I Guess We Have to Work
By Matthew Melchiorre
Production Stage Manager
OK gang, so now all of the Pomp and Circumstance of the first rehearsal day for Beyond Therapy in Westport is behind us. From day two and for the rest of the rehearsal process we are in New York City. So for me it’s up early and on the Metro-North trains heading into the city with all the nine to fivers…not really a drawback to living in the suburbs but just something you have to get in the zone for…though it is fun to be wearing casual clothes to work amongst the sea of business attire that surrounds me.
Usually, for the first few days of a rehearsal the actors and director will spend a few days around the table reading the play and discussing its moments, answering questions and determining a cohesive world we are about to step into. We didn’t spend a lot of time around the table…basically a ½ of the first day and a ½ of the second day was devoted to this work…then we immediately got on our feet to begin staging the play.
SO…where am I through all this…behind a table sitting next to the director with my faithful assistants Winnie and Ed by my side. Think of Stage Management as the ultimate “fly on the wall” throughout the rehearsal process. As we begin staging, we are constantly writing down the blocking (movements of the actors) into our scripts as well as listening to the actors and director figure how the pieces of this puzzle known as our show, will come together. We are also figuring out where props are going to be stored backstage, how scene changes are going to be accomplished and starting to put the technical pieces of the puzzle together.
We are now venturing into our second full week of rehearsal and have mostly worked through the staging of the play at least once…some scenes twice…yes we are working…constantly trying new ideas as the puzzle pieces start to connect…which means stage management is notating blocking fast and furiously with a lot of crossing out…never erasing incase we go back to an old idea…just cross it out. I wouldn’t say that writing down blocking is difficult…it’s your normal record keeping, but you develop a shorthand of letters and symbols. Basically, on the page it looks like a rather intense calculus or trigonometry problem. For example: B x SR would mean BRUCE crosses to Stage Right. Eventually it will all be cleaned up and annotated into staging maps but that’s down the line and for another blog post…but think of this now as a little bait for the future.
As we spend our days working through the play, something has started to occur…besides the shape of our play...it’s company bonding time. On the first day we were basically a group of strangers and throughout the week that has gone by, we have become a group that is laughing, joking, telling stories and having fun both on our breaks and as we work on scenes figuring out moments. It’s this type of atmosphere you crave for…it’s that type of atmosphere that truly does make for a productive work environment. It’s a blanket of support that you want to give so we can try all different choices and finally determine the one that is right. It reminds me of a quote “Leap and the net will appear”…that is the mentality you want throughout any rehearsal process. I think we are accomplishing that…as well as some good work by all.
A page from Matthew's script with "blocking" notes.