Benjamin Irvine & Daniel Lillford
Jamie Konchak & Alexis Milligan
What's up with the theatre on the hill and off the grid
Benjamin Irvine & Daniel Lillford
Jamie Konchak & Alexis Milligan
Jeff Schwager, Andrea Lee Norwood, & Chris O’Neill
Musical Associate: Nathan Petitpas
|Paint Your Dragon (Tail) |
Puppet Designer by Karen Jones & Apprentice Stage Manager Morgan McMahon
Jeremy Webb & Andrea Lee Norwood
|Jeremy Webb (Beowulf) & Burgandy Code (Grendel's Mother)|
|Jeremy Beowulf Webb, Stage Manager Heather Lewis, |
and Artistic Director, Ken Schwartz discuss the finer points
|Jamie Konchak as Lara and Jeremy Webb as Beowulf|
Karen Jones Puppet Designer assisted by
Apprentice Stage Manager Morgan McMahon (back turned)
|Jamie Konchuk as Lara in a scene you'll never see.|
Playwright’s holiday over, today was the end of the week stumble-through, everything blocked to date, pages 1-70 scheduled. In reality, this beast is getting really big. With 8 minutes left in the work week, Ken calls it at page 53, 90 minutes into a no-intermission show. Sharpen your swords, there’s going to be cutting and lots of blood.
9:00 a.m., as always, Ken picks me up for the 10 minute drive through green up the mountain. It’s foggy, moody, gorgeous. We don’t get much fog on the prairies, I love this. Roxy Music’s on Ken’s iPod. We give 5 minutes to our fan boy love of everything Bryan Ferry has ever done, then 5 is left for Ken to trash everything ever done by one of my favorite movie directors, Tim Burton.
But first the rewrites: day begins with Jeremy, Burgandy, and Ken looking over the tiny new 8-line scene from yesterday. They give a try at connecting the obscure and bewildering action contained therein with the bewildering and obscure action contained within the earlier meeting of their two characters. In fact, they each try connecting the action of the two scenes in about eight different ways. Nope, none fit. I have no defence. Many rewrite options are suggested, I promise a quickie rewrite of one of them before the afternoon stumble through.
The rest of the morning is spent on the story of Beowulf’s battles with Grendel and his Mother. Jonny tries Grendel for the first time and is kind of fantastic—somehow he’ll have to manage it on stilts by next week, which he’s also trying for the first time. Jamie is teaching him in between rehearsing her scenes. Which leaves not a lot of time as she is in about 95% of the scenes in the play. Also working her fight choreography on breaks and learning to play guitar, which seems to be for relaxation. The Grendel and Mom stuff is a big nasty scene, but with a great energy… and it comes in at about 27 minutes in the afternoon stumble through. It should probably be about 15. Snip snip.
Another fantastic lunch, another amazing benefit of working at the Ross Creek Arts Centre—Greg and Carole’s cooking. For the first time I have to miss my favorite part of the day—joining in with Alexis’s warm up and then watching the daily hour of dragon work—to find a corner and come up with a rewrite for the morning’s scene. All for naught, it’s in the 17 pages we don’t make it to today. We’ll get to it Tuesday.
The stumble-through starts at 3:00, the dust clears at 5:22. The scenes are pretty clear, the actors are way ahead for this stage as far as I can see, there’s no shortage of good stuff and I think the story’s emerging. We say good nights, tomorrow’s day off for the actors. I will get all the days off I want once the script is declared complete and no more cuts or rewrites allowed. But not tomorrow. Ken offers to start marking cuts in the Grendel scene while I sort through rehearsal photos. We hang around and start casually talking about more cuts. And more cuts. And more cuts. All of which will be my work for tomorrow. Cut. Rewrite. Repeat.
All day it’s been foggy out. Beautiful, moody, green below, grey above. I wish pleasant weather for everyone’s day off, but for me, this would be perfect for tomorrow, writer’s cocoon weather.
Just wrote a new version of a speech for Daniel, a rewrite for back in the second scene. Daniel plays Gautr, an old father to two sons,the favoured son and the overlooked son, of course. He has a stirring speech in the course of a war council, cajoling the council members with past glories of Geatland, demanding they prove themselves worthy of their ancestors. The first version was okay. But Daniel is doing far better work of the text than the text is giving him to work with. Which is a nice sort of challenge to the playwright, the imperative to bring your game up to be worthy of your actors.
This morning begins inauspiciously for our playwright. Ken’s laptop is open, I mention I have a new scene to insert, that fits right between the first two short scenes we’ll work today. This one’s even shorter, maybe twelve lines long. Which makes three short little scenes in a row. “When did this turn into a movie?” asks Ken. Or something like that. Which is a big ouch. Film is short, pithy, visual scenes. Theatre is long, meaty, probing, dialogue soaked scenes. Directors everywhere disdain playwrights who write film scenes for stage. My next play has 48 tiny short scenes. But Ken’s a game guy. We’ll try the new scene tomorrow, but already he’s got to re-imagine how to set the first two tiny short scenes of the day to accommodate this new one.
The first scene up is, well, maybe eight lines long. It feels kind of, uh… filmy. Andrea is Gussi, a young man recruited and unprepared for battle, about to go AWOL. Rhys is an upper class warrior who catches him sneaking off, but is beyond caring. Within two minutes, we’ve all realized the initial circumstances of the scene are wrong. The imagery in the middle is completely confusing. And the ending is…. a big, long film moment. Rhys and Andrea manage to put it together and pull off a completely workable storytelling scene. But… their work is far better than what the text is forcing them to make do with. And I have no idea how else to set this crucial moment. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it? Or bring the game up? Table it for now.
Jamie and Ben – AKA Lara and Halfburinn—are up next. After much problem-solving over how we’re going to establish the new convention of a tent on stage, the intimate love scene works out quite beautifully. Moving on, disaster strikes (in the story this time, not the rehearsal hall). Tons of physical stuff to work out, big fight scene, but the bones of the scene are good. Composer Mark’s marimba underneath make a beautiful sad linking of the two contrasting halves of the scene. And it all leads to the big trial scene I rewrote my first night here.
Which works far better than I’d supposed. It’s long. Or I suppose you could call it a long, meaty, probing, dialogue soaked scene. And it seems to work, holds tension, has lots of identifiable moments I can trim to tighten it up. But I have a long list of scene fixes to work on and I agree with Ken not to mess with it any further until after tomorrow’s end of the week stumble-through of everything we’ve worked through up until now.
11pm, I broke that promise the moment I got home. Went straight to the trial scene, spent two hours revising, then started chipping away at the list…. Only got three items crossed off, but including that nice, meaty little speech for Daniel to sink his chops into. All coming along.
15 Days to Opening: Unexploded Bombs
Unexploded bombs are the little setups you write into a script early on, and don’t get around to dealing with them. Our hero gets a letter she doesn’t want to open, tucks it into a drawer. We all know she’s going to open that letter eventually in the story—at least someone has to. I think I only have a couple unexploded bombs left in the script. There’s one I’ve been worrying over for two drafts now, couldn’t figure out a way to pay off on a set up, but just detonated it now, 11pm. Just a tiny short scene, just at the right time. As these things do, it strikes me as pure gold now, especially as it’s 11pm and I have zero judgment left. Things have an unfortunate way of seeming otherwise by next morning.
Another beautiful morning, we moved outside and ran everything we’ve worked on so far this week to very near the halfway mark. No disasters, no detonations I noticed. I got to play photographer all through it, which is probably a good idea. I paid worry to the details of how the scenes worked, put all my concentration into how they looked through a lens.
After the run, Burgandy slipped up sideways to me, script in hand, asked if I wanted to hear a suggestion on a scene. Sort of, in a strange way, like one of the characters she’s playing does to our poor friend, Beowulf. I’ve come to expect these mid-rehearsal visits, or rather hope for them. Because she always brings a very precise observation about a moment that just doesn’t quite work—a script problem, not an acting problem—and then we have a quiet little conversation that, so far, has always led to an elegant solution. Burgandy has the gift of turning a script problem into an opportunity, an unexploded bomb.
In the afternoon, Jeff led the dragoneers with their prototype body pieces on an attack pattern through the playing space, to their destined battle with Beowulf. Manipulating the head, Jeff calls out the choreography, “Attack! Two, three—Rear up! Big Breath! Forward and turn!” This is just getting the track down he repeats to his team of nine, “This isn’t puppetry yet.” We get the basic track of motions down, he promises, and gradually, gradually, add layers and then details.
Turned cloudy and cooler in the afternoon. Fine weather for dragons.