Emilie (Penney Kols) and Felix (Larry Dell) discuss the frustrations on running a business on a island of convicts.
The first run-through for any production can be the source of great excitement and anxiety for anyone, but given our abbreviated schedule those feelings grew exponentially! I can hardly believe we are into running the show ONE WEEK after beginning the process, but here we are!
In all honesty, things went as well as expected. I was really looking forward to seeing the whole monster in one piece so that I could take it apart and tinker with it more. And yes. It does still need quite a bit of tinkering and refining to make this world of the Ducotel home in Cayenne, 1910 really come to life. Part of this will come from the individual actors discovering their own arcs. How does, for example, Emilie feel at the beginning of the play as an exasperated wife of a loving, but absent-minded husband trapped in a life on an island far away from her home in France? THEN, how is she transformed through the experience of having Joseph, Jules, and Alfred interfering with her life? Each character must experience some sort of transformation through the dramatic action, no matter how seemingly insignificant that transformation is.
I saw glimmers of this last night and it will simply take more time, rehearsal, and work to draw it all out and this will be our focus for our run tonight and then in our next working rehearsal on Friday. Tonight, each actor will be asked to identify clearly who they are at the beginning of the play, the moment when they really begin to change through the experience, and their final state as a character. I want them to be able to state this in fairly broad terms to begin with so that they have a skeleton to start putting meat onto. Last night’s run was a very “technical”- really making sure that people knew their entrances and exits and the flow of various props. Tonight needs to be a quest for pacing and characterization.
Alfred (Dan Mueller) recounts his crimes that brought him to Devil’s Island as Marie-Louise (Emily Baker) looks on, fascinated.
Based on the work brought last night, I can see this shaping into what will be a delightfully quirky little comedy. The contrast of dark and light is there. The tenderness between various characters is there. Sweet, comic moments are there. It is just in a very raw, rough state at the moment and needs work on pace, pace, and pace. In any play, the action can never stop and we definitely had our share of sluggish moments and slow cue pick-up last night. This, however, was to be expected in a first run. The actors can never allow their energy or focus to drop if the play is going to work. This is all a natural part of the play-making process. As performers grow more confident in their lines, blocking, and characterization, the pace will pick up.
Joseph (Whit Reichert) shows Henri (Richard Lewis) his hastily-made graph as Felix (Larry Dell) looks on, frantic as usual.
For my part, there is still blocking to adjust, comic beats to work, and motivations to clarify. But we’re getting there little by little. I expect tonight will be a good step forward before we take a day off to stuff ourselves with Thanksgiving turkey.