On Our Feet

On Our Feet —

The intellectual work is over and now we are tackling the physical problem of the Delacorte stage. The Delacorte is a difficult theatre, and a wonderful, wonderful venue. It is enormous, with seating for 1800 people and a stage that can encompass the Trojan Wars.

It is an utterly theatrical space that demands a performer’s A-game when it comes to voice, gesture, physicality and all around stage chops. It’s a space for professional theatre actors. Amateurs and dilettantes will be either elevated or crushed by the sheer scope of the this world famous theatre.

Our director, Ruben Santiago Hudson is an actor’s director. He is the sort of director who will let his actors have the first crack at solving the physical puzzle of a scene. If the actor is successful he let’s them keep going. If they hit a snag, Ruben in right there with ideas, alternatives and support. We are blessed with a company comprised of many Delacorte veterans so we were able to knock out three scenes today. That is not to say that everything we did today won’t change, but we sure as heck have made a good start.

The challenge is to stage scenes in a way that they are visible and visually pleasing to everyone in the audience. That means the actors must be moving while speaking clearly and all of that movement must be motivated and the speech clear and clean. We get a lot of help on speech because we use wireless microphones. The sound system in impeccable and when all is good the microphones do their job well. However, the Delacorte is an outdoor theatre and wireless microphones are sensitive the the elements, especially moisture, and there is no shortage of muggy weather, rain, sweat and tears on stage at any given moment. On night during Troilus and Cressida I was doing a scene with the great Bill Heck. A line or two into the scene his mic cut out. Instead of losing our cool, Bill and I improvised a new blocking scheme for our scene that allowed him to say his lines into MY microphone. It worked like a charm and gave our audience that night a special moment that could not be repeated. That is about as pure a Theatre gets.

As far as movement goes, I’ve spent many weeks getting in physical shape to play the Delacorte this summer. I learned a big lesson when I joined the cast of Troilus and Cressida in 2016 and was physically exhausted all the time, not only because it was a very physical play, but because, until opening, we are rehearsing on that stage under the hot summer sun before grabbing dinner and returning to perform. Rehearsing under the sun on that stage is like rehearsing on a cast iron skillet.

Our stage management team is very diligent about providing water, gatorade, frozen towels, popsicles, sunblock and just about anything else we need, but if we aren’t in good physical condition, the Delacorte itself will wear us down.

Rehearsal schedule is 6 days a week, so good diet, exercise and plenty of sleep is on the survival menu for Delacorte actors.

Tomorrow closes our first week. We take a day off on Sunday and are back at it Monday morning. More to come.