The documentary from the 2011 Young Artist Project, made by Emily Lappi.
Five performers. Twelve days. No limits. It's time to build a show from the ground up, and fast! Follow along to watch the journey from the white board to under the stage lights.
The documentary from the 2011 Young Artist Project, made by Emily Lappi.
… house lights out, main out…
Day 12 – 8/6/2011
On the first day of rehearsals, I walked into Phantom Projects, not too sure of what I was actually doing. I had been asked by Steve to blog the process of the show, to be an honest “fly on the wall” and not sugarcoat and sweeten things. I was excited. After about an hour, 5 of the most average, ordinary young adults walked into the Phantom Projects headquarters. They looked like faces in the crowd, people that I’ve seen a million times in uptown or maybe at school. By the end of that first rehearsal, I stopped seeing them as average; stopped seeing them as the faces, the characters, in the promotional photo shoot. They started that day by bearing their hearts to each other, talking about their pasts, their lives; trying to use their stories for what – for whatever – they were going to do.
It was a surprise how fast they developed the idea for “She”. The performers wanted to do something together, a cohesive project rather than a series of vignettes. And the theme was “loss”. The homework for their very first night was to pick items that represented “loss” to them, and it was those items that inspired their characters and their stories. Almost nothing of their original story was deleted or destroyed. Yes, scenes and lines were cut, whole passages were changed; but it took nothing from the essence of the story they started writing on the second day of rehearsal. Every one of their ideas was enhanced and solidified; there was no compromise on the heart of the story.
It was this story that drew the performers together, and motivated them to work so hard. They each had a character, they each revealed a facet of She. They never stopped finding new ways to tell their story. At, quite literally, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, they were still creating and still writing. And they would’ve kept going if they had another day, or two, or five. They were invested to the degree where problems like an utter lack of sleep and toxic levels of Dr. Pepper in their bloodstream became minor annoyances in the face of their art. Even through all of the inevitable frustration and stress that comes with working on such a deadline, from working such hours, it was the show that held the performers together and warded away the bad drama that seems to generate around young adults.
I cannot say that I’ve ever seen such dedication to anything by people of their age. In a generation of apathy, it’s such a pleasant change to see people that love their art. Simply being around the performers and watching them work made me want to write, think, and create; made me believe that anything is possible; that if they could write, create, and perform a show worth performing in less than two weeks, then I could at least write. That I should write.
Their dedication, their talent, their passion, and their hard work all showed under the lights. Each one of the performers deserved their space on the stage. As a group and as individuals, they all contributed to the success and strength of the story and the program. They have such exceptional creativity, talent, and love for their art. Their performance was so good, so strong, that it wasn’t noticeable that they hadn’t slept for most of the last week, nor that their show had been completely created in two weeks. In fact, with the quality of the show they’ve created, I wouldn’t believe it, wouldn’t think it possible, to make such a poignant and outstanding show in a mere two weeks.
And now, after a long two weeks, it is now time to sleep, and perchance, to dream. And who knows where those dreams will take these five young artists. I wish them all the best.
It’s Friday. Oh goodness. One more day before the big performance. The performers are invigorated with a new energy that they hadn’t had the last couple days. They’re finally tapping into the adrenaline and the thrill of performing; the fatigue is pushed aside for just a little bit longer.
The day begins with a technical runthrough. This means that the focus isn’t on the performers and what they’re doing so much; but rather, Steve and Tracy are trying to figure out all of the technical details; the lighting, the audio cues, and the rail (the different curtains). The performers are in costume, but are still on book (reading from the script) and fast-forwarding through their lines, so all of the cues can be hit quickly. There is a lot of pausing, though, while Tracy notates the script with a lot of techie talk – gobos and crossfades and scrims, oh my! – there are well over 100 cues in the script. As you can imagine, this is quite a bit of work, especially since they’re imagining all of the lighting and the curtains – they won’t have access to the stage and lights until tomorrow morning’s rehearsal at the theatre.
After the technical run, there’s a quick break, then it’s time for a full runthrough, in costumes and off book. Near the end of the runthrough, they stop to do a table read and tweak a scene that they had trouble with. They also need to work on polishing their choreography; making sure everybody is in the same moment, and the same step.
The performers break for a while to get food, to rest their tired minds (as much is possible) and to just get out of the rehearsal hall for a little while. Of course, being that the show is tomorrow, they can’t spend too much time out. They beat the piano into working, then practice a new song. Near the end of their break, Janet, the resident director at Phantom, drops in to visit to meet the performers and wish them broken legs. She visits with them for a while and shows them a time step or two, before continuing on her own adventure.
Around 9:30, the performers begin the final runthrough. Though most of the problems have been ironed out, there are still a couple snaffoos with audio cues and memorized lines (though that is due to the fact that many different things have been tweaked in the script). This is a very solid show. They have the emotion, the humor, and their characters nailed down to a T.
Still, like any director worth their salt, Steve has a slew of notes. So they merge into the circle of doom and discuss everything that needs to be fixed. It’s no longer major details, but little moments and beats, as well as some staging issues; nothing that the technical rehearsal on stage won’t fix. The evening ends with a discussion about tomorrow – what needs to be done, and just a general schedule and advice for tomorrow. He also gives them a moderate amount of praise – well deserved as it is – they have stuck to their theme, and they have made a show to be proud of – but he also warns them to not be too confident and cocky; and most of all; to have fun and never, ever, stop creating.
This is it. We hope to see you tomorrow night at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.
The day starts with the performers in their own corners, working on different projects. There’s music and choreography to finish, a script to be finished, a documentary to be finished, and lines to learn (which doesn’t help when the script is in flux, but that’s beside the point). The point is, it’s Thursday. The show is on Saturday, and it is crunch time.
The performers group together to watch fragments of the documentary, which is turning out to be quite funny due to the sense of delirium that’s sweeping through the performance space. While they’re working hard and making great progress on their show, any moment that they’re not performing, rehearsing, or working, they’re laughing and talking, their minds carried on the undertow of drowsiness – It’s the easiest way to mitigate the brick wall of stress.
After lunch (Pizza, courtesy of Steve), it’s time to run through the new and improved script. Steve, as is customary, is now officially taking over as the director; meaning that the performers can focus on acting and performing, and aren’t making all of the technical and directorial choices. This should allow them to get out of the rehearsals at a decent hour, and to rest a little bit more before they take to the stage. It’s also time for stage manager Tracy to start creating the technical script, which contains all of the lighting, music, and curtain cues.
Even in the first scene, Steve is making corrections and suggestions; and having the performers repeat the scenes over and over again; he’s trying to get the script and the blocking stuck in their heads. It’s a lot of little things that are being changed; little details and little choices that end up getting a laugh, or improving the flow; making the show sound and look a lot better.
After the runthrough, Steve praises the performers for staying true to their story, and for staying together and fighting through the monumental amount of work they’ve taken upon themselves. He believes that the writing is good; and now it’s time to perfect the staging. He’s also reminding the performers to stay excited; to remember the feeling of the first couple days and to not let each other get on their last nerves.
After this, the performers take a break, and then split to work on recording the voiceover for a section of the show, and others work on the finishing touches to the script. Tracy has a slight (comedic) breakdown and ends up on the floor for a couple moments, but the evening goes on. Dinner is bought, and the performers work on more choreography, learning lines from the finally finished script, and Emily puts more work into the documentary. Around 10:30(!) They regroup and start working on more choreograpy.
It’s been a long night, but now the show is in a solid shape. There are little lines that need to be pulled in, and some changes to be made; but the performers have made a show to be proud of, even at the cost of their sanity, mental well-being, and several dozen hours of sleep in the last 10 days.
Steve ends the evening with a discussion of the next couple days: what’s going to happen, what needs to be done. He also introduces a new rule: There is one phrase that cannot be said for the rest of the show’s run. “I’m tired” is taboo. It’s nearly the end, and everybody is tired. Make sure you have your tickets, now.