When Pigs Fly

At this point I’m pretty much toast. Which is actually a bit of a good thing, as the more run-down I am on Friday and more likely I am to stay out of Matt’s way and let him do his job. I mean really, from this point forward I’m little more than a glorified sound operator.

Another year, another EMACT Festival, without a doubt my favorite weekend of the calendar year. This will be number six for me, and while I’m disappointed about the way attendance has dwindled as we shuffle all over the state trying to find a suitable new home, I’m still geared up for it. This will be the second of those six in which I won’t be performing, a fact I’m decidedly bummed about. Of course the major difference between ’07 and ’04 (my previous no-go) is that I’m directing this year as opposed to just working run crew. I’d rather be performing to be sure, but directing has it’s pleasures as well. Chief among them is the fact that I’m extremely proud of the way the show has turned out and am excited to see it up on the big stage. Yeah, it played just fine at the home space back in the fall, but all of the things that are adding up to make it different come Festival are going to make it, at least in my mind, significantly better.

First off is the cutting. I’m very happy with the cutting, as I have a real hard time even remembering the things that are now missing. Most of the major cuts I made were things that didn’t work in the initial production anyway, so having them gone not only tightens the show up, but fits the old adage of addition-by-subtraction. Plus the woman who wrote it had a terrible habit that drove me nuts, and it’s one I’ve been able to fix with he cuts. Namely, she apparently never learned the “golden rule of three”. Comedy works in threes. It always has, always will. For a joke to work you need three parts and ONLY three parts. Part one sets the circumstance, part two establishes the pattern, and part three either breaks the pattern and creates the punch line or takes the pattern so far to the extreme to make it funny. Anything more is overkill. Everybody I know who has any sort of appreciation for the art of comedy knows this. Unfortunately the playwright didn’t. More often than not she uses four or five in a given sequence, which is not only unnecessary, but it kills the comic rhythm. She dwindles too much on a joke and kills it’s effectiveness. For instance, in the scene with the Wolves Of The One Night Stand, she’s got three wolves. Perfect. But she gives them a total of four cheesy come-on lines, which means Wolf #1 has to do two. Having one guy give two while the other two are only giving one has always been awkward. Plus, it’s not like any of the come-ons are so over the top that they ALL have to be there. We’ve cut one out and the joke will work better as a result. So the cutting is going to be a major plus I believe.

Another positive is the fact that we had a significant break between when we initially performed the show and now. As a result, there was a lot of time to get away from it and then come back to it somewhat fresh. When I took “Five Women” two years ago, I basically just wanted to do an abbreviated version of the show. With “Pig” I’ve been able to make a lot of changes; re-working bits that never quite went over like I thought they might, throwing away ideas that were ill-advised from the beginning (goodBYE crappy opening sequence!) and really injecting some new life into the show. In some cases just having something new has been a help for the cast. I think it’s kept the experience from being completely stale for them. And they’ve certainly got into the act, as more than one of the characters has changed, sometimes quite drastically, without any real input or encouragement from me. And I like the changes. It’s pretty rare in theater that you get a chance to go back and re-do something with the wisdom of the experience in hand. It’s basically a do-over. The concept actually makes me even more juiced about re-staging Shakespeare in the fall because I know as much as most of what we did worked, there will be things we’ll do different this time, and I’m curious to see what we come up with.

The final difference for “Pig” is going to be the stage itself. We have so much space at Festival, and for this show I think that will make an enormous difference. Just watching a rehearsal the other night when we camped out in a local gym and got a sense of how much more room there was to play with I began to see the possibilities. The cast certainly could feel it. Things weren’t so cramped any more. Intentions were significantly clearer because there was suddenly distance to be traveled. There’s so much more opportunity for movement, which in turn makes so much of what they’re doing more apparent. Even something as simple as Scotty’s Class Instructor became visibly more dynamic because he suddenly had his students spread out around him instead of bunched up at his feet. He looked like a man with considerable power, and according to him, he felt that change. I also happen to think our new opening sequence, simple as it is, will play well in the space. It’s looked pretty cool at Acme with it’s low ceiling and no wings. I have a feeling that up on that expansive stage with the colored backdrop it’ll be petty kickin’.

So yes, all-in-all I’m psyched about the progress we made and where we’re at. I’m confident in the finished product and I can tell that my actors are happy with it and in a good place mentally. Friday should be fun. That being said, the remounting process sucked ass and I’m glad it’s over. Making the changes was fun, but rehearsing again was arduous for everyone involved. Truth be told I had some major fears coming into this week because the rehearsals had been so lackluster and out of focus that I wasn’t sure we’d ever get it all to come together. Not to put it all on the actors, as I’m sure I had a great deal to do about the vibe in the room, but you just got the sense they didn’t care. Going through the motions would be putting it mildly. Of course, as with any show, the final week is what matters, and we’ve had back-to-back rehearsals where people were tuned in and the show clicked. I can nitpick to death if I want, but in all honesty I’d be doing it to make up for my misgivings about my own work and not their’s. They’re ready. Now they just need me to get out of the way.

So I will. Around this time tomorrow I will attempt to let go of the reigns and just become another member of the crew. Matt is so prepared for this that it’s scary. Any more involvement from me than what had been mapped out and required would certainly muck things up. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t manage to make a pain in the ass out of myself, but there’s hope.

Like I said, at this point I’m pretty much toast. And that’s a good thing.


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