The 99 Diaries: The Fifth Week
Obviously, the whole idea of blogging every day about this whole process has failed miserably. When I concocted that idea, I think I was assuming I would be getting enough sleep, eating well, being organized and generally feeling more confident. So, most of my entries from now on will probably be more reflective than energetic – though there is still much work to be done.
We are at the end of our fifth week of rehearsal – which means we have only one more week left, then a week break for Christmas, and another week of tech before we open the show. Rehearsals have been going pretty well, despite my inarticulate nature and general ineptitude – and I will say that most of the fears I had about being too close to the material as the writer to have a clear vision of what is working or not as a director have not materialized. I don’t see “99 Impossible Things” as my perfect little baby that must be handled with care. Though I’m sure I’ve probably rationalized myself into keeping things that could be cut, I have been able to tweak small areas – and when I’m in rehearsal, I sorta forget I’ve written it at all. I just see it as any other convoluted play I’ve ever directed – and being the writer doesn’t seem to help in answering the usual questions from actors.
From the moment I decided to direct this thing, I’ve been working hard to make sure I could distance myself enough from the material to be able to see it for what it is. I think I’ve been able too…but next week I’m having some friends stop in and give me feedback from their fresh eyes – so it’s very possible that idea might come crashing down around me.
I’ve tried to avoid talking about where the ideas came from or why I wrote certain things – though those questions haven’t been brought up too often – because I don’t find them relevant to the work we’re doing and the danger in those kinds of anecdotes is allowing me to fall into a kind of writer-like sentimentality. I’m of course trying to get the story across in the way I intended it, but sometimes my intentions are not always the right decision. I’ll save the sentimentality for my writer notes in the program.
In any case, the actors are dealing with me with superb talent and dedication. All the good stuff they are doing on stage probably has nothing to do with anything I told them to do.
This is the fun part of rehearsals – when everyone is off book and has their blocking and we can really start to tweak and play and discover moments – when characters really start to come to life. And I’m seeing that. And its freaking awesome.
But this is also the part when logistics start to be the thing I worry most about – costumes, set, props, lights, sound, etc. I had an extra long meeting with my costume and set designers on Tuesday and have probably been driving them a little nutty with my neurotic behavior. But starting next week, we’ll have the basic set and props to use all week, which will help with the tightening of the show immensely. And our publicist has already lined up a few pre-production promotional things, which is great but also terrifying.
That terror is an interesting thing. What I’ve found in recent weeks is that I feel, as a director, far more vulnerable than I do as a playwright. I might as well be up on that stage with the actors, ready to be judged by the great audiences and critics of LA. As a playwright, there are things I can hide behind – but as a director AND writer, I really have nowhere to hide. I’ve also had a long tumultuous discussion with myself over bad reviews vs. good reviews, standing by your decisions vs. allowing other people’s opinions to dominate your course of action and emotions. I will be writing more about that this weekend.
In any case, “99″ is a nice little story with some great actors and great production values for a 48 seat theater production operating on just shy of a $3000 budget. If people come to the show expecting the next great American play, they’ll be disappointed – but if they come with a open heart, a sense of humor and a mind capable of imagination, then I’m hoping they will enjoy it.
I’m certainly doing my best with it – maybe it won’t be enough, but I feel I have enough grounding in the script and enough talent backing me up to make it something I can be proud of.