Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Working on a Show...

We're working on a funny little show, right now, called "Storybook Reunion Murders" by Scott Haan.  I should probably call it a 'punny' little show, because that adjective fits it to a 'T'.   It's a play about storybook and nursery rhyme characters from 'rival colleges' (I'd be willing to bet, however, that Simple Simon didn't graduate magna cum laude...) who book the same banquet hall on the same night for their college reunions.  The characters of Jack, Peter, the Dawg, the Horse, Sheep, Piggy, etc. represent every Jack, Peter, Dawg, Horse, Sheep, Pig, etc. in every nursery rhyme or fairy tale.  For example:  Jack is Jack-in-the-Beanstalk, Jack-Be-Nimble, Jack Sprat, and Jack from 'The House That Jack Built'.  The cow is the one that Jack sold for magic beans; it's also the cow that jumped over the moon.  As the play goes on, there are references to these different characters, lines from fairy tales and so forth, and some stuff from contemporary cultural literacy.  For example, the Lion yells at Sheep to be quiet and Jack pipes up:  "And now we'll have silence from the Lamb."  The Queen and the Prince routinely quote lines from Queen and Prince song lyrics, and the Witch denies scaring those kids in the woods  ("That was my cousin Blair.")  You get the picture.

The show is simple enough--just 14 characters.  A good number of the kids are already off book.  But it's the blocking that's giving me fits.  If you've worked with me, you know how I hate characters that just stand around and deliver lines.  That's one of my pet peeves in kiddie theatre.  Unfortunately, in this show, with the set being basically a large room--with a single banquet table set up in the middle--that's basically what's happening.  Characters from opposing schools (and sides of the table) step forward, exchange two or three sentences of wittiness, and then fold back into their groups.  Thus far, it's been a blocking disaster.  As a group, we are learning to 'adjust', create crowd scenes, and spatial positioning on stage.  I gave them a heads-up early on, that all their blocking should be written in pencil because it was all bound to change.  And as we run through scenes, I try to smooth out the composition of the moving painting I'm creating on stage.

I told the kids last night, after we'd run through the first act, that there was something with the blocking I hadn't fixed yet, and they would just have to trust me that when the right 'idea' came, it would all click and that they should expect changes.  I began thinking that, with everyone bunched around the table, adding set pieces might be the key.  I got the idea to put a mirror on the wall for the Queen (so she could see 'who was the fairest of them all' whenever she wasn't in dialogue), and a grandfather clock on the wall for the mouse.  "These are your 'go-to' places," I explained to them, "that when you're not in the scene, you drift over to that spot and stay there."  Well, of course, then the hands went flying up. 
Peter:  "I want a giant pumpkin on the set as my go-to spot." 
Witch:  "I want a crystal ball stand." 
Jack:  "I want a well."  (!!) 
Dawg:  "I want a fire hydrant." 
Hilarious.  And you gotta LOVE their imaginations.
It's good; it's all good.

Oh.  One last anecdote.  I have a friend, Frances, who regularly orders from...VistaPrint.  Said she could get a free banner for the one Horse and Mouse hang up at the back of the set.  She and I spent some three hours messaging on FB, her sending me photos of her computer screen and the design...  So she ordered it yesterday.  And last night, in the run-through.  Dawg said, "Welcome back, Grimm Graduates."  Frances and I look at each other and at the same time we say, "We left out 'back'!"  The banner only says, "Welcome Grimm Graduates."  OMG, we laughed 'til we cried.... 
The blind leading the blind (no offense meant, Mouse...)

A life in the theatre....and my life is awesome.

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