infinite jest

Infinite Jest Blog

Final rehearsals and performances

Posted : October 29, 2016

Day 12

This evening we had our final Girl and the North Wind rehearsal. It was a bit frustrating because the boys weren't taking it as seriously as I'd hoped. I don't think it's sunk in for them that they're performing the show next Tuesday! I know it's hard for them rehearsing without all the props and we haven't even introduced costume yet. This was the first time they'd rehearsed with the set in the space so we spent a lot of time just going through staging when I'd wanted to focus on the acting. Can you tell I'm getting nervous? 

Day 13
We all gathered in the theatre today for a dress rehearsal. Quite frankly I was amazed and pleasantly surprised that it came together as well as it did. No one came onto stage in the wrong costume and all the quick changes worked. I'd done a lot of homework on who could appear in dances and who would need that time to get into new outfits. I'm nervous, though, that the boys are still forgetting their cues and are sometimes slow to come on stage. I hope that they can pull something out of the bag for the performance to the other group on Monday. We ended the day by watching the Seal Wife and I could sense my group gulping at how slick it was. We have a lot of work to do...

Day 14
After the other group performed the Seal Wife to the rest of the school as a taster, my group showed our work. I was mortified! It was painfully slow, unsure, quiet and lacking in energy. Mr Hill had to step in on a number of occasions and demand that the boys hurried up and spoke up.  Afterwards he told the boys he was very disappointed that some of them clearly didn't know their lines well enough and that everyone was slow on cues. I was seriously concerned and told the boys I would consider pulling Beauty and the Beast if it didn't improve drastically. There had been so much inventiveness in my sessions but a distinct lack of discipline in rehearsal and it was now glaringly obvious in certain performances. Mr Hill and I told the boys in no uncertain terms that they had to buck up their ideas, go over their lines again and again and map out their journey in the play. After the boys left I said to Mr Hill, I need a miracle! He told me that this often happened and that they always pulled it out of the bag. They have 24 hours....I don't think I'm going to get much sleep tonight! 

Day 15-Opening Night

I was delighted to come into the school to discover some of my boys rehearsing independently of me. So far, so promising! They are very nervous and some of them have a bit of stage fright. One of then even announced tearfully that he was having a nervous breakdown. It's easy to forget how important this is to many of them and how scary it is to get up on stage in front of their friends and family. We quickly ran through some of the stories and I breathed a sigh of relief-they'd really put the work in and the plays were unrecognisable from yesterday. Mr Hill and I ran a group warm up that included some breathing exercises (a great help for those people who were feeling jittery) and some motivational positive affirmations. Then my boys made their way to one of the classrooms while the audience entered for the Seal Wife. I'd love to report that my boys remained quiet and focussed in the classroom, preparing themselves for the performance, but they mostly ate (I've never known a hungrier group of people) noisily played chess, and ran around the small enclosed space. Once the Seal Wife had finished, I nervously made my way to the theatre to help set up the stage and answer any last minute questions from the boys (of which there were legion). The music started, the lights changed and they were off. From the moment that Nao got a laugh when he entered as Beauty, I knew that it was going to be a success. It was amazing to see the boys respond to having an audience in. They really worked the crowd and you could see the delight in their faces when moments that they'd devised (like Max's umbrella suggestion) got laughs. They were gleeful when it came to the Abu Hassan fart, but took it really seriously knowing that this would be funnier for the audience. I was delighted that the Emperor denouement went down a storm with the audience and that the performances in the Girl and the North Wind really went up a notch, particularly Pip and Zeb's. All in all, it was a fantastic evening. Yes, there were moments that we can work on for tomorrow's show, like the choreography, which was a bit sloppy, but all in all, I was extremely pleased and went home with a big smile on my face. 

Day 16-second night
Second night performances have a reputation in theatre land of being a bit of a disaster. Not so this evening. The acting was just as slick and joyous as last night and if anything, you could see the boys raise their game as they'd grown in confidence that we had a really good show on our hands. However, one major thing did go wrong but it reminded me that mistakes can be a gift in the theatre. As I was watching the show with my mum and my eighteen month old daughter Joshua poked his head out of the curtain and exclaimed "my costume has gone missing!" Joshua was playing the lead in the Emperor's New Clothes and had a fabulous padded naked suit to wear. I rushed out the back to find a very upset Joshua wearing a pair of ill fitting white jeans he'd found. He was in floods of tears. I told him that he could pull this off with his brilliant acting, but secretly I was disappointed: the moment of his reveal is the most important part of the story and I was frustrated that it would be diluted. Once I was back in the audience, I waited for Joshua to make his way behind the screen to "undress". His acting was still brilliant but I wondered what he was doing behind the screen? As the screen turned, I was amazed to see what looked like a completely naked Joshua! He'd decided that in lieu of a costume, he would do the scene in his underpants! The rest of the cast behaved admirably, but there was a palpable amazement from them, which worked brilliantly for the storytelling. Joshua styled it out like a complete pro and got even bigger laughs tonight than he did last night. I was desperately proud and afterwards looked him in the eyes and said "now THAT was professionalism and YOU were the hero of the hour". The other boys seemed to agree. I would have rewarded them with the goat pooh Revels but they'd mysteriously all been eaten. I will miss this group of scamps. 

Day 11

Posted : October 6, 2016

Day 11

We finessed the Emperor's New Clothes this evening.  I would've liked to have tried a run in costume because it's so integral to the piece and I think we all need to get our giggles out of the way, but that wasn't possible. Instead I focussed on the acting and there were more lessons in comedy. It was so funny when Alexander and Bruno popped out from behind the screen, said their lines directly to the audience and snapped back out of view. This kind of physical precision is what I keep banging on about and I hope I'll be vindicated when the audience laugh like drains at my very prescriptive direction....and some naturally hilarious performances. 

Day 10

Posted : October 6, 2016

Day 10

Our first Saturday rehearsal started auspiciously with me single handedly putting up our set with an electric drill (well, I may have had a little bit of help from my young technical team). I really cracked the whip today and we finessed Abu Hassan and Beauty and the Beast. The boys were reassuringly good on their lines and I feel confident that we can show our work in the dress rehearsal on Saturday with pride. I'm trying to instil in the boys the importance of focus in an ensemble piece. There's a tendency to switch off once they've said their lines and I'm exacting in wanting everyone to be present in the group scenes. I was pleasantly pleased by Ryder and Rajesh who have worked hard to learn their sound cues in the complex story of Beauty and the Beast. They're visible on stage so there's no hiding from the audiences gaze. As far as I'm concerned there are no small roles. Shaking a tambourine is just as important to me as playing the lead role. 

Day 9 -

Posted : October 5, 2016

Day 9

Tonight we finished off the story of Beauty and the Beast. I've found some soaring violin music and am really pleased with the atmosphere it creates. It's perfect for the opening of the play and the reveal that Beast is in fact a man. We're using colourful paper umbrellas to create the rose garden and Max Gwynne had a brilliant idea that we should twirl the umbrellas during the denouement and mask the kiss between Beauty and the Beast with the props. It's made the final cut because it suits this tone of the piece-it's funny, a little cheesy and quite "Disney". The boys seem to be surprised at how much they're being used in this production . There's not a moment when they can relax offstage. I get quite a few moans about bad backs and dry throats, as if I'm working with old men! I tell them that being an actor requires the stamina of an athlete. I'm sure the adrenalin of performing will power them through! 

Day 8 - 27 September

Posted : October 5, 2016

Day 8

Directing the boys in Beasts and Beauties has honestly been one of the highlights of my career. This evening left me feeling really optimistic that we can create a super show. We were working on The Girl and the North Wind tonight and I was so impressed that the boys knew their lines really well and were therefore able to concentrate on their acting. We made some discoveries about the precision involved in performing comedy. It really helped to have our stage manager James with us as he was laughing along with me when things were funny and I was able to highlight how physically precise you need to be as an actor to gain laughs from the audience. I was boringly insistent that the goat pooh gag will only work if it's not overplayed but taken seriously and performed with truth. I've decided we're going to use revels for the goat droppings and the boys are OBSESSED by wanting to know if they can eat them at the end of the show. I've told them this is entirely dependent on their performance. Never before have I had to bribe my actors with goat pooh. 

Day 7 - 22 September

Posted : October 5, 2016

Day 7
Phew, we just got to the end of the Emperor's New Clothes this evening, but it's still very rough around the edges. The boys were very amused by my idea to conceal the Emperor's bottom until the end of the story and had lots of funny ideas of their own. I want it to look like the things covering him up are incidental. It's almost like a dance and is not easy to choreograph. Sebastian suggested that at one point he could use a briefcase to cover up the Emperor's, ahem, private parts and this worked very well. Apparently the scene is very like the naked intro to Austin Powers! I shall have to watch it again...

Day 6 - September 20

Posted : October 5, 2016

Day 6 

This evening we finished blocking Abu Hassan. The boys weren't as disciplined as they have been on other occasions and it was like herding cats at times! However, we got to the end of the story and added in some amusing sound affects. Now it's over to the boys who have to learn their lines, dance routine, cues, and moves so that at the next rehearsal for Abu we can dig a bit deeper and finesse some of the finer acting moments. I'm pleased with progress so far but we all have so much work to do!