é. Tech happens. Everyone jumps off of every wagon they've ever been on. All of a sudden, the whole cast is on a smoke break. People drink themselves to sleep. It's a mess.
It's particularly frustrating as a director. We're in our final week of rehearsals for A LIE OF THE MIND (so this post is particularly relevant and timely). Things are really coming together. We're in an exciting spot. But I am dreading tech week. Why? Not because the show isn't good. It's in really great shape. But the panic is just about to set in. Everybody gets scared. Everything goes wrong. Everybody's egos are going to get the best of them. And nobody wants to be at fault. I am just about to become the whipping boy. Anything goal that wasn't reached by any actor or designer, any moment of wasted time, any shortcoming in accommodation is now the director's fault. The Director becomes the reason why the show isn't perfect.
First of all, the show can't be perfect. We are always striving for bigger and better things. That is the goal in art - and in life. Secondly, theatre is a communal experience. It's a group of people doing something together. And all that group has at any given point is their faith, hard work, and commitment to one another. No one person can make anything fail or succeed. The strength of the group is what creates a great ensemble - and a great production. It's necessary to remind ourselves that the rehearsal period is the place to work through issues. And all we can ask of every artist on any given project is that they take responsibility for their work and give their best effort.
It can always be better. There is never enough time. Things will never be 100% ready. And even on closing night, we should always be searching for more. After years of performing in AMERICAN BUFFALO (with great reviews in three productions), Al Pacino commented in an interview that he was just starting to understand Teach. In an exasperated moment after a critique, David Gideon once asked Lee Strasberg, "When am I ever gonna get it right?" Lee replied, "NEVER. Isn't it exciting?"
I just saw a picture of someone holding a glass with water at the half-way point on Facebook. It was an illustration from a teacher, describing stress. You can choose to see the glass half-empty - and focus on what wasn't accomplished. You can choose to see it half-full - and focus on what is left to discover. But MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you hold the glass for a minute, you'll be okay. If you hold it for an hour, your arm will be very tired. If you hold it throughout tech week, you're shooting yourself in the foot. The glass represents stress. And we all have to remind ourselves to remain creative and productive - even in the face of fear.
Come tech week, every artist seems to feel as though they are on a sinking ship. And so you end up with a whole group of people running around the decks, screaming bloody murder, rather than working together to plug up the holes. Perhaps, they don't do this out loud, but you can see the panic take hold. And as soon as that happens, all of the wonderful work that most actors have taken weeks to create vanishes in a blink. The concern becomes: Are people going to like me? Art can't happen with that thought at the forefront.
Tech can be a magical week - when the whole show comes together. It's beautiful when that happens. And it's important for everyone involved in a show to try and use their time wisely, rather than giving into their worries. Many times, we mistake stressing out for hard work. But all stress does is take us away from doing what we need to do to prepare ourselves.
No matter how long of a rehearsal period you've had, when you hit tech, REMIND YOURSELF that you know the play, your work, your character, and your story 100 times more intimately than anyone coming to see it. Your job is to share your knowledge - NOT to be impressive. This lesson goes for me, the artists working on both A LIE OF THE MIND and MISS JULIE (both opening next week in rep at The Seeing Place) - and most importantly, it goes for any artist anywhere when the pressure is on to showcase your art.
Beyond all else, don't forget: It's called a Play for a reason.
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