There are shows you survive through like 8th period Western Civ class… watching the clock and hoping that the teacher forgets you’re there. And then there are shows that you miss like summer camp.
You can be in good shows, you can do good work in shows, or you can do shows with good people. It’s rare that all three happen in the same production and when it does it’s awful hard to let those shows go. But here in the #SummerofVerse the next opening awaits and while a rained out finale is no way to go, go we must – time is a blockhead.
What did we learn from Tis Pity?
My goal going in was to focus on physical specificity.
- I can in fact build a character outside in.
I made stance/gait/vocal choices for two of the three characters and filled the “heart” of them in once I was sure those choices made sense. The Friar never got the same treatment and so remained the least specific and most sort of actor neutral of the three. He remained more an idea rather than a person and so never made it to likeable.
- Commit to the bit (not just the laughs).
While rehearsing in small places I choose to have Bergetto enter and exit at full speed. I chose casinoin it on both a micro (it would be funny) and macro (and inject energy into the show) level. I had never visited the Cathedral of Junk and discovered in tech that our entrances and exits (due to sightlines) were VERY long. But committing to the same energy even though it didn’t pay off in laughs ever, did pay off in energy both for the show and for me. It would have been easier to beg off and make a different choice, but it would have made for a weaker show.
- Be careful not to overlook storytelling.
Bergetto went over pretty well. Big laughs – big sympathy… but along the way the second Bergetto scene (1.4 : ttp://goo.gl/lFrnb) stopped being funny. Over the first weekend I realized how much the shtick of Bergetto was running over facts the audience didn’t know yet and the relationship building with Donado. Slowing down enough to make sure that the story got told was spiking the laughs, but paid off later in the repetition of themes in the letter scene and in the increased investment in Bergetto just in time for his death. Trust the story. Tell the story.
- Stock characters are never stock.
The basis of all three of the characters I played in Tis Pity are stock. The Vigilant Moralist, The Innocent Fool, and the Hypocritical Churchman. Like any stew you begin with stock and then keep adding. Bergetto’s innocence in the actual discovery of each moment and the utter guileless joy in…. everything (especially the wench sale in Parma). The Friar’s non-hypocritical religion and honest desire to save everyone - body and soul, and the Cardinal’s pure disdain for the backwater he is nuncio to all bring specificity to the stock exoskeletons they are framed from.
- Never Underestimate the Power of Liking Your Team.
When you are happy at work you work reflects it.
I knew half of these folks before being cast but had only worked with one of them. Once I discovered I could trust these strangers to not embarrass me, crawling under the hood with them and making this bizarre blood opera work was a joy.
When our final night was washed out I was heartbroken. Not just because I didn’t get to say goodbye to these characters but because being in the moment with actors committed to the scene, the story, and the show rather than unspooling their Oscar reel or even just getting through it is rarer than it should be. When you’re contending with less competent or committed coworkers you have to spend some of your time, energy, and focus in rehearsal and during performance helping them make good. You will never be giving everything you have simply to your work. The luxury of focusing on my work and knowing that they would handle theirs without being precious about it was remarkable. I’m going to miss the hell out of this cast and team.
We shall have time
to talk at large of all, but never yet
have incest and murder have so strangely met.
Of one so young, so rich in nature’s store,
who could not say Tis Pity She’s a Whore?