Fresh Eyes on EVERYBODY, 4th Installment
This week, EVERYBODY moved from the rehearsal hall onto the stage. Adding the design and technical elements is always a complex process, and this show is made exponentially more complex by having five actors switching roles every performance. For example, the stage manager must not only know to call cue 137B just as Friendship stops laughing, but she also has to know each of the five actors' particular way of playing that moment so that the timing will be perfect every time. With the roles assigned by lottery every performance, there are well over a hundred possible combinations for actors, stage management and running crew to be ready for. With only a handful of days to work out all these details, it's an exciting time for EVERYBODY!
Here's the report from our Fresh Eyes observers:
Today’s tech rehearsal was dark. Literally dark, as it will mostly be during performances; stylistically dark, since the cast wore black; and metaphorically dark because the text focused on bad dreams and entrapment. The actors continued to refine their lines and their movements, but in this instance, they were less important as performers than as objects. The prime movers were the sound crew, the lighting folks, the stage managers. The actors’ lines became sounds to be measured and balanced; their movements a matter of lighting and shadow. The pace was stop, start, repeat; rethink, rework, redo. Only a few days to opening, and the big things are stable enough to focus on the ‘small’ stuff that will matter if it goes wrong and will be invisible to the audience when it goes right: how can the offstage reading be miked so that the audience hears the lines but not the turning of pages? How can the stage marks be made visible, but not too visible, on a darkened set?
This was the first rehearsal I saw staged with costumes and sets, and it was magical. The playwright demands so much for this performance to work. Some of it can seem almost unnecessarily complex on the page--for example, having the actors switch not only roles, but voices. But the effect of it in action was convincing and creepy. John San Nicolas talking to Andrea Vernae in Vernae’s voice managed to seem reassuring for her at the same time as it seemed like a warning for all of us. If that was the impact of one part of one scene, I can’t wait to see the rest.
Was That a Dream? Or Was That a Vision?
It’s tech week here at EVERYBODY, and it’s my second time ever watching how all the work the directors and ensemble have put in connects to all the work the designers have done. It’s a jarring experience, to be honest, as there’s a moment, generally a few minutes into tech rehearsal, where a realization dawns on me: at this point, the memorization, and the choices, and the blocking has all been finished. The actors are ready, they just don’t know what they’re ready for. Imagine reading half a book: you’d have a wonderful, nuanced grasp of that section of the story, and you’d probably be able to make good guesses as to what happens next, but without the second half, they would all be guesses.
This is how I felt watching the cast and crew work through sound cues, mic issues, prop handoffs, etc. during a particularly technically difficult part of the play. For example, at this moment, our SOMEBODIES are backstage on live mics with EVERYBODY, and somewhere during that conversation (choral-like in how it passes “the ball” back and forth) the whole cast has to rush on stage and perform the remainder of the scene via gesture and mimicry while the sound continues to run on recording. In this case, via lottery, it was John San Nicolas “lip-singing” Andrea Vernae’s every [body] word. This sort of blew my mind, and further increased my awe for not only the ensemble, along with Co-Directors Dámaso Rodríguez and Jessica Wallenfels, but also Sound Designer Phil Johnson, who had to figure out how all these pieces might fit together.
And most of these pieces were being fit together in the dark, as it was dark most of the time on Alder Stage on Wednesday morning/afternoon. So dark, in fact, that Stage Managers Michelle Jazuk, sitting like a mad genius at her control center, would call “DARK” for the ensemble about 3 seconds before each time the lights went completely out. A helpful reminder, of course, to be careful when walking and blocking out aspects of the rehearsal. The lights would dim, then set, like a mid-winter sun, and spotlights would take their place, or this single flood light I kept staring at, burnt orange, pointed towards the few audience seats set on stage. I was in one of those seats, and every time that light ignited on me, I couldn’t help but “act” for a moment: should I look at it? Should I look at the stage? If I was to act like an audience member, what would I do? How does an audience act?
Most impressive, though, during the fading light and rising dark, was the continued work of each member of the cast, directors, and crew. Even during complete darkness, the low murmur of direction wandered about the stage, and important questions were asked and answered in pitch black. What’s that old adage? “The show must go on.” This was one of the first moments where I could put that line in some specific context; a place and people to cast in the rehearsed rhetoric of it. Somebody turn the lights out on you? Too bad. Keep working. Keep acting. Keep playing.
My image of the day was more like a sound of the day: during mic calibration, Michael Mendelson was running through EVERYBODY’s lines in the scene, to practice, but also to give Phil Johnson sound. A “check, check” of sorts, that went on for a long while. Somewhere in the darkness, amid a fifth or sixth push through the lines, lines that recall a dream, hazy and torpid, Mendelson begins reciting Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” speech from Act III, Scene 1. And in that hazy dream, long rehearsed and given again and again, here was another sleepless recollection in that sleep of death of what dreams may come. Mendelson didn’t get to finish the speech, much to my dismay, as we soon moved on to another mic. In the end, another poetic moment of connection, unfinished. But, the work must continue! Aye, there’s the rub.