Director in Training: So THAT’S why they call it Progress Lab
by Michael Wheeler
I am a little flummoxed about how to communicate what has transpired in Tear The Curtain! rehearsals over the past few weeks. It has been hectic, inspiring, and I can’t wait for audiences to see this thing once all the pieces have been put together. Like lead character and theatre critic Alex Braithwaite, all my thoughts are in fragments and there may not be a clear connection between them:
- This is the most technically demanding show I have ever worked on: It has multiple flies including a wall of the two-story set that flies in and out, as many lighting instruments as The Stanley Theatre can handle, an original score written by a composer who usually writes for feature films (separate from the regular audio cues), and cinema quality video that appears on multiple surfaces.
I can’t imagine this type of work being built in a regular rehearsal hall. Because The Electric Company is one of the creators and co-tenants of Progress Lab 1422 in East Vancouver, they have the ability to work with many of these technical elements well before “tech” in their own rehearsal hall. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is a circumstance very few indie companies ever find themselves in when building a show.*
- Good news for me: There’s been enough for me to do on this show that I have been given an official title that will appear in the credits and everything: “Assistant to the Director”, not to be confused with “Assistant Director” which in this instance would likely refer to a specific person who worked on the film shoot last winter, which I wrote about here.
- The best laid plans: Although the idea was to have a “locked” script by this point in the rehearsal process, the first major challenge I was thrown into was a significant restructuring of the first act based on what we learned from the first full run through with live acting and video together. I find this a little reassuring: no matter how much sense a script makes on paper, the nature of theatre means it will be something different from literature when it is actualized. There’s no getting around having a clear and unsentimental head in these moments.
- Directing a performance that essentially works with two distinct mediums is twice as much work for the director. Doing a 10 – 6 rehearsal day with actors means you have most pre-dinner hours figuring out the live part of the show, and then you have until you fall asleep to figure out the other 60%.
- There are some excellent, affordable, and healthy options for lunch on Commercial Dr.
Ever since our Fringe production of The Master and Margarita in 2006 I have been keen to re-workshop and essentially re-create our original adaptation. Working on Tear The Curtain has given me great clarity on how Praxis should go about this. Magical realist stories on the stage could be the big winners of these new developments in technology.
- No ego – no problems: Kim Collier, Kevin Kerr, and Jonathon Young have been working together for more than a decade. Everyone knows everyone’s role on the project, everyone gives notes where appropriate, everyone trusts that the other person is very good at their job. When something is this complicated there can be no drama with your drama.
*Now that Tear The Curtain has loaded out, another Progress Lab founder and tenant Boca Del Lupo will spend three months building their new show PHOTOG: an imaginary look at the uncompromising life of Thomas Smith that will be presented as part of World Stage at Harbourfront Centre. Note to self: Infrastructure increases capabilities/possibilities/opportunities.
Next week: Teching the impossible at the Stanley Theatre