“Geva, as I hope everyone in Rochester knows, doesn’t simply serve as a stage for touring troupes to set up, perform, and move on. Geva develops its own performances, whether of an existing play (like the Odd Couple) or of a world premier such as Mat Smart’s Tinkers to Evers to Chance. In either case, Geva makes it all here in Rochester. The more I get involved the more I appreciate what a treasure Geva is to this community.
As members of director Sean Daniels Cohort Club, we have had the opportunity to watch each stage of a plays development. We sat in on the Table Read, Table Work, and Staging. Now we are seeing the Tech Rehearsal where it all comes together with the script, the actors, the scenery, the sound, and the lighting meeting for the first time, all choreographed by Sean.
For the actors it is their first opportunity to work on the actual set. They had a chance to briefly visit the half finished set after rehearsal last week – they immediately tried out a scene where R.J. (James Craven) carries Lauren (Emily Kitchens) through what looks like the skinniest doorway I’ve ever seen and, bumping the doorway and shaking the entire set, remarked “we’ll figure it out”. That was just the first of the many problems they had to solve and they got right to work at the start of tech rehearsal. Other tech rehearsals we witnessed had the actors standing around chatting and joking while technical problems (lights, sound, etc) were addressed. Emily and James, however, took advantage of every interruption to work through various scenes on their own, whispering their lines while working out solutions to problems that they found in this, their first chance to practice on the set. I think the reason for their focus on additional rehearsing is that this is a very crowded apartment set. They had had half of the furniture mocked up in the rehearsal room and the walls and doorways taped out on the floor but now there were real walls, knick knacks cluttering the tables, and actual doors on the cabinets (only imagined in the rehearsal room). Emily suddenly had to re-work how to enter with her huge purse and heavy computer bag without scraping the wall or knocking stuff off of the table; which shoulder to carry her bags on and how and where to deposit them without knocking stuff over and still maintain the cadence and delivery she had practiced. James now had cabinet doors to open and real props to handle. When Emily spread out The Jersey on the coffee table, something she had practiced many times, she found a candy dish in the way. Should she move it aside or should set designer Apollo Weaver replace it with a magazine or something else flat? We saw many discussions like this.
Also filling the many tech interruptions were various specialists entering the stage to finish last minute details on the set, adjust costumes (costume designer Amanda Doherty had James try out three different shirts), or, with Apollo’s approval, move a piece of furniture. One detail that was addressed was that the coffee table had no doily when we first saw the set and someone came on to try out about a dozen different ones. Anna Marie, following Cohort Club rules to not become an additional director, resisted the temptation to shout out which was the right one. In the end they selected the same one she preferred – phew! I was just as anxious to shout out that shirt number two for R.J. was too casual and that the lights on the window were wrong but I resisted.
Well, what about the tech part of the tech rehearsal? We wanted so much to spend all afternoon asking the sound designer (Stowe Nelson) and lighting designer (Emily Stork) about their craft but they were really busy. So this report on what they do is based on our observations only. Reading the script and watching some of the rehearsal run-throughs the lighting and sound designers have independently done their designs, with input from Sean I am sure. The lighting design is a drawing (blueprint) of where which lights are hung and pointed combined with instruction on when and how to turn them on. The lights are grouped by the sound designer in numbered “cues” with each grouping serving a particular purpose (i.e.; 4 lights to light the back all of the apartment might be “cue 5”). The separate groupings are wired into the “board” in the control room so that when cue 5 is called for one command turns on all 4 lights at the proper intensity. The lighting designer then indicates which cues are to be activated at which precise point in the stage action. During tech rehearsal she is constantly adjusting the timing and intensities by talking to the control booth through her headset. Similarly, the sound designer has captured or recorded snippets of sound or music to support and enhance the action and assigned “cues” to each. For example, the sound of a radio playing has to be started when the actor turns the switch on the radio – someone in the control booth knows to do this through the cues the sound designer has provided. During the tech rehearsal we sat in on we watched Sean and Stowe refine the sound from outside the apartment indicating that there is a baseball game about to start. This alone took 20 minutes or so and when we left after two hours they had not yet gotten 10 minutes into the play. It takes several 12 hour days before the production is ready.
During all of this the Stage Manager ( Frank Cavallo) is making sure that every instruction and every cue is precisely recorded for replication during the performance. Production assistant (Jenny Daniels) is working with the actors so that every prop and every backstage action will be in the right place at the right time.
Lastly, it was interesting how much the set influenced the feeling of each scene. It was as if a third actor had been added to the play and the actors now had to adjust; deliveries practiced to perfection in the rehearsal room now had a completely different feeling and meaning in the context of the actual set and needed to be adjusted.” – David and Anna Barclay