I guess by now I shouldn’t be surprised at the level of talent of the people working on a play at the MRT,
But I am.
I came in the afternoon of the first day of rehearsal. There is the group at the table working on the script and a piano and musician as well. As I come in the group is intensely working on a song. Now I’m not a musician in any way and my gift to singing is not to do so in public. As with other plays I saw this season, there is a script that we were given and it specifically has a date on it. Not something from publication in 1942, but a current date because it’s changing as it comes to rehearsal and during rehearsal. The group is changing things and Charissa, the actress for the musical, is all over it. A change by a beat, a 16th note (I think that’s what was said), and the whole team is on it. Charissa sings it, the music changes, boom they have it.
And then there is a whole discussion about a couple of pages. What is the motivation? Can we change this around to get the momentum right? They go over a few possibilities as a true team and work it out. And Charissa has it immediately. For example, there are three lines in a song about Monkey Juice sales and Sean asks for emphasis on a different word in each line. Sing it. Well, maybe a different emphasis. Sing it. It works and it’s scribbled on everyone’s script. I just can’t get over how actors keep it all in their heads, the constant changes, but it’s there.
And the writers change things so easily. They’ve worked together on it before. I hear them mention a week long workshop where much came together. But this play has it’s world premiere in just 3 short weeks and they are changing major chunks.
Oh, and apparently there are rules. If I think back to my school days decades ago, there are writing rules and a musical seems to be no exception.
But, we all know rules are to be broken – though thoughtfully. That was an interesting thing about some changes being discussed. They discussed doing certain changes to lines/lyrics that would violate some unspoken rule. Sean says that’s OK, but clearly they are careful about doing things so that it will work and serve a purpose for the audience who will likely sense something out of the norm. And apparently a rule about breaking rules is to not do so very often.
They all truly work amazingly hard too. I come in and they’ve been going solid for many hours. A meet and greet, a read through, and now rehearsal with intense work and focus. But they are sharp. And then it’s 4:00, end of they day right? Well that’s what the schedule says, but some leave and three of them go to the piano and just keep working on it. Oh, and before closing out the scheduled part of the day, Sean goes over all the homework. There will be those chunks rewritten that night. A whole new section for the next day.
So, I remain amazed at the dynamics, the rapid changes, the late night re-writing, and Charissa has to somehow get all this in her head for performances. She has to have all the words, all the notes, all the emotion at just the right level, changing on just the right note. he emphasis on words just right. Such talent!
I also ponder the question again of control. There are the writers. There are the actor and musician. There is Sean. In my mind, it’s the creation of the writers, so shouldn’t it be done their way? Well sometimes… Sometimes it’s Sean. Sometimes it’s Charissa. Sometimes the writer. At any rate it’s a very balanced group that is a solid team working together. I wish people I’ve worked with over the years would be such great teams.
That’s it for now. A few days respite in Puerto Rico for me. I can’t wait to come back and see the incredible progress that will happen in a week, given what happens in an afternoon.
My 80-Year-Old Boyfriend runs April 26 – May 21.
(Charissa Bertels, pictured)