Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Send in the Clowns

Romeo and Juliet is tomorrow.

It's going to suck.

Those of you who know me (or know theater) know that there is always a phase where it seems like the show won't work, it will never come together. Usually my dear mother gets the panicky phone call about that, and she talks me down.

This isn't the same thing.

When I recognized the star-crossed fate of this show, I went into survival mode - I stopped caring about it.

Seriously, no panic at all. My speech class asked me today when I would get all stressed out, if the show is tomorrow. I said that this is it - this is me stressed pre-show. And I smiled at them, then continued class.

No last-minute crafting of props. No fretting. No running about frantically to get it all done. Nothing.

I do feel regret that this is my first production at MTHS. I have certainly been less-than-enthusiastic in promoting the show to my colleagues - I don't want them judging my abilities based on this.

I was very tempted to give the directing credit in the program to Alan Smithee.

I feel bad for some of the kids. The girls are great, truly fantastic and trying their very best; and one of the guys has been incredible. He memorized all of his lines early; then, one day a month ago when one of the punks didn't show up to class again, this guy offered to fill in for the scene and did so almost flawlessly. When asked, he told me that he had started memorizing the punks' parts "just in case."

Those kids deserve a good show. Damn it, I deserve a good show. I've put my time, energy, money, and name into (onto) this thing.

So why won't it work?

Actor A - one of the better male actors; not the least bit memorized. We talked one-on-one about memorizing techniques and tricks. Didn't try one of them. At his suggestion, we reassigned his part so he only had one beat with lines. Still didn't know a word by heart. Has missed 75%+ of class. Told me he might not show up tomorrow since the next day is his birthday and he plans on getting drunk to celebrate.

Actor B - Joined the class three weeks ago, bragging about his past acting experience. Hasn't memorized a word of his parts; spends rehearsals goofing around and talking backstage, despite specific instructions to sit in the audience and run lines. Informed me today that he has to work tomorrow night.

Actor C - Joined the class three weeks ago. Hasn't memorized a word of his part. Doesn't follow along in his script, so when it is his turn to go on stage, there are awful long stretches of an empty stage before he strolls in, flipping pages in his script, trying to find where we are.

Actor D - Has been in the class the whole time. Claims he's memorized, but constantly forgets his lines on stage and totally drops character when trying to remember what comes next. Has had three tantrums on stage (over things like my telling him "try that part again, this time say the words in character, with emotion") - he flounces off-stage, locks himself in the bathroom, and refuses to rehearse for the rest of the class period. Is sarcastic and mean to me when I help him one-on-one; claims he doesn't need to say the lines in character, since he'll be fine as soon as there's an audience. Seriously. 16 years of theater, and I've never met a diva as big as this guy.

Actor E - Refuses to look anyone in the eyes; refuses to touch another person, which means instead of handing Juliet a bottle, he throws it at her; vocalizes the lines well, but lapses physically into either examining his fingernails, fidgeting with clothing, or just sits down on whatever set piece is nearest. Brought on a rubber severed leg as a prop yesterday for his scene as Romeo, because he thought it would be funny. Didn't understand why that was wrong.

Actor F - Gets distracted if he doesn't talk for more than 5 seconds. Often walks out on stage in the middle of other people's scenes to ask me questions. Has been suspended for about 60% of the year; was suspended for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week.

Oh, and? The actor I mentioned who has been great? He's been out of school for a week with the flu.

I know these kids have issues. Family, social, metal, emotional, behavioral, academic, legal issues. You know what? So do the others who are doing a good job on this show. And I just don't have sympathy for those excuses.

I'm fighting against a tradition of very low standards for theater here ("We don't need to be quiet backstage now. We always get quiet for the performance itself.") (Yeah, right. Because habits are so easily broken, especially when you're under pressure?). They don't see why it's wrong cross the stage itself (mid-scene) to get to the other side. They don't get why I stopped prompting them when they ask for "Line".

Here's the danger of a small group of kids - 3 punks in a group of 30 kids? Not a big problem. 3 punks in a group of 12 kids? Huge problem.

So when Actor B informed me today that he's working tomorrow night, I just pointed out the consequences to him and then turned back to rehearsal. I really didn't care. There was nothing I could do.

But here's what I love: At the end of the class period, two of my actresses met me at the front of the house with a script in hand. As soon as they had heard what Actor B said, they had decided to divide up his part between them and memorize as much as they could tonight. They asked if that was okay. I said that was fantastic.

Those are the kids I do this for.


  1. I almost want to come see that.

  2. That reminds me of much ado, only we had a lot more people, I'm glad you got through it.