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Monday, June 18, 2007

"Crazies" and stress

I'm going to have to rank the rehearsal process, for this particular show, as one of the top 2 stress-filled experiences I have ever endured, in my long career as an actress. The other was several years ago, when I was briefly involved, as a company member, with a theatre headed by a crazy 'foreign' director.

Opening a show is stressful enough without having to deal with the personalities of what I call "Crazies": those people who thrive on 'drama', and not of the theatrical kind. Those controlling types who have a hard time delegating, and yet resent having to do everything themselves. Those who feel the need to scream and shout to be understood. Those who feel their lives will be too boring unless they are constantly faced with some form of catastrophe. Those who would rather live by the seat of their pants, and relish the havoc of disorganization. I'm convinced those kinds of people actually attract negativity into their lives because they need it to feel alive. Having been a "Crazy", in the past, I know this to be true. I was the one who always had some kind of terrible mishap to share with my friends, and the more outlandish the better. I had some pretty strange things happen, over the years. It made me, somehow, feel more interesting. But, I finally reached a point, in my life, when I realized that I neither wanted nor needed that any longer, and as soon as I made a conscious effort to choose peace and calm over chaos, my life changed, quite dramatically. It's not to say that things don't happen to cause me grief, but I know that they don't happen as often as they did in the past.

This director, although he has a good heart and means well, is a "Crazy". Our tech, last weekend, was insanity. Each show has one tech day called a 10/12 (or in our case 8/10) where you work 10 hours in a 12 hour day. Normally, the technical crew will do what we call, in theatre, a "dry tech". It's a rehearsal of all the technical elements, without the actors. Then the actors are brought in and the show is run "Cue to Cue". In other words, we go from one technical cue to the next. This saves time. We did neither of those things. Decisions with lighting and sound are usually made during "production meetings" prior to tech. This didn't happen either, so those decisions were being made during tech. Then we lost our technical director, the day after tech, with opening just days away. Personality conflict, so it seems. There was also some major upset over a piece of equipment that broke and had to be replaced.

And, usually before the week of opening you've had, at least, several runs of the show, without stopping. The director will take notes and give them to the actors after the run, so the actor can get a feel for the continuity of the show, and to see if there might be problems with quick costume changes. This didn't happen until Thursday! We cancelled our Thursday preview and ran the show twice. The Director promised not to say a word, and thankfully, he kept his promise but, up until then, he was stopping the show every few minutes, for one reason or another. 'Scenus interruptus' has to be one of the most frustrating things ever. We then had a run Friday before our Preview, and a run before Opening Night, but it was still highly stressful and fraught with outbursts for various reasons. However, we did manage to get through opening weekend relatively unscathed, and with only some minor problems, although who knows what the critics are going to say.

All I know is that the director is going to blow a gasket one day, and I told him as much, though I don't think he 'heard'. "Crazies" usually don't. I also know, that I would have to be very desperate to work at that theatre again. It's just all too crazy for me.

16 comments:

danny wright said...

I don’t know why but it fascinates me to hear about all the background stuff that goes on before a show. In the movies about putting on shows, this sounds pretty normal. Aren’t creative people by nature “crazies”? Can you say on your blog the name of the play and where it is showing?

Karen said...

I, too, confess to wanting to know which play you're in! You are perfectly describing my mother in law with all the drama and craziness! She's an actress herself, among other occupations and she thrives on drama and chaos, it seems. At the age of 84, I don't think she'll ever be any other way!

Debbie said...

Behind the scenes is very interesting. Should I say "break a leg?"

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Man we are all guilty of being crazy at one time or another but to have work intimately with someone like that for too long a duration is a health hazard.

Pat Jenkins said...

incog, thanks for the insight, just like athletes, people believe actors have it made, and you have shown that is not the case.

CDO said...

Reminds me of my high school days when I was always in one act plays. It was always scary but the end result was very rewarding. I know that is only a fraction of how you must feel as a professional.

As always Hillbilly Willy serving up -Fun – Food and Politics knows that Life in America is a Great Life ...a Great Life especially in Arkansas

10-4 Hillbilly Willy

Incognito said...

DANNY: Actually, all this craziness is not the norm. Of course, if i was to write a movie, I'd use one of my 2 hellish experiences. Would make for a more exciting movie. But normally, things go very smoothly. One of these days I will have the guts to tell y'all what show and where. I will say it's somewhere in the southeast of the country. :-)

KAREN: Your mother-in-law sounds typical.. though there are those of us who are quite normal and not flakey. Though again, I chose to change.... so who knows..

DEBBIE: Yes, "break-a-leg is in order. :-) and thank you!!

Incognito said...

BCF: Yeah, it is a health hazard.. thankfully, it's never for a prolonged period of time. The director usually disappears after the rehearsal period.. though, in this case, it's his theatre so will be there every day, cos he makes the pre-show talk. It's worse when you get a wacked out actor! And I've had my share of those. Not fun.

PAT J: No we don't. It's hard work and for the most part, not at all glamorous, like most people think. And the amount of rejection we have to go through, is monumental.

CDO: Smart for not getting into the biz! I really wouldn't recommend to anyone unless they truly had no other calling. I did a show at Arkansas Rep quite a few years ago. Enjoyed Ark. immensely.

Strawberry said...

Incog - I was in a couple of plays in high school and then got to do one in a community theater! I have to admit - I Loved it. We did have a great director though and yes - when you don't get to do a complete run through it is very stressful. Our choir does multiple programs every year - Christmas, Easter, 4th of July - and we never have a complete run through with orchestra and narrators, any other extras until the afternoon of the performance. For those of us who are perfectionists - it is HORRIBLE!

I was curious how opening weekend went. Good to know that everything went okay! Thank you for sharing that post with the rest of us! :)

WomanHonorThyself said...

wow girl!..take a deeeeeeeeeeep breath!..sounds like very dramatic sorts u work wityh!..LOL..bet you'll steal the show anyway!

MUD said...

Did some volunteer work with the local Civic Theater and saw this in action. I was the assistant in charge of getting the acts on stage for a Christmas Production then sang with a Barbershop group. Our Director took a two hour run through and made it about 6 hours. It did nothing to make the show great in the end. I did my best and wrote everything down and made sure that I did my part in getting things there on time every time. Everyone hated the director and at the end she got flowers from the local Civic Group. Oh well, life goes on. MUD

Incognito said...

STRAWB: It makes a huge difference when you have a great director and cast. It's not always the case. Often there's one actor who is a major pain. Glad you had some fun experiences. I can imagine how frustrating and scary that must be to have the run, just before the performance.

ANGEL: I've been taking deep breaths the whole past week. :-) but took an extra sigh of relief Sunday ater the show. Have 3 days off, which is quite unusual, but it is a smaller theatre. Am relishing the time away. Got our first review.. not great. Oh well. Didn't expect much, though. It's not a good play.

MUD: In the end, you can only do your part and do your best. Everything else is out of your control. Life does go on... :-)

Panhandle Poet said...

I've been waiting to hear about this for days now. It sounds like a real challenge to you and your skills to perform under such adverse conditions. It can be viewed as a growing experience. Gotta look at the bright side!

Blazing Cat Fur said...

I was tree once in a grade school play- wasn't stressful at all, quityerkvetchin;)

Frasypoo said...

I think you would miss all the craziness if you left it !!It is so interesting to hear the background stuff of theatre that people normally dont know.

Incognito said...

PAN: Absolutely a growing experience. We learn from everything that occurs in our lives.. the good and the bad. I learned I will probably never work with him again. :-) but it's probably mutual.

BCF: yeah, yeah.. gripe gripe. kvetch. kvetch. I actually would have no problem playing a tree. no lines to memorize. :-)

FRASY: Not sure about that. I wish I could find something that I could make money at that I didn't have to memorize.