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Broadway Bound

Episode 35

SEVEN DAYS AND COUNTING

Friday, September 11, 1998
3:20 A.M.
The Rehearsal Rooms

Drema? What are you doing here so late? Why do you have the lights -

"Don't turn the lights on! Please. Hello, darling. I'm fine. Just working a bit late, that's all."

Are you all right? You sound -

"I'm fine! Now please leave me alone. Please."

Drema, what's wrong?

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

Do you need an ambulance?

"No!"

This isn't like you. Where's that light switch?

"No! Please! Don't!"

Drema. Your face . . .

"I asked you not to turn on the lights. You were warned."

But . . .

"Could you pour some cold water on this towel?"

You've been crying.

"For hours and hours. Pathetic, isn't it; an old woman sitting alone in the dark, crying? Although, come to think of it, I believe I opened a second act with something just like this once. Of course, then it was a young woman sitting alone in the dark . . . "

I'm calling an ambulance.

"Darling, I'm old and weak and I know I look a fright, but if you take one more step toward that phone - and this I promise you - you'll regret it. I will not willingly return to that hospital - any hospital - while I'm still alive. And, after I'm dead, what's the point?"

Drema, stop talking like that. You're not dead and you're not . . .

"But, darling, I am. Didn't you notice? Oh, that's right, I've had closed rehearsals for the last three days. You couldn't know what's happened to me. How could you? I'm not sure I know what's happened to me."

Will you at least let me call my doctor?

"Aren't you feeling well?"

For you.

"I'm fine, thank you. For years I've been blocking this scene in my mind. I wrote the lines before you were born. Every so often I run them again, to make sure I could still muster that exact note of dignified resignation so necessary to cheap melodrama. It's an award winning performance I've prepared to give. But, you know what? Now that I have my cue . . . now that I have no choice . . . I can't do it anymore."

Do what?

"Say the lines right, dammit! Haven't you been listening? I can't say the lines right! I've been fighting it for the last three days, but, I can't fight it anymore. It's gone. My talent . . . what you used to call my magic, when we first met . . . it's gone."

Nonsense. You've been working too hard and -

"Darling, if I can reach my purse . . . ah, here we are . . . this is a loaded gun. Are you going to force me to use it?"

Suicide is not the ans -

"No. I'm not going to shoot me, dear. I'm going to shoot you, if you don't shut up and stop contradicting everything I say. Understand?"

Umhum.

"That's better. Now . . . sitting here in the dark for nine hours or so has given me time to both accept that I can no longer perform in front of a paying audience, and, since I have no intention of just retiring to the sidelines, think about where I can make myself useful. Darling, do sit down! You're making me nervous hovering like that."

I still don't understand what you mean about not being able to perform anymore.

"I suppose it would be difficult for someone who has never acted to understand. Remember how I told you I'm always two different people in my mind, when I'm playing a role?"

I remember you saying that for one of you, everything that happens is really happening.

"The character, yes. It's like that bit about telling a lie convincingly. In order to tell a lie that looks and sounds like the truth, the liar must believe - at least for the moment - that it is the truth. When I'm in character, I genuinely believe that everything that's happening to me is real. I don't know what the other actors are going to say, because the situation we're in is new to me. I've got to listen to what they say and watch what they do before I can respond.

"But, there's another person in my mind at the same time. I call her the observer. It's this observer who feeds me my next line or bit of business, who makes sure I'm always in my light or pitching my voice in the best register, who keeps an eye on everything that's going on onstage and makes me aware of how the audience is reacting to the scene.

"Both the character and the observer must be doing their jobs at the same time. When they are, I am an actress. When they are not, I am nothing."

And they are not?

"It's taken me these last three days of rehearsal to accept the fact that they are not, anymore. Oh, the character is still there and reacting away . . . and the observer is still there, critical as ever . . . but I'm just not strong enough to make them work together and at the same time. I've lost the ability to focus and concentrate. I am no longer an actress."

Couldn't you fake it?

"Darling, believe me I've considered faking it many, many times tonight. But, I can't. Or, rather, I won't. It would be dishonest."

Are you sure you just don't need a good night's sleep?

"I'm sure. I will never walk onto a stage again as an actress."

Well. There isn't anything else to be said, then, is there? Wait here. I'll call a cab and get you home.

"Thank you . . . I hoped you would understand. But, we don't need a cab. Let me -"

What's not to understand? That one week before we open for previews, some crazy old woman decides on a whim that she can't act anymore? What's not to understand? That the whole production of The Rehearsal was crafted to you, so you can't be replaced? At least, not in time. What's not to understand? That because of your irresponsible cowardice or whatever it is, we've lost something just less than a million dollars? Believe me, I understand these things all too well. All too well . . . you vain, stupid, feeble-minded, useless old woman!

"Dear, you never were an actor. I think it's a bit late for you to try and start to be one now. If that tawdry little speech was meant to make me angry enough to change my mind, you've failed miserably. Although, it was a sweet thing for you to try, and I thank you for it."

What gave me away?

"The tears running down your cheek as you said it. Besides, you're wrong. I can be replaced, and I'm going to be. You never read Wilbur's original version of the play, did you?"

No.

"I thought not. The original version of the play, and the one we are going back to, was written with Laura in her very early twenties. It was historically inaccurate, but there were several gloriously funny sex scenes to make up for it. The only major change required is having all my costumes refitted on Robin. David shouldn't have any problem with the new lines, since they are practically the - "

What? Robin?

"Yes, dear. Robin's going to take over my part. She has two whole days to learn the lines and blocking before we go into tech. That should be plenty of time. After all, she's a Paige. First, you need to get Wilbur down here with a copy of the original script. We can make enough copies on the photocopier in your office to get started with. You also need to find Robin and tell her she has a six o'clock call. And get Mildred and J. B. in early too. We won't need David until - "

Drema. Drema? What are you thinking?

"Isn't it obvious, dear? We have one week to restage the play from the beginning. Now, I hope you are not going to start telling me that it's impossible, or that I can't do this or that. With so little time, everyone needs to be as positive as is humanly possible! Think good thoughts, and all that rubbish. Don't you have phone calls to make? Chop, chop!"

Drema, you're getting hysterical and I want you to stop waving that gun around.

"What? Oh, this? Here, put it back on the prop table where it belongs."

It's a prop?

"Second act, dear. Really, as one of the producers, you should sit in on a run-through occasionally. I'd be embarrassed to admit I didn't realize it was plastic! And while you're on the phone, order up some hot tea. I'll have Earl Grey with lemon. Decaf. You know, I always wondered what it would be like to be the director. If it's anything like this, just sitting here ordering people about, then we're all going to have a wonderful week!

The exercises detailed in Directing for the Stage: A Workshop Guide of 42 Creative Training Exercises and Projects by Terry John Converse provide both the instructor and the student with a proved, "user-friendly" workshop structure. Wonderfully practical and insightful, these exercises sensitize students to the components of stage direction - narrative curve, rhythm, space, etc.- to create better directors and actors. Designed to be used for both beginning and advanced courses of Directing for Theatre, the basic concepts of directing are learned progressively and in a "hands-on" manner.
Directing for the Stage: A Workshop Guide of 42 Creative Training Exercises and Projects
by Terry John Converse
List Price $16.95
Meriwether Publications
ISBN 1566080142


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Broadway Bound is written by Mike Reynolds


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