Notes by Jeannie Barroga
We're in tech, no costumes; 7:45, 1:45 and only on p3...of 97 pages total.
So there's LOTS of time to blog.
It's been a week, to say the least. But it always happens, once each new element is added, that even more excitement energizes the cast and designers: from sounds, music, ambience, media. We all kinda become kids again. Hey, let's put on a show!
And it IS a show - after late-night notes and passions bubbling.
And a body trying to recover.
And emergency root canal.
But about the play:
projections are conducted from the booth while light, sound, music sit near the SM, AD audience right, collaborator center, and me audience left.
For me, I don't see anyone NOT giving their best; only focus more on lines vs full delivery.
We've gotten notes on the "military" aspect, the "occupational" aspect - only till now did I see a place where that could actually be implemented.
We got postcards today - they look great. The online "buzz" is spreading -- oh, to be reflected in the seating chart online as well.
This, of course, signals the changing of the guard -- who's in charge of what at this stage of tech.
There's a quiet among the cast onstage - probably it's the intensity they feel from the house (designers). God, we all want this so much to work.
We're on cue 35 p. 6.
Aya, who has said the least during the whole rehearsal process, just peeked out from backstage and admitted her fault for an actor's late entrance. HOW WE COULD ALL LEARN FROM THAT.
It's 9:00, and we're on p. 7. (Did I mention that we have 97 p?)
I'm noticing flags added in some of the projections -- interesting.
It's 9:25 - designers are in a huddle - yay, no questions for me, except Tony's request for projection notes. I keep blogging.
Some of the cast learned tap dancing during a long wait. . .
It's 10:04 p. 8A...
10:33 just ended second scene - all for the Art; we do it all for you viewers
10:49 we stop and managed to almost end scene 2. . .
An impromptu dance got folks going to this end -- it was pretty cute
I watched the costumer sew in the office -- and the collaborator hanging in the lobby
I think we're all re-finding our roles in this -- I mean, the ones NOT onstage
Friday I was staying near Middlefield, last one in, first one up and out. No post-rehearsal snack, no note-sharing; Tony and I just both headed back to rest and be back in the theater by 11am. Not that it made a difference OUR getting there. Some folks were over half an hour late with rainy, sloppy weather, but still kind of annoying. Over 2 weeks' time, Tony had 'touched' pretty much every scene, enough to make Saturday's first stumble-through visual for designers. The scenes not touched, well, the actors took their best shots, so at least something played onstage. Hubby Tony and a Presidio Ranger entered to see the run-thru; he was introduced to cast members, and seemed totally into the run vs jotting notes, a good sign. Dialect coach, Selina (yay!), and of course, AD and MD also attended. So "good eyes and ears" were everywhere. Overall, the cast went into over-drive, barreling backstage to get into place, wondrous about each last scene that: hey, actually went well and hey, I think I discovered something. And there were those scenes that actors kicked themselves over, that maybe that one hadn't gone exactly as planned. They were, as I had hoped, invested, really wanting the play to work and inwardly promising themselves to try something better later. At least that's what it seemed like to me. There weren't any projections yet nor costumes, and just a few props. Having the set was a boon, just to have areas to play around in. Maurice, the lighting designer, had Tony's ear for a change while I noted script issues. There were still sections needing a lot of help and obvious blocking problems. During a monolog, one actor was in tears, never seen before, as if the words "got" to him differently this time. That actually enlightened me about the power of that scene. Near the end I heard constant sniffling behind me -- was it the play or the cast cold sneaking around? Gad, I hope not the latter. In those chaotic wrapup moments, with the cast released, and the ranger talking to an actor, and the dramaturg running changes by me, while I'm attempting to catch the Tony/Maurice notes, it was then that the play felt beyond me. It was the baby tottering on its own feet, and I could only hold out my arms and let the first steps be taken. The notes, myth monologs, etc. from Randy later were, as usual in that setting, first questioned, then in later, saner moments really absorbed. That's why he gets the big bucks, as the saying goes. The most animated exchange was about a flag and its inevitable agitation. That was also enlightening. Comments were added for other areas, music, lighting tech, props, etc. The SM had to send out the call for Monday's rehearsal, and the meeting pretty much broke up after that and a few stayed for the next meeting. That one was on past/present/future action behind the scenes, pressrelease, tix sales, weblinks, posters, PR, marketing, program notes, outreach Q&A's, etc. And future productions: as usual, a theater would benefit by having another theater out of the area pick up BUFFALO'ED, more exposure, a national connection. Without much detail, the meeting segueway'ed into discussion on my upcoming surgery with Randy, while some of the others conducted their conversations. Later, I recalled the Facebook post on the anniversary of an actor's death. She had just finished ON THE WATERFRONT; it was at the theater. I figured then how people involved would feel about that a year later with some other health incident. Sobering...sobering. So now I sit, recovering (in my head during the biopsy, I felt like screaming "holy F--K!!! That HURTS!!!) Hubby's been attentive, and cats have pawed at my leg, questioning briefly, before switching focus on their cat dishes. I updated my site (check it out), composed my program statement, and it's nice to sit, doze, zone on DVDs. The "distance" will do me good, to see it again with a new perspective. The play may be an "adolescent" by then. Cool.
BLOG WEEK (could it be 4??)
So let's talk about rehearsals: rock, rock, stone, pebble, rock. . .
This is normal. This is THAT TIME.
Besides the rotating accommodations I've had in the last two weeks and backstage dramas (comes with the territory), there have been mind-blowing moments onstage. Director Tony and I have had ongoing mind-melds, a look with no words, finishing sentences. Collaborator Alleluia arrives with mesmerizing, sensuous movements demo'ed by dancers Alex, Greg, Clarissa, and new addition, C.J. Night after night, or day before night, we witness lightbulbs lit in the eyes of cast members, varying in intensity, length, focus. But everyone, really, EVERYONE, is geared to moving the play forward. Their comments among themselves are about scenes just finished or the ones about to start. There is a room-roaming buzz, lovely to see.
And then there's the home life, the REAL area of life with REAL dramas, ones that make for the fodder for onstage Moments. Home is where I relax, where -- in one day -- I get buoyed up for the next weekful of rehearsals and flyballs and pebbles in the pathway morphing into a mountain of magnificence and awe, when you least expect it. Yet home is where I am aware of the mussed couch, days old fridge items, unwatered plants, their "postures" mirroring those of loved ones. Their eyes look mournful, puzzled at my absence, and even more confused by my short presence, again.
The play's been trimmed from 111 pages to 105...we think. Frankly, it feels like I cut about a quarter of it. The actors' responses vary whenever I cut, trim, or transpose. Their patience is admirable. Behind our fortresslike table, we see where work between rehearsals yields new discoveries, and when it's been back-burner'ed. What's really evident is the cameraderie among the cast, dancers, core team. Cool. It's like watching a slo-mo racetrack, who stretched far ahead in the first quarter-mile, and who hangs behind, maybe waiting for that one, enlightening opening to surge ahead or catch up.
There have been health issues, myself included. Someone got food poisoning, another an asthma attack, telltale sneezing. Some are building new skills, blues harp, stringed banduria, of course, escrima arts. Tonight, we saw, we all did, how tools for survival come into play in the most challenging circumstances: we saw how a skillful "snow job" works, we saw a symbolic gauntlet thrown, we saw a Lady's performance. As a writer, having "seen" that scene in my head over the past 5 years, I could live on the heady perfume of my words, working, for awhile -- till the next amazing Moment. I "see" that, too, for the future, that there will be many.
BLOG -a Month away. . .
Days are flying. We just finished the week-long Workshop and now head into actual Rehearsals, though it already seems we've done a month's work in 6 days.
The week before was a flurry of action: final auditions, an actor's availability fluctuating, contracts, housing, a Thank-You get-together for Supporters!, ay - yah. Then laundry, packing for a week with all the techie stuff besides clothes, research books, binders, and comfort for hubby and cats before my absence:) But as the artistic director, Randy, announced at our first Workshop day Feb. 27, there is a reason everyone in that room was there, in an impressive gathering of 28 core team, designers, actors, producers -- and synchronicity. By Day 2 I knew I had to cancel a pre-planned writing session. The atmosphere was too charged. I really felt it was on me to get the script trimmed and concise by March 5. Oh, the final cast:
Amielynn Abellera - Luisa, rebel General
David Arrow (AEA) - Captain, over the Buffalo Soldiers
Elizabeth Carter (AEA) - Della, Linc's stateside wife
Tim Hart - Connor, Captain's aide
Clinton Derricks-Carroll (AEA) - David Fagen, Buffalo Soldier, narrator
Jed Parsario - Nalding, rebel, Porfirio's brother
Daniel Redmond - Woodruff, Buffalo Soldier
Adrian Roberts (AEA) - Linc, Buffalo Soldier
Rajiv Shah (AEA) - Porfirio, rebel General
Dancers: Clarissa Chun, Alexandria Diaz DeFato, Greg Manalo
Stage Manager: Jaimie Johnson (AEA); Set: Michael Palumbo; Lights: Maurice Vercoutere; Sound: Steven Schoenbeck; Composer: Richard Marriott; Costumes: Michele Wynne (more)
The Director, Tony Haney, was in San Jose Saturday Feb. 25, myself by Monday, the first read-through of "version 5.0". Act I: 1:32!!! Act II: 1:07. Obviously, THAT had to be fixed (me...all on me, I'm thinking). But it was clear that some actors had done their homework, asked great questions, worked wonderfully during the cut-and-slash and transposition of scenes. And they LOVED the movement work: Alleuia's take on period dances, escrima practice, and then integrating those moves into their scenes. It was amazing fun to watch them practice. (I tried, but my feet are all thumbs.) A dialect coach is on board; for some, the overall "American" culture is another kind of lesson, one which we here live and talk by rote; for everyone, the joining of cultures is a daily discovery, both period to modern African-American, and Filipino-American That 'education' is pretty interesting to observe.
By Thursday, I was inundated, and exhausted, and irritated: the internet at the hotel kept kicking me off. I'd planned to hole up and jam on my computer to email to Jaimie, our SM, in time for that night's rehearsal. Instead, I'd be seen scouring places to get some access, in the restaurant, in the lobby, holding my computer while I stood mid-room! I was internally pretty annoyed. That night I saw I really had to speak up about my "space" and needs in order to get my work done, so everyone else could do theirs. I recalled that, as a recalcitrant teen, it was Theater that made me realize there were other ways to negotiate with people, a very necessary tool to learn, and re-learn, in situations like these. I think the real lesson is that the life of an Artist MEANS passion -- for one's work and choices. Yet the most affecting moments are how to live in this world with your art as a conduit, your Connection, to everything.
Tony and I attended a memorial mid-week, meaning a Bay Area-length ride from San Jose to Mill Valley. We had both worked at a theater where we initially met, and the team couple running it had a family loss. It was a Buddhist temple, filled to capacity, a ritual I had never experienced before. We were seated behind the family in their area. When the rows each got up to give their respect, picking things to put in other containers, bow, etc. I felt like a fish out of water. Tony and I eyed each other wondering if we would need to perform those actions. We didn't.
We left early to miss the rush hour traffic heading south. We both brought up what were we to learn from that experience while we were in the process of presenting this play; it all had to be linked -- sychronized -- somehow. The father who passed was a Japanese-American war vet previously interned at an American camp during WWII, very proud of his loyalty and his contribution stationed with the famous 442nd that rescued American soldiers in Europe, a suicide mission. BUFFALO'ED set in 1899 reflects that, with the African-American soldiers eager to show their loyalty and their worth, earning and deserving the unleashing of the tether called Slavery only a few years earlier. Tony and I discussed those terms a long time: deserving, earning.
Thursday night March 1 I stayed up till 4:30am rewriting the ending. They read it at rehearsals that night, twice. Each time it was evident that the cast was pretty affected. For the first time that week, I was relaxed, well, more off the hook. Fri. afternoon Tony and I had checked The Alameda route for food, options, then I returned to scan Act I for any more trimming. By Saturday I was already packing stuff up, had breakfast, and went to the theater at 11am for our final review of work from the week.
The room was bubbly, people were eager to catch the rest of the beautiful afternoon when we finished at 4pm. Jaimie and Ayya sat at the end; David and Daniel were on one side with me across from Nila and Clinton. Behind them were Rajiv, Jed, Adrian, Tim, and Elizabeth. They were all joshing Tony, wanting "more room" at his end of the table. Then, the roof started leaking causing both Tim and Tony to move to their sides. A drop fell once on me. The cast liked the changes. We still nitpicked, laughed at some, dissected others. It was a great working atmosphere with smart, invested actors, well, everyone, in the room. And we could all feel that. Tony spent some extra time later with Daniel while I handed in my ticket dates and took advantage of the online access. I saw Randy and brought up the full reading of new stuff on Monday. And I mailed an overdue bill.
Tony and I drove to Los Gatos where we both hadn't been to in quite a few years. After cruising the main street, we got onto side streets, and found a wonderful Italian restaurant with decent prices. We deserved it. We almost had to wait 1/2 hr. but a table opened up--synchronicity reigns.
Though I had lugged along champagne for the week, we both ended up making it an early night before our check-out Sunday morning. I gave him a bottle for him and his date. I leisurely packed remaining stuff, watched some TV, the first time all week, and conked out by 10. I was out of the room by 9:45, met both Tony and Mary at the desk for checkout, and we headed to Peggy Sue's for breakfast, a tip from the valet/bell person, Brad.
There was one more trip on the way home: the hospital. A friend had surgery Thursday and was recovering. She was weak and earlier, actually depressed, at the lack of updates. Her friend from L.A. was the in-room caretaker #3, so there were plenty of supporters. I could see visitors tired her out, so I headed across the Bridge and went straight to hubby's work. We shared a lunch and I went home, unpacked, threw in laundry, reassembled my binder, gave the cats more than extra treats, and got back on the computer till hubby arrived. Because he wanted to check his computer, being on call, we both ended up doing our thing till I made dinner and fell asleep in front of the TV. Ah. The release of pressure being home...till I awoke and wrote again for a couple hours. But it's time to rejoin both hubby and cats in bed. The torrent of words above are shed...there's now some rest for the ...weary.
UPDATE: March 7 Weds. I had to stay the night...almost conked out driving to rehearsals, a sure sign of exhaustion. Monday had slowed down but still I had to work. I just feel the momentum is on me, make the script tight. Hubby drove with me for that night's rehearsal. We ran into an actor at a restaurant, the very one hubby would be teaching harmonica to. Then we lollygagged, till I ran to the theater to find that rehearsals were a block away (sigh). Hubby and the actor had only a few minuites to work after the read-through, which showed pacing issues. Alleluia, Randy, the dialect coach, and the full cast and rehearsal team made for a full room. I could feel tension but was pretty tired. Hubby drove home, and I was still drained Tuesday when I revised a third of Act I. I almost feel asleep driving from SF to Redwood City. Luckily, the nearby motel had a room which I booked while a props meeting was held, and never finished. The lag time gave me a chance to finally talk to the actors in Filipino roles, encouraging them to discuss their backstories among themselves and ask questions about their characters. The subsequent scenework went pretty well. By midnight, fed and tired, I hit the sack. As usual, the internal 7am alarm went off and by 10am, more scenes were trimmed. One actor wished he could just place the script on his forehead and absorb the contents. Hmm, I think I'll try that...or just close my eyes.