The Company Run is one of the wonderful traditions of most state theatre companies, and from what I understand the MTC ones are particularly great (my experience is that, anyway) due to the family feel of the company. Today was ours for Next to Normal. I was excited, though I know the cast was a little terrified – I was really keen to get it out to an audience after the great work we’d spent the week doing.
Yesterday we finished off working Act 2, then ran that Act, followed by Act 1. The run was a little strange, and putting it in the backwards order really forced the actors to figure out what they were doing at any point, as opposed to the natural flow that occurs in the correct chronology. Richard, our set designer was at that run and was thrilled with the scenic flow of the show. I chatted to Matt, our lighting designer, throughout the run, pointing out anything specific that I felt about what we were looking for. The lighting designer has one of the trickiest jobs in theatre – they plan, and watch, and chat, but really don’t get to do their job until they’re in the space. As a result, it’s almost always panic stations for them, as every department fights for attention in the melee that is tech. So far we’re up to 150 cues in Act 1 alone. But a show that ends with a song called “Light” is probably going to have a lot of, well, light. We’ve got a very different palette to the Broadway production – working in a world of black, white and grey, with AV projections the whole time. It’s going to be a lot of figures caught in white light in black space, with the cyc doing interesting things behind all the time.
The behind-the-scenes video went online yesterday and was pretty great, actually. The guy that filmed it edited it brilliantly (everyone sounds smart with a two-sentence limit) and filmed about two hours of the rehearsal to get a really fantastic and kinetic backdrop.
So, today. As I walked in the automation team were looking very serious and driving the downstage truck back and forward. Very jerkily. The software had been redone overnight, and while many things had improved, that truck had stopped talking to the computer. All was ok, though, as it went on remote for the run. It meant that it went quite slow, but wasn’t that big a deal. To get focused we ran three numbers, then let the audience in. It was huge, one of the biggest they’ve ever had – around 40 people. I spoke briefly about how the scene changes worked regarding the set, then we got going.
The actors took a song to warm to having real people, but then grabbed the story wholeheartedly and lifted to a new level. Everything smoothed out and became really alive and exciting and in the moment. It was really enjoyable and unstressful. And VERY satisfying. There were tears, lots of laughs and complete focus the whole show. Afterwards I chatted to lots of different staff and it was clear that they loved it, in fact some of them were still sobbing. Kylie, the casting director was thrilled to see the hard work of auditions we’d done months had borne such great fruit and she was particularly thrilled at the depth of acting of the cast.
The second we finished, the production crew started taking down the set, ready to transport to the Arts Centre for the beginning of bump in on Monday. I went to the AV room and looked at all the projection material – it’s terrific and I’m so excited about what this production is going to look like.
After notes with the actors and lunch, we had the treat of a costume parade to finish the day. Paula has spent weeks with Judy and the team shopping, fitting and getting everything ready. We worked through scene by scene, looking at each individual costume and how they worked in the tableau of who was in which scene. It looked great – we played with colours, accessories and swapping things in and out, but the majority of the work is there. After a hilarious two hours, the cast went off to drinks and I raced away to begin casting Anything Goes for the Production Company.