...we first spoke on our first day of rehearsal...it is now four weeks later with another five weeks to go.
...so how's it been going so far you might ask?
...sometimes I feel like I'm rounding third after cracking a 457-foot blast into the upper deck...and sometimes I feel like Virginia Woolf standing on the bank of the River Ouse with my pockets filled with rocks and gravel.
...some days rehearsals are smooth, sometimes brilliant, sometimes we stumble a bit and sometimes I'm gathering rocks and gravel in my overcoat.
...but it's those bad days that make the final production grand. Bad days mean things need to be corrected and they do get corrected and the production becomes better, tighter, sounder. If I thought every rehearsal was great it'd be time for me to hang up my riding crop, megaphone and beret.
...the first thing a director must do is admit that they are not the know-all and be all of the production. As much as the actors need to listen to the director, the director also needs to listen to the actors. After all, when the curtain goes up, the actors need to feel that they have had a hand in creating their characters. Directors and actors need to discuss each move, each emotion, each decision made. The last thing a director wants are puppets just moving and mouthing and emoting what they are told. Directing a play is a team effort. And both director and actors need to leave their egos out in the parking lot. A play folds when the director simply sits back and allows the actors to find their way around the play with zero guidance.
...a director needs to trust his actors and the actors need to trust their director.
...this production of 12 Angry Men has been a team effort. And now, after four weeks it is taking shape, the actors are no longer just reading lines and bumping into the furniture. They are coming alive, they are living in the moment, they are bringing life to the written word.
...but it's been tough sometimes.
...we have had bad rehearsals, we have had absences, we have had a few bouts of Covid, we have fought through some bad acting choices and a few bad directing choices, we have forgotten lines, forgotten intent and I have made a few directing choices that were so bad even Tommy Wiseau (The Room) would have questioned.
...but again, when the 'bad' is corrected, the production thrives.
...a production of 12 Angry Men needs to run like a machine. When we first began, yes, it was a machine, but more like my first car, a broken down Rambler with a push-button transmission. Push the D button and it somehow went into reverse. Hit the N button and the heater turned off and the windshield wipers came on. Four weeks later, and we are beginning to look and run more like Elvis' beautiful pink 1957 Cadillac. (the play does take place in 1957!)
...when directing a play anything at any time could go wrong. Decades ago I was directing Jesus Christ Superstar. Jesus and Pontius Pilate were a couple and on opening night they had a lovers quarrel and 10 minutes before opening night, Pontius Pilate quit (and these were equity actors). I was in a jam and had no choice. I had to put on a toga and play Pilate. Now Pilate is a tall lean man. Me? A short Italian man with a build more like Mighty Joe Young than Pilate. And when I went out on stage for my first entrance I realized I was still wearing my thick black frame eyeglasses. And when it came to singing I had to talk the lyrics as my singing voice sounded more like a cat being sawed in half. But we survived and the production was fine and it filled the house for six weeks. Needless to say, I never donned a toga or attempted to sing again.
...but that's the beauty of putting on a play. If you are a team, it all will work out in the end.
...as we continue in rehearsals I can see this will be one of the better productions I have ever worked on. There are 12 Angry Men, one guard and a terrific support team. I have the honor of working with a talented group of actors, dedicated to their craft and willing to work hard. If a director has talented dedicated actors willing to work hard, willing to grow and willing to make difficult choices, the production is, as John Lennon once sang "a splendid time is guaranteed for all."
...just keep me out of a toga.