Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Long Weekend, Part II

Things started getting tense in a rehearsal that we were told was going to be a tech rehearsal. We were expecting to come in, find our lights, do a sound check, and get out of there. Instead we were being directed by corporate types lacking creative sensibilities and tact. They were treating us like office peons that they had found off the streets. I wanted to shout out, "I have been doing this for 20 years. I know what I am doing. Shut the fuck up." Instead, I turned to our producer and said, "Tell them to work on the lights and sounds and I will do the acting."

After three hours of suffering through the notes and misdirection, our producer convinced them to let us go so we can work on our material. We had a few hours break and then we had to report back for a dress rehearsal. We were told to wear our costumes and be back by 5:45 pm.

I went back to the hotel and began studying my lines. I worked most of the time memorizing and going over my acting beats. I felt mostly prepared (let's say 80%). We met in the lobby of the hotel at 5:25 pm and went back to the Dallas Convention Center. Once there we were quickly herded to the performance space. We were miked up and then we waited. We waited some more. And then we waited a bit more.

We finally did a run of the show. We stumbled over a few lines but we made it through. The corporate types huddled and discussed whatever concerns they had with our producer. Our producer had asked them not to give the actor notes. He told them the best way to get us to do what they wanted was to go through him. He gave us the notes and then we were asked to do it again. We did. The second time was pretty much the same as the first. The corporate types huddled and discussed whatever concerns they had with our producer. They asked us to do it again. We did. The third time was like the first and the second. The corporate types huddled and discussed whatever concerns they had with our producer. Now we were getting frustrated. One of the corporate types asked us to do it again. Finally, one of the actors asked, "why?" The crew member said they wanted to see it again. The actor (not me by the way) said that we had done it three times and she wanted to know what else they needed to see.

The corporate type got angry and went to our producer. "You need to control your actors," she said, "one of them told me no and I am not used to being told no." GASP! There was another huddle with the corporate types and our producer and then, just like that, we were dismissed.

On the way back to the hotel our producer told us they wanted to make some cuts to our scene. They had even contemplated cutting our scene entirely. They didn't have confidence in our product. He told them that we had a very early morning call. We were tired and we needed our rest. He reminded them that we were professional actors from a respected 45 year old comedy institution. He got us out of a bad situation that night but they insisted that we be at the venue at 6:30 am the next morning.

I went back to my hotel room feeling exhausted. I studied my lines. I watched some TV. I went to bed.

I woke up at 4:30 am in a panic. I studied my lines again. I showered and dressed. I was in the hotel lobby by 6:10 and we were off to the convention center again.

There was a tension in the air. Everyone was very cold towards us. We were ushered into the venue and miked. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. During our wait, we ran our lines together. We sped through the scene several times until we finally got a go from the crew at 8:00 am. I was feeling brain dead but ready to get this show over.

My character entered from the audience. The beginning of the scene was going well but something happened about a third of the way in. I just went blank. Sweat beaded on my forehead as the whole room waited. The technicians, the crew, the corporate types with their assistants, and the other members of my cast, all seemed to be holding their breath but it was hopeless, I had forgotten my line. Finally, one of the corporate types yelled out my line. Thank goodness. I picked up my line and carried on. Then it happened again. I went up. I forgot another line. The corporate type yelled out my line. I picked it up and carried on. We finished the scene and I exited the stage sullenly.

There are no words for the embarrassment I felt at that moment. I had dropped the ball -- big time. My producer came up to me and told me that it was ok. He knew that I had memorized my lines. He had witnessed our line through earlier that morning. He told us that they were going to cut us because of my slip but he talked them out of some how. The corporate types said that they would feel better if they placed a copy of my lines at the foot of the stage, just in case. GASP! How embarrassing.

The show began about 1 1/2 hours later. I was so nervous. My neck and shoulders were in knots. All I could do backstage was pace. Our scene occurred about 30-35 minutes into the presentation. I was getting anxious for us to go on. Suddenly, I had an uncontrollable urge to pee. I asked the corporate type with headset posing as a stage hand if I could go to the bathroom. She said no. I told her that I would be right back. She said I was miked up and the show had started so no. I looked her dead in the eyes and said, "now listen, I have to pee this is non-negotiable." She relented and let me go. I ran to the toilet and returned a good 10-15 minutes before my entrance.

"You're on," said the corporate type with the headset. I entered the audience and took my place. The show went off without a hitch. The audience loved it and laughed their butts off. We were 2/3 through the scene when I looked at the floor and noticed that my lines were printed on several white sheets of paper.

Immediately after our scene we got the hell out of there. We didn't stay for the rest of the presentation. The environment was toxic. We were exhausted.

We went back to the hotel. Changed into comfy clothes and headed to the Texas Book Depository
. We were all interested in seeing it and we were walking distance from the location of our 35th president's assassination.

The museum was a wonderful piece of American history but we were all in such a strange state of mind following the experiences of the previous day and a half. Our producer bought us lunch. We went back to the hotel and made our way to DFW airport.

Check in at the airport was standard and we made our way to our gate. We were finally going home. We had been in Dallas for less than 30 hours but it felt like we had been there for 3 days.

Our flight back to Chicago was scheduled to depart at 3:00 pm but at 2:30 pm we were told that our flight was delayed until 3:45 pm. And then it was delayed until 4:15 pm. And then it was cancelled. GASP!


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