'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go!

Six performances down, two to go.

This is the stage of the production when you're spending a lot of time with your fellow cast and crew members. And I mean a lot. In the week before opening night, the rehearsals usually come fast and furious - a weekend of full runs, followed by a line run, tech, and dress. And then into production... You're together most every day: at the theatre and then often afterwards, too, at the pub to wind down with that famous 'just the one'.

This is also the time when about seventy per cent of what you say to each other is a line, or modified line, from the play. And the directors can be pleased that everyone finally knows not only their own lines, but everyone else's too! And no wonder: after doing five performances in the space of forty-nine hours, we've pretty much been living and breathing nothing but the show. You can't help but become a little clique with it's own private language of in-jokes.

Having fun with the lines really does help you learn the show as a whole. The only thing you have to careful about is saying one of your modified lines on stage! Which I almost did once, but I don't think anyone noticed :P

And if you have to do an accent for a play, like we do, this is also the stage when you start speaking in your character's accent in the course of your everyday life.

After Saturday's performances, we spent the evening - and a reasonable chunk of the early morning - terrorising the other patrons of William K with teasers from the show: football and rugby songs, college antics, and mock insults in our Northern accents.

The bouncer was, however, pleased to see a group of people having such fun. Fortunately for us, we weren't doing a Russian play ;)

Bouncing and Shaking Into Show Week

This being show week, I thought it would be good to share some of the final process and terms used in the run-up to a show opening.

These are rehearsals dedicated entirely to running the entire script verbally and without movement. Often they are run as fast as possible. The benefit of line-runs is that they help clarify the order and structure of lines, as well as the continuity without the 'hindrance' of movement. Due to the speed, they also show very quickly who doesn't know their script!

All of the costumes, props, set, make-up, etc. are usually moved into the performance theatre at the same time. The stage is then prepared, set installed, lights set, sound prepared. This is the 'get-in' and is usually done just before the Technical Rehearsal.

Technical Rehearsal
This is a rehearsal primarily for the stage crew, bit also helpful for the cast. It is usually the first time the cast and crew have been in the performance theatre and is run after the 'get-in'. The 'Tech' is often a very stressful number of hours for the crew due to the amount of work they have to do within a short space of time. It is usually a very boring time for the cast due to the amount of sitting/standing about doing nothing. Although the audience rarely notice the crew sat at the sound and light desks during a show, they play a crucial role. During the Tech they have to clarify all of the sound and lighting cues with the director and stage manager. These cues need to be programmed into lighting systems and lights adjusted if they aren't quite right with the cast on stage. The sound levels also need to be adjusted so as not to deafen the audience and to give a good balance with the spoken lines. All of this is co-ordinated by the director with the assistance of the stage manager. The stage manager runs the entire show from the first night. Technical Rehearsals have a reputation for being the longest rehearsal of the entire show. This is a justified reputation! They very rarely start on time and consist of constant stops and starts and re-runs until everything is right. We had our Technical Rehearsal last night and it took four hours. I have been in five hours Techs.

Dress Rehearsal
This is the rehearsal before opening night. It is run as if there is an audience. Cast are in full costume and make-up (hence 'dress'), if radio microphones are being used, they are fitted and switched-on, if it is a musical, the full orchestra will be in attendance. In practice, there are invariably last minute adjustments to lighting, sound and stage. There is an old belief in the theatre that if the Dress Rehearsal is bad, the First Night will go well. I think this came about because most Dress Rehearsals are appalling!

First Night
Nerves are high, excitement is bursting out of costume seams and the first audience take their seats. The running of the show has been passed from the hands of the director into those of the stage manager, crew and actors. It is actually considered extremely bad form for the director to continue directing after the Dress Rehearsal. Not only does it cause confusion to all involved, it is quite de-motivating. Directors often only watch one or two performances (my personal experience of 20+ years of shows) and, if they comment, it should be to complement the actors. Criticism is very bad at this stage. Actors are usually fully-aware of their failings during a performance and feel bad enough without having it reinforced. I have known of one actor’s confidence being shattered for the remainder of a show thanks to a director's in-show criticism.

Last Night
Quite often the best show thanks to the number of 'rehearsals' over the preceding days! It is often, unfortunately, followed by the 'get-out' (clearing the theatre). The cast and crew frequently have their show party after the performance and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed (in addition to the copious amounts consumed following most performances)!

We have an audience!

With 60 per cent of B&S tickets sold (or reserved) and still two weeks to opening night, things are looking good! Would there be a case for arranging more performances in January?!?

Shoulder pads.....

If there is one thing that I learned from yesterday, it is that shoulder pads are a woman's bestfriend. Now I understand why they were so popular in the 80's, you see they seem to make you appear smaller from the waist down, which is a blessing when you are wearing 80's style pants.....

Yesterday the Shakers had the pleasure of performing for the Bouncers, in our 80's costume glory and I am surprised that the boy's were actually able to keep a semi-straight face. We apparently looked a tad ridiculous, which I realized when going to the store before practice in full costume as the clerk had a hard time looking at me....hmm...I am sure that is only a good thing, as we are trying to be as authentic 80's as possible! But the boys did say that our portion was good, should we believe them? Or maybe they were just afraid of the shoulder pads...

The costumes are the easy part, learning different roles and lines is the hard part. You see, we all have to play women and men, with no help of different costumes. No matter how much I seem to practice and try to remember if I'm a boy or girl and what I am supposed to say, it doesn't always sink in. Issues anybody? There's only a few more weeks to go, so hopefully it will all be absorbed into my head before then and I will figure out who and what I am.

So if you are in the mood for a laugh, hopefully it will be our performance that is funny, not just our appearance, then get your tickets now! And you are welcome to come dressed up in your 80's gear and don't forget the shoulder pads!!!!

Cliches…one way to build excitement

I remember writing a piece for a university class that had to be written using mostly cliches.

So I thought let me revive this great art and write about my experience of rehersing for "Shakers & Bouncers" using cliches.  It has been said that cliches are often employed for comic effect...at least my attempt at it!

Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine.  If this is the case, the numerous laughs we have had at rehersals means I am healthy from here to eternity.  At least for me, switching genders means I have had to really get to the bottom of the female psyche.  I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I am still far, far away from understanding it all...

There is of course no such thing as a free lunch and creating a show of just one hour takes many, many hours of practice.  I can say though the spirit at rehersals has been all for one and one for all!  And generally we are of course all ears for our director!  We don't just go through the motions but on a couple of occasions I have got off (the floor) on the wrong foot...Messed up my counting!

It is a good thing that rehersals are not at the crack of dawn! Somehow I think it would be tough to teach old dogs ( I count myself here too) tricks at such an early hour.  After all, we all like to catch our 40 winks!  We generally have one 6 hour rehersal on the weekend, so I think we all count our blessings it is not two since I think my feet would die!

Overall, I think everything's coming up roses and the show will be good as gold!

So in the words of the DJ, do come along and enjoy this extravaganza!