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On the other side

By: - Columnist
/ 12:22 AM November 03, 2016
The author with (from left) Claude-Michel Schonberg, Joanna Ampil and Bobby Garcia

The author with (from left) Claude-Michel Schonberg, Joanna Ampil and Bobby Garcia

This is our final week in the rehearsal studio with just a few precious chances to get things right before we move to the theater. As of today, we’ve done five run-throughs, another costume fitting and cleanup of specific scenes. The thing about this process is that once we hit our tech period, it’s less about emotion and nuance, and more about creative team members doing their jobs. At that point, all of us in the cast are bodies to light and place, and voices for the sound guys to calibrate.

In the midst of the chaos of putting a show together is probably the one man who has retained his calm amid the storm. And that man is our director, Bobby Garcia.

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We’ve worked together for so many years now—on concerts, straight plays and musicals. There is always hearty laughter and good-natured ribbing (not even my husband is immune from it). And it is always such a joy for me to watch him get to do what he loves the most.

As a director, he is straightforward and honest. He knows how to get the best out of his actors, and does it without being insulting, condescending or mean. Many actors in this business, yours truly included, have at times in our careers unwittingly stepped into a land mine or two, and it gives us such relief that here’s someone who trusts us with the material we’ve been handed, and trusts us to give the best portrayals we can.

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Now that I’m fully off-book (all lines of dialogue, music and stage cues are completely memorized), I’ve been watching Bobby at work. And it’s such a beautiful sight.

His head darts from side to side trying to watch as much of the action as he can.

He takes copious notes as the run-through progresses, pointing out every single detail. Mispronounce a word? Using the wrong accent? Singing too loudly? Then, you’ll get a note. Knotty stage traffic pattern? Veering too far off-course? A missed consonant? Yes, you’ll get a note for those, too.

However, what impresses me is how he gives the note. He will look you in the eye and firmly tell you what you need to do, then trust in you fully that at the next run-through, you’ll have taken care of it.

You will not be babysat (not even if you’re only 11 years old, like a few of our kids in “Fun Home”). And sometimes, he’ll give a note with impeccable comedic timing that everyone in the room starts howling.

Working with him is always a collaboration, not a dictatorship. He places the best people he can get into their roles in the shows he directs, whether they’re actors, designers or musicians. And he fosters an environment that enables you to do your best work unencumbered by fear. It’s freeing—and we’re all happier for it. Thank you always, my dearest Bobby. Thank you.

The author and her favorite director Bobby Garcia

The author and her favorite director Bobby Garcia

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TAGS: Entertainment, Lea Salonga, play, rehearsal, stage
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