Tuesday / May 7 / 2019
Written by Frannie
Last Friday, we found out that the woman who was playing Olivia would not be able to continue with SIP this season, and the group engaged in a lively, down-to-earth conversation about how to deal with it. At first it seemed like the best solution was for me to play the role, but then one of our “crew” members spoke up to say she would give it a try. This was very exciting—we’ve been gently nudging her to perform more all season—and, though she cautioned us that she wasn’t positive she could handle the workload, we lavished her with praise anyway. It’s always disappointing when someone leaves the group during crunch time… but it’s also always a thrill to see who steps up to save the day. And, we assured this brave ensemble member, even if she decided not to take the role, the fact that she was willing to try meant the world, in and of itself.
Well, that same woman was the first to check in tonight. She said she’d thought it over and decided to take on the challenge! “The only way I’ll know if I’m capable is to do it,” she said as we cheered and applauded.
We also recently lost the ensemble member who was playing Curio and the Priest. On Friday, our Fabian gamely took on the former, and the latter was assigned to me. Now I posed a very important question to the group: could I please, please, please take our (approved!) cardboard cutout of Fabio, cut off his arms and legs, attach shoulder straps to him, and wear him as a body mask/puppet? The answer came back as a resounding yes (whether because it’s actually a good idea or because they’re humoring me), and I had a quick one-person celebration before we moved on to scene work.
From here, our notes get much thinner, as they always do at this point in the season. There is just so much to do in supporting (and participating in) the work that not much gets written down. But here’s what I’ve got!
Our new Olivia was totally game, bursting through the curtain for her entrance in Act IV scene i and stumbling her way through the blocking with great humor and enthusiasm. It was catching, and the rest of the ensemble upped their game to match hers.
Matt debuted his interpretation of Feste, which was absolutely ridiculous and got a LOT of laughs—and admiration, as he went on without his script even as he struggled with lines. Most ensemble members are not off book at this point, and his willingness to go out on a limb made them much more comfortable about doing the same.
I debuted my interpretation of the Priest, which, as noted, is rooted in my wearing the upper half of a cardboard cutout of Fabio. Of course I didn’t have the “mask” on hand, but I put a sweater on backwards to mimic it and rolled with the punches... By which I mean that when Olivia asked me to “lead the way” on our exit, I “walked like an Egyptian” on out. Everyone thought this was so funny that we’re keeping it. And we’re adding the ubiquitous Bangles song as the transition to the next scene. And this will likely be the signature achievement of my artistic career.
We arrived at Act V scene i, the play’s grand finale. Nearly everyone is in the scene, and there’s a lot going on—and it became apparent almost immediately that, as no one had written down the blocking we came up with a few weeks ago, no one could remember it. After struggling with the first few beats, a longtime member called a hold. Gesturing to the clock, she said that she didn’t think trying to muddle through was the best use of our time. Instead, she suggested that they take me up on my offer to block the scene ahead of time and race them through it on Friday, and use the rest of tonight to catch our Olivia and Orsino up on blocking they had missed or hadn’t rehearsed much yet.
We collectively agreed to the plan, and, though we split into smaller groups for efficiency’s sake, the feeling of unity persisted. As we circled up with a few minutes to go, a few people briefly reflected on how good they felt about the day’s work. “Can we all whoosh each other?” asked one woman. Another person said she thought that would take too long, as we usually whoosh only one person at a time, and Matt suggested that we do a “whoosh wave” instead. It was a great idea—as the whoosh traveled around the circle, our smiles got bigger and bigger.
Although a lot of nerves are still present, there’s a palpable feeling of growing confidence. A sense that we’ve got this. Because we do.
Friday / May 10 / 2019
Written by Matt
Today was all business! We had a scene to block, and block it we did!
On Tuesday, the ensemble gave Frannie the task of coming up with a plan for staging Act V scene i, which is long and complicated and likely to turn into a muddled mess. She did--and it was long and complicated, and almost turned into a muddled mess!
To make things more complicated and muddled and messy, we were in a classroom today instead of the auditorium, which meant that we had to imagine the dimensions of the stage and the locations of exits… and we also had to keep the scene from getting smooshed in a smaller space. But we had a job to do.
Honestly, none of us took many notes, and a play-by-play of blocking a massive theatrical finale would bore even the most dedicated reader of this blog, so I’ll settle for a few highlights:
Our Orsino (who is also our Maria) got really into her role as the simultaneously bombastic and oblivious duke. She had some hilarious moments of stopping in surprise, her eyes wide as if to say, “WHHHAAAAAAAAAAAT?” Outstanding.
There was tango-walking… and some people yelling at each other in the aisles, Jerry-Springer-style.
There was some excellent foot-acting and walking into imaginary doorways by Sir Toby, who was all but incoherent as she was hauled out on stage.
Our Olivia has gone all in on her role! Her Olivia is flighty and bubbly, but also has a little edge of menace about her--a suggestion that if she doesn’t get what she wants, she might get truly mad. It works perfectly!
That’s all for today. Everyone worked hard, and hopefully we’ll see the results next week. Onward!