Priscilla 2011 – Milano – Week 2 – Wednesday

It’s really quite the education directing scenes in a foreign language.  Not only do you have to take the time to explore the character and subtext of any scene, you have to check whether that even applies to the culture that you’re in, whether the words are saying exactly what you think they’re saying and wait for all those discussions to move back and forth between everyone in the rehearsal room in both languages.  It can be very time consuming.  But then really rewarding when the feel of the scene comes into focus, without resorting to hideous vocal mannerisms of how you want the line to sound.  I’ve talked to the cast about previous shows they’ve done and their experience of being told how to do everything in the show, which is not how Simon has ever approached Priscilla worldwide.  In fact, we tend to change the blocking to suit our cast’s instincts everywhere we go.

Since last we met –

-Music calls continued

-The cast took us out for drinks to Elephant, a gay bar in the Porta Venezia area.  Lots of fun with a new type of shot for me – rum followed by pear – lots of fun till I had to deal with the next day, that is.

-We finished music calls and did another round of auditions for the final swing and the final Benji.  They don’t have a tradition of swings here, so most actors don’t like to take the role, seeing it as “person who doesn’t get onstage”.  However, in any commercial musical, the swings are invaluable and get onstage, well, all the time.  It’s such a valuable skill and requires such a mix of physical and vocal ability, with the crucial extra skill to see yourself in a puzzle – so we’re trying to educate them as to how important it is.

-Tuesday we read through the script for the first time, with all the songs intact.  I love the first read through – it can be scary, as you realise how far it is to go in developing the show, but there’s always the discoveries as to who has a unique take on something that you’ve never seen before.  It’s pretty clear how much of Priscilla in on the internet now as I was seeing other actors that I’ve worked with being channelled at times.

-In the hecklers scene after “Raining Men” the eight guys gave a very robust set of interjections with quite jolly masculine laughter.  I said that cliched gays in Australia laugh at a certain pitch.  I thought maybe that was something that would be lost in translation, but no, they only needed guidance and the stage suddenly turned into Stonewall.

-Moved onto the Marion and Tick phone call.  This scene has had more work on it than any other in Priscilla.  It has truly been rewritten every single time we’ve come back to look at the show.  It used to be an eight line scene, then moved to twelve or so.  Then a larger scene where Benji appeared visually and “Say a Little Prayer” appeared in the first part of the show and Farrah was added (chiefly because Miss Understanding couldn’t come offstage to chat to Tick, as would have been helpful).  This is the basic version that has stayed, though the dialogue changes with every production.  Benji disappeared in London, then returned in New York with much cute and poignant dialogue.  Which just made the part that little bit harder to cast.

Rehearsing this scene was good – Anto and Alice are naturals in their roles and Toto gave a convincing Benji.  But as we work through the translation a line will come up that I just know isn’t doing the work it should – in this case;

“You’ve had six years, Tick, rehearsals are over.”

We had the opposite language problem here than we usually do, in that instead of an English word having two meanings, the word for rehearsals is “prove” which also means “to do something”.  So where we wanted to use a theatrical metaphor to say Tick’s time preparing is ready, the audience would really only hear

“You’ve had six years, Tick, do something.”

Which is a little too emphatic and not terribly subtle.  So much discussion was had then about how to tweak the original line to have our cake and eat it, too.  Because most bilingual speakers have worked as a translator at some point, everyone has strong opinions, strong, LONG opinions about the best way to tackle this.  Ie, lots of chat, not so much rehearsal.  I’ve decided that we need to point out a problem, then email the translators for a solution, rather than try any democratic approach. If I want to get the show on, that is.

We staged “What’s Love” with our wonderful Miss Understanding, Andrea – he’s on top of everything and is a joy.  Gianluca, our Farrah could probably go on without makeup and be believable, he’s so pretty.

Today we recapped the Funeral and the scene after it.  It’s essentially mise-en-scene, mourners meeting each other and changing positions behind a scene that is plot related and has one of the biggest laughs in the show –

“You’ve got to be fucking joking” OR

“Mi stai prendendo per il culo” – literally “Are you pulling my ass around?”

Staging the post-Funeral scene is my bete noire, but was surprisingly easy today.

Then it was time for “Material Girl”.  Watching four hot Italian dancers and a superflexible Felicia, this wasn’t the hardest way I’ve ever earned a salary.  There isn’t much to say about these five hours – through the tears, hard work and a lot of sweat, art was made.

Not in Bernadette’s opinion, of course and Simone is feeling the pain the former diva experiences watching Felicia exquisitely.  It’s quite delightful.  The tension between her and Adam is already on point and will only grow from here.  Tomorrow, we Go West!

 

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things. www.bryantandfrank.com www.mybrilliantcareermusical.com www.deanjamesbryant.com

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