Here’s a quick recap of rehearsal last week:
Tuesday, April 27
First day in the space! Because of the intimate nature of the space and the reality of some of the set pieces, we spent a good deal of time today exploring sightlines (the audience’s view of the stage). We have a bed with a large headboard and Blanche’s all-important trunk that holds many props and costume pieces. Both are quite large and primary pieces of Stanley and Stella’s bedroom. We spent a good hour today doing the “bed-and-trunk dance.” Many of you may not know what this dance is, but we know it well. Basically we all sat around in various seats and configured the bed and desk in as many orientations as we could come up with to see what would work best. Director David Cromer and set designer Collette Pollard have worked tirelessly to create the audience experience of peering into this home. It is a unique and intensifying theatrical experience that will certainly bring you closer to this play.
This morning we also went to our draper’s home in Logan Square, where Blanche (Natasha Lowe) tried on some of the original costumes designed by Janice Pytel. This involved Janice, Janice’s assistant, Cromer, myself, Carolyn (the draper) and Carolyn’s assistant all sipping coffee and standing around Natasha, scrutinizing her in-process and lovely costume pieces. We make sure it fits perfectly and has a great sense of vitality.
Wednesday, April 28
Today, we add lights and sound. We started from the top and have been working our way through the show. After 4 hours of technical rehearsal, we got through about 15 minutes of show, which—to be perfectly honest—is pretty impressive considering the technical complexity of this play. We spent some time creating the opening moment and its encompassing soundscape. Cromer really wants to introduce the street, the neighborhood, New Orleans and then “zoom into” Stanley and Stella’s home, where our play unfolds. We are working with live sound and recorded sound to create this. Two actors walk past a bank of seats to create a conversation. Another actor runs around back and through the dressing room, shouting lines, to give the sense he’s walking around the block. Then we have the recorded sounds of the “Blue Piano” (a jazz club around the corner). All the sound and original music have been carefully and beautifully composed by sound designer Josh Schmidt. We rehearsed this over and over, tweaking cues and timing to make the sounds happening all around the audience jibe with each other. And we’ll continue to do so over the next week.
Friday, April 30
Today we spent approximately 3 hours “teching” Scene 6. It’s about a 15-minute scene that takes place when Mitch and Blanche return home from their date. It’s a beautifully written, sweet and emotionally powerful scene. The work that the design team is doing to enhance this beauty is full of nuance and takes time to develop and hone. Again, it’s totally worth it.
This scene takes place around 2 AM, so we really want to achieve that pitch black, middle-of-the-nigh moonlit effect. Most of the scene is lit by actual candlelight, which is quite exciting as it takes on a sense of life and possesses a much different quality of light than the theatrical lighting instruments we’re using elsewhere. To highlight certain moments in this scene, Lighting Designer Heather Gilbert and Master Electrician Margaret Hartmann focus their lights to bathe the characters in just enough moonlight so we can see their faces. Blanche has a very powerful—and informative—monologue in this scene, and Heather focuses this one light (beautifully, amazingly) on only Blanche’s face. It takes time to get just the right amount of light in just the right place, but affords the moment such beauty, power and intimacy.
We began preview performances this week, where we tweak and rehearse during the day and perform the show for audiences at night. Check back for more updates!