Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Peek Behind the Scenes: The making of Christopher Durang's "Beyond Therapy"

5/3/11

Let’s take this baby for a test drive…

By Matthew Melchiorre
Production Stage Manager

Preview Performances have begun.  To me, it’s one of the more intense times of a production…we get to learn a lot.  The audience tells you so much.  Over the past week, things that have never been funny in the rehearsal room were greeted with uproarious laughter.  Who could predict that?  Well, maybe Christopher Durang could.

So we don’t just get to sit back all week and perform for the masses.  We have to rehearse as well during the day.  Rehearsing during previews is right up there with taping the floor for me.  You past readers know how much fun that is.  I will give credit where credit is due because it is beneficial to rehearse…I do like to rehearse, but sometimes doing a full day of rehearsal and a performance at night can be exhausting.  We spent a lot of time tweaking moments and fine-tuning the lights, sound, transitions…even adding some palm plants to The Restaurant scenes.  Our director, David Kennedy, stressed how important it is that we are doing the same show each night because then we get to see how each audience reacts differently to each moment.  He also stressed to keep all the action and dialogue real and truthful because if it isn’t…it’s not funny. 

So nothing really big changed throughout the week.  Oh that’s actually not true…one big change we made was to take the intermission out of the play.  Playhouse artistic director Mark Lamos suggested we try doing the play without an intermission after our first Preview on Tuesday.  We decided to try it for Wednesday’s performance...  easier said than done.  We had to think of a whole new transition and essentially go back into tech mode to figure it out.  With different sound and light cues to call, we were all ready to try it sans intermission.  It totally changed the momentum of the play and kept the action rolling…the actors loved it and we all thought it would work, so in it stays. 

We’ve now made it over the hurdle of Previews and into Opening night.  It’s been a great week of shows with some big laughs and large audiences.  However, Opening night is not a time to relax…we can’t even relax on Sunday…Christopher Durang was in the audience!  We were happy to have him as our guest for our Sunday Symposium.  The cast enjoyed meeting him after the performance and hearing his praise for the production.  That’s a good thing…all we can do is trust and stay committed to the story we are telling.  If we do that then the work comes easy.  No matter if the group sitting in the dark laughs or not, at the end of the day we can have the satisfaction of a job well done.  And we can finally relax on our day off!

p.s. If you haven’t yet taken a peek at some of our production photos, visit our Flickr page!  But here’s a little taste…

Kathleen McNenny & Stephen Wallem in Beyond Therapy
photo by T. Charles Erickson

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