL of us.
My cast stumbled through Act One first, then watched as the other cast did the same thing. And we certainly stumbled much more than they did. A few rehearsals ago, I talked about how I felt confident about my work that night. Well, today was the opposite. I felt not good about my work.
My goal for Monday is to have a smooth Act Two, and to also finalize the placement of all those damn dishes. We’re gonna set it up like a prop table—labeling spaces for things, etc. I took lots of notes today, on both what I did and what Becca did, so hopefully we’ll be able to figure it out between all of us.

Here's to four more weeks of rehearsal!

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