The first two previews have gone well.
I’m happy with the way the show is going, and thrilled with the work that Aral is doing. Audiences are enjoying it quite a bit – the best thing, so far though, is how helpful the Preview Talkbacks have been.
They’ve been helpful in a few different ways: The top of this show is tough. Right off the bat, you have to establish a convention with the audience that one man will be playing 37 people. He bounces back and forth between Sam (the main character) and EVERYONE ELSE that Sam talks to on the phone or intercom.
For the first few minutes of the play, then, the audience is adjusting to this convention.
The Preview Talkbacks have been wonderful so far in helping us learn how to ease that period of adjustment, clean it up so it’s VERY clear. For instance – we had the phone ringing a bunch (which it must, of course, in a play about phone calls) – today we’re going to knock down the number of rings in the first couple of minutes, to simplify what’s happening: Focussing the audience on the actor and his actions rather than distracting them with extraneous noise may be one of the ways to make that period of adjustment cleaner. We’ll find out in today’s preview, but it’s an idea that came from LAST NIGHT’S audience talkback. We’ll also be exploring a couple other physicality choices, and things like that, to clean it up. It’s one of the things I love most about directing: Working and working on a moment that you know is almost there until you nail it. I absolutely live for those moments in rehearsal!
The good news is that the play works, and works very well. Audiences are enjoying it, laughing, being pulled into the story. This is why I love previews: we have the chance to take something that’s good, and make it great. Polishing the top of the show will help us get closer to that goal.
This dilemma with the top is not a unique thing: Every show has it’s period of adjustment at the top, when the audience is watching intently and working to clarify, in their head, the rules of the game. (Who’s this guy, what’s he doing, where are we? – those kinds of questions.) This is a great opportunity to learn more about our craft as we explore “How do we shorten and simplify that period of adjustment for the audience?”
I’m looking forward to playing with the possible solutions to that puzzle over the next week as we head toward our official opening!