Christmas Carol Chronicles, Part XIV
In one fell swoop of an evening, we've gone from imagining a graceful, yet foreboding, curved staircase to using it. The cast of A Christmas Carol has transitioned from the comforting embrace of the rehearsal hall, complete with the layout of the set taped on the floor, to the magnificent expanse of the main stage, where Roger Schultz's set design has taken on its intended three dimensional form.
The anticipation was palpable as everyone buzzed in the dressing room area, waiting for the signal from Steph Link, the stage manager, that all was well to enter the stage. The first glimpse of a set is a theatre moment that never gets tired.
Following the traditional first night in the theatre safety speech, Production Manager Eugene Carnegie took us on a walking tour of the set, pointing out its many unanticipated peculiarities, many of which extend beyond the view of the audience. The tracking of set pieces on and off the deck is being facilitated by a series of platforms that have been constructed expressly for this purpose.
There are a few of us who use the amazing staircase and we were invited to climb to the top as part of this discovery process. Standing up there on the edge, looking down from a position about 10-feet above the deck, I felt a bit shaky at first, flashbacks to standing on the glass floor at the CN Tower popping into my brain as my body began to feel uncertain. It lasted only a brief moment, and as I discovered as we worked through Act One, going up and down the stairs is now as comfortable as breathing.
Ben took to the heights more quickly that I did. He was eager to get to the top and try out the rolling staircase unit. He's much more of a thrill seeker than I am. Alex seemed equally comfortable with the vertically enhanced areas of the set.
We almost made it through the entirety of the first act before stopping for a discussion of what it was like being on the set for the first time. When asked by Director Jacqueline Russell as to what went well, the cast shared a number of different things including increased confidence in the lines, and all the business around entrances, exits and scene transitions. When asked about what could be improved I suggested "opening up to the audience."
"Moms don't want to see bums," quipped Jacqueline.
There is a natural tendency to talk to people within a theatrical context as you would talk to people on the street. Inevitably, that means you'll be talking with your back to the audience. "Cheat it out" is one of the most oft-repeated directions I have heard over the years. Always being aware of the audience and how well they can see and hear you is a necessity. And thanks to Jacqueline, I now have a new mantra to remind myself of this fact: Moms don't want to see bums.
"I'm going to put that in the blog," I said last night. Now I did.
We have arrived at the part of the process that demands late nights. Ben and I got home around 11:10 pm. Many members of the cast and crew would have rolled home even later as they live on the other side of town. Our focus over the next couple of days is to integrate final set, prop and costume pieces, tighten up all the technical elements, and try to stay healthy. Nutrition and good hygiene are essential, as is drinking plenty of water. It is exceptionally dry on the main theatre, as we discovered last night.
Cue-to-cue begins in earnest on Friday evening and will continue all day on Saturday and possibly into Sunday. Opening night is one week from tomorrow.