I stage managed a play once in college. It was a one-act. I’ve since directed a couple of short late-night pieces, and “directed” a solo piece my friend Joanie did several years ago. In that instance, I just met with her a couple of times, gave a couple suggestions on blocking and pacing, and had a little input on the lighting. I have also done fight choreography on a number of shows, but was never intimately involved in those productions. Usually I’d just be asked to stop by once a week or so and check in. If I was more involved, it was because I was also performing in the show. The point is, until now I’ve never observed the production side of a full scale theatrical production. It is fascinating.
Actors spend little time exposed to the creative processes of the designers on most shows. This isn’t a knock against actors; it’s just that their work and the designers’ work are done in separate places and follow different schedules. Actors usually only experience the last few stages of the designers’ efforts. Working as the writer on The Count of Monte Cristo, I have a whole new perspective on the kind of work that goes into building a set, or lighting it. For weeks, thoughts and images would be passed around, ideas discussed, research referenced. Discussions would revolve around, say, a photo our set designer found of a cathedral. He would point out the feel and texture of its marble floor. This would be combined with a painting our lighting designer had found, showing stark beams of light coming through a small window, illuminating and isolating a small corner of a larger, darker space. Our costume designer would discuss images from the time period we are creating, and would remove or enhance certain details depending on what best told our story.
We are in tech now, where all of these elements and many others are finally coming together onstage, to be combined with the work the actors have done in rehearsal over the last several weeks. My job is almost done. I am reminded of the time I saw Tom Robbins give a reading. He was asked about his writing process, and how he approached revisions. He said that he doesn’t stop tinkering and tweaking until the publisher finally tells him it’s gone to print and it’s too late to change anything else. I completely understand what he meant by that. I find myself constantly wondering if it would help if I changed this line here, cut that line there, clarified this little thing here, gave this line to that character, snipped a word or two from this speech. I don’t mean to be picky. It’s just that I want it to be perfect.
We have our first audience in less than a week. I am giddy with excitement. I love my cast and production team, and I am so proud of this show. I can’t wait for everybody to see it.