Well, not quite on
The past few weeks at work
have been fuller than the weeks directly before opening a show usually are for me. For one thing, I don't usually need to make time to attend rehearsals. Of course, I don't usually stick my head out of the booth and talk during performances, either.
If you know anything about Luigi Pirandello's play, it will come as no surprise that much about this production is odd. The basics: The members of an acting company are beginning their first day of rehearsals for a play when the titular six characters show up and insist that the actors perform their
play instead. It seems their author abandoned the play he was writing -- the play about them -- and now they want someone else to take it up and continue their story.
What follows is a rollercoaster of melodrama, broad comedy and mind-twisting challenges to our comfortable concepts of artifice and identity. A simple play-within-play this puppy ain't. And while Lou Lippa's new translation/adaptation is playing around with its own theatrical artifices, it has a few technical gags thrown in for fun. That's where I come in.
Lou had written a character he named "Harry Andrews" as the guy up in the theatre's light booth. Oddly, he's one of the few characters in the play to have an actual name; most are "The Father" or "The Director" or "The Young Actor" -- you get the idea. In Lou's original script, Mr. Andrews is described as "a voice from the booth." Given the intimacy of the Steinbright Stage (179 seats, I think) director Ken Marini wanted an actual person rather than a recorded voiceover (which, I gather, is what some of the administrative folks took as a given when they read the words "a voice"). I'm still not quite certain what started this ball rolling, but I was asked if I'd be interested in doing this part with a few lines.
Then I began to find out about some of what Kenny wanted to do with the play. He and Lou have worked together for something around thirty years at this point, so there's a real dynamic of collaboration going on. Example: Ken wanted the members of "The Acting Company" -- the actors playing actors within the show -- to all use their real names. So when Peter De Laurier, playing The Director, gives instructions to Mark Del Guzzo, who's playing The Young Actor, it sounds something like this:
"... you enter up left after her line."
Naturally, Kenny wanted me to be "me" as well. So things are getting seriously metatheatrical at this point. We're having the theatre's master electrician playing the tech guy? Talk about self-referential. Man, I eat this stuff up.
We had our first preview tonight. I'm happy (i.e
. relieved) to say the play works for audiences. Seemed like a good time was had by all. I ought to have been in bed asleep two hours ago. I'm a little wired. Sure, around half my lines are "Yes, sir," or variations thereof. It's still acting of some sort. It's energizing; it's comfortable; it feels good.