02 December 2004

Totally blocked

Not a post about constipation, I swear. "Blocked" in this case means the show I'm working on. All the actors - all the actors we have seen at any rate - know where they should stand, sit, turn cartwheels, waltz, what have you. Directors always say that they can't do anything until the books are gone (until we have learned all our dialogue and look at other actors rather than down at our scripts all the time), but I think Michael really meant it.

By the way, it is also said that directors direct because it allows them to play all of the parts and that seems to be true of Michael as well. If we don't see Mrs. Dexter soon, we'll have our director on stage with us in a floral print dress and his finest Eleanor Roosevelt impression. Joan, our stage manager, swears that we have a Mrs. Dexter, but I'm beginning to think of her the way children think of the Easter Bunny: believed to exist, but never actually seen. (Mrs. Dexter, of course. Joan exists and has been seen by all of the faithful. I bring her chocolate. She deserves it.)

Anyway, with Mary Ann off-book as Mrs. Stanley and with our Mrs. McCutcheon in the room, Michael tweaked the opening scene. We ran it three times last night and it got better every time. Michael told me at the auditions that he was going to make Mrs. Stanley into a fun part and damned if he didn't. Of course, he's lucky that Mary Ann is playing the role - she's such fun to watch.

I remember seeing her in True West a few years ago. The mother is a tiny part - she comes on at the very end and expresses dismay at the havoc her sons have wreaked in her home. Any woman over 45 can play it. Not many can play it well. Mary Ann made her entrance, looked around at her trashed house and dead plants, and gaped like a fish. The audience had been on the brothers' journey and the destruction had been ongoing. (I wish I could describe it, but that would give away too much to folks who've not seen the play. Go see it.) Mary Ann's reaction was so perfect that we suddenly switched perspectives - we saw the room through her eyes not the brothers'. I completely understood why Shepherd wrote that role.

So tonight we're running Act I, scene i and with luck we can play with it, too. I'm having a great time.

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