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Liveblogging on stage from rehearsal

Another big day for us A Christmas Carol (Dec. 5–21, 2008) actors. We’re on stage for the very first time, and it’s a whole new world. Unexpectedly, it’s as if this were a new play.

We’ve been rehearsing in a large room adjacent to the theatre, while the set crew build and hang and paint on the stage. Although the room is large by normal standards, it’s no substitute for the actual stage. Furthermore, the sound in the theatre is very, very different from the room. The theatre, unlike the rehearsal space, has been designed and built for sound projection. The walls absorb the sound — the back walls are in fact a thin veneer over empty space: take a look next time you’re in the Theatre and tap on the back wall and the side walls to hear the difference.

Anyway, today is the first rehearsal on the stage. Our blocking suddenly has more space: we can move further downstage (that is, towards the audience) and also right and left. There’s also scenery, the bane of actors. The other bane, props, we’ve been using for a couple of weeks now.

Everything is taking a long while. We have to be positioned correctly so that the audience can see, the musical numbers have to be recalibrated for the extra space, and we all have to rework things take account of the scenery.

Hence I have time to write this in the middle of the rehearsal since there are long periods when I’m not needed. Not quite liveblogging — that means posting this text on the website as I write it — but at least I’m writing this as we go along.

As it happens, a lot of us in the cast have multiple roles. We’re relatives of Scrooge’s nephew Fred, we’re townspeople, we’re merchants. So we’re on and off stage even when we’re not playing our primary role. As an example, I’m also playing one of the friends of Fezziwig in the first act and the poulterer in the second.

So far, all has gone pretty well. The flies are coming in and out smoothly (the flies are set and scenery pieces that “fly” in from above the stage). The only real issues concern the crowd scenes. For example, in Act I there is a scene of last minute shopping for food from a market on Christmas Eve. There are wheeled carts, shoppers, movement, singing, and last of all a huge Christmas tree. The rehearsal prop we’re using for the tree is an old fake one. On lifting it, invariably it separates into two at the join, meaning that Ray and I struggle to control it as we bring it in and set it upright in the right place. The very top section of the tree drops off at this point, to the merriment of all.

Today it’s Act I and tomorrow Act II. We’ve just completed this day’s work and so I’m off home. Until tomorrow…

Cheers, Julian
Ghost of Christmas Present