Deep Well of Forgetting

There will be several postmortem posts regarding Orestes as I had several roles on the show and want to break them all down. I welcome you to view the video record of Orestes at your leisure (www.cambiareproductions.com) and chime in on any of these posts as you see fit. The tone of these posts will be vaguely negative. Don’t read into that, I’m trying to break down what DIDN’T work so we don’t repeat it. The goal, as always, is to improve.

This first look back is on a meta level from the AD/Producer’s seat. What was it in our approach that led to Orestes being suboptimal, with the understanding that optimal is greatness or transcendence. What can we do to even out the audience’s experience? What can we do to better reassure the actors that they are being cared for and insulate them from the production side as much as possible?

But most to the point: what did we forget going into Orestes that simply having remembered would have saved us a few hours of sleep and sanded down some of the edges?

1. You can’t solve an equation with nothing but variables.
There is a finite equation that equals a fine, polished production. Lord alone knows what that equation is, but whatever it is there needs to be constants in the equation to be able to solve it. Develop new work with people you trust.
Take casting chances on a text you trust.
Take production risks when the text and cast are constants.
You can’t take production risks with all new people and words.
Not with so few sets of hands around to prop up walls when they fall down.

2. This WAS a new work.
Yes. it was based on a three thousand year old text, but an entirely new and unworkshopped adaptation. We kept treating it as though it were a published text, to our detriment. We ignored Point 1 because we failed to consider this a new work.

3. We’re a REALLY new company.
Not an excuse. Will and I both have enough experience under our belts to know better on a lot of things, but Orestes was Cambiare’s second show, and the first Cambiare show on which we were the core creators. There isn’t system in place yet. There is no muscle memory for what we did last time.  The company we keep is by and large older, established companies… we forgot we hadn’t done that yet.

4. We forgot simplicity.
Not that the technical aspects of the show were complex and over the top by any means, but in retrospect what was Really Necessary to tell the story? How could we keep stripping away to maximize our time in the space before the show?
We don’t know because we didn’t do it.
That’s on me. I designed simply rather than simplest.

5. Too. Many. Hats.
Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. I had 5 hats on this show. In trying to accomplish them all I failed at them all. Hubris takes down producer of Orestes. There’s your headline.

 

We’ll remember better for our next show.

  • Just finished watching. It was *so* wonderful to have the opportunity to watch this show – my only exposure to the theatrical work being done in Austin – from so very far away. Thanks very, very much for that opportunity.

    So interesting. I think this line of questioning / post-mort is going to serve you really well.

    After The Long Count, New Leaf (re-)learned that very valuable lesson – your #1. Not just “everything can't be variables,” but we have now set a conscious limit: No more than 3 variables. For us, that's what we've seen a show take before quality starts to slip. Because we do experimental work that challenges us and makes us grow, we go into every process by pre-defining what those 3 variables – those areas of growth – will be. We then mix in a healthy quantity of known constants to balance out the equation – which can be hard with such a young company, when so little can be defined as a constant. New director? Variable. New kind of play? Variable. All new cast? Variable. Producer doing 5 jobs instead of 3? Variable. New space? Variable. Same design team? Constant. Same space? Constant. Repurposing effects that worked really well in your last show? Constant. Some new cast with some veterans who can show everyone the ropes and enculturate the ensemble with the best possible energy? Constant.

    I'm curious – now that you've had some distance – what do you remember as being your primary concern during the two weeks before your opening? If it was making tech simple, that was accomplished. The lighting is really nice – even from the video I saw a delightful rotating gobo (or projections?) that really subtlely pulsed the floor. The sound was really simple, clear, and well-executed.

    As you seem to hint at in #4 – I don't know how much you aligned that design with what the cast was doing – and vice versa. Largely it was there, but it didn't always feel like those two elements of the show were telling the same story – which I think comes from, as you say, a lack of time to let the elements steep into each other and learn and play with each other.

    It is *really* hard to budget the necessary amount of time for this kind of thing, which means that it needs to be a primary focus of the production team and the cast. Were you able to work on tech and acting notes at the same time? Did that work harmonize, clash, feel awkward or natural? We tell our casts at first rehearsal: This is what you can expect tech will feel like, this is what the schedule looks like, this is what it should feel like when we play together, this is your permission to ask for what you need and talk to each other to maximize our creative use of time together. They forget this speech: that's okay. Our constants are our design team, space, schedule, and often our director: we remind them, and walk them through, and support them.

    As you develop this company: identify each thing that succeeds – from the performances to the play to the design to the box office to the lobby. Bottle that lightning, label it, and bring all your bottles to the next process.

    This is your second full production? Don't kick yourself about too many hats. Of course. You haven't had time to enlist help. You'll get there – identify good help. Motivate them to come back again. Connect with their life goals, and see if you can find an increasing number of good fits.

    Well done. Thanks again.

  • Just finished watching. It was *so* wonderful to have the opportunity to watch this show – my only exposure to the theatrical work being done in Austin – from so very far away. Thanks very, very much for that opportunity.

    So interesting. I think this line of questioning / post-mort is going to serve you really well.

    After The Long Count, New Leaf (re-)learned that very valuable lesson – your #1. Not just “everything can't be variables,” but we have now set a conscious limit: No more than 3 variables. For us, that's what we've seen a show take before quality starts to slip. Because we do experimental work that challenges us and makes us grow, we go into every process by pre-defining what those 3 variables – those areas of growth – will be. We then mix in a healthy quantity of known constants to balance out the equation – which can be hard with such a young company, when so little can be defined as a constant. New director? Variable. New kind of play? Variable. All new cast? Variable. Producer doing 5 jobs instead of 3? Variable. New space? Variable. Same design team? Constant. Same space? Constant. Repurposing effects that worked really well in your last show? Constant. Some new cast with some veterans who can show everyone the ropes and enculturate the ensemble with the best possible energy? Constant.

    I'm curious – now that you've had some distance – what do you remember as being your primary concern during the two weeks before your opening? If it was making tech simple, that was accomplished. The lighting is really nice – even from the video I saw a delightful rotating gobo (or projections?) that really subtlely pulsed the floor. The sound was really simple, clear, and well-executed.

    As you seem to hint at in #4 – I don't know how much you aligned that design with what the cast was doing – and vice versa. Largely it was there, but it didn't always feel like those two elements of the show were telling the same story – which I think comes from, as you say, a lack of time to let the elements steep into each other and learn and play with each other.

    It is *really* hard to budget the necessary amount of time for this kind of thing, which means that it needs to be a primary focus of the production team and the cast. Were you able to work on tech and acting notes at the same time? Did that work harmonize, clash, feel awkward or natural? We tell our casts at first rehearsal: This is what you can expect tech will feel like, this is what the schedule looks like, this is what it should feel like when we play together, this is your permission to ask for what you need and talk to each other to maximize our creative use of time together. They forget this speech: that's okay. Our constants are our design team, space, schedule, and often our director: we remind them, and walk them through, and support them.

    As you develop this company: identify each thing that succeeds – from the performances to the play to the design to the box office to the lobby. Bottle that lightning, label it, and bring all your bottles to the next process.

    This is your second full production? Don't kick yourself about too many hats. Of course. You haven't had time to enlist help. You'll get there – identify good help. Motivate them to come back again. Connect with their life goals, and see if you can find an increasing number of good fits.

    Well done. Thanks again.