Now I know how workshops go
It’s my maiden journey into the world of workshops. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I was truly prepared for it. I’m still not, but it’s all good.
In the past, my preparations for doing a musical — even a brand new one — included studying the material in its final form, more or less.
But I’ve also had the experience of being in previews, and having a page of lyrics or recitative change rehearsed in the afternoon, then performed that night. I think the amount of pages replaced from my script, when added up, must have been as thick as a phone book. I must have consumed stacks of highlighters.
Right now, because we’re in the process of development in this musical called “Allegiance,” everyday feels like that. Every one of us in the cast has a folder with our name on it, and at the beginning of each work day, we have to check if there’s a new script or music page in there, fresh from the minds of the creative team.
On my first day, I sat on the floor hunkered down over my script, highlighter in hand. I think everyone in the cast was quite industrious with that task of highlighting lines and specific harmonies, as well as penciling in stage directions and line changes.
By Saturday, it’s safe to say, we had given up with the highlighting and the notations, since new pages and music were coming in way too quickly.
I first heard the term “acting in a cup” on rehearsal day 1. I can’t remember if it was uttered by someone on his way to or back from the coffeemaker. From what I can infer, “acting in a cup” has everything to do with a jolt from that magical thing called coffee.
Our rehearsal days can last up to eight hours, depending on what’s scheduled for the day. There can be singing, choreography, or maybe a heavy, emotional scene. Our choreographer, Christopher Gatelli (“Bat Boy,” “Altar Boyz,” “South Pacific”) can be with us only for the first week, so everything that has to do with the musical staging has to be completed right away.
And since this is a musical, quite a bit has to be done. Christopher’s assistant, Tara, will remain with us here in New York as he goes off to London to mount “South Pacific” (with the amazing Paulo Szot and Loretta Ables Sayre reprising their Broadway roles of Emile de Becque and Bloody Mary, respectively).
At various points during the day, I find the need for a little pick-me-up to get me through, whether from the previous night’s lack of sleep, or just an early start. “Acting in a cup.” Bow.
The great thing about putting this musical on its feet is seeing how its various elements leap off the page. Production numbers are now able to tell a story far more strongly than when merely sung behind music stands. A scene that needed far more words in the reading require little to none now. One look, one swipe, one gasp says far more than a full paragraph.
Stafford, our director, also makes it a point to speak with each principal player to help figure out the path onto which our characters will go. We get hints, parameters, as well as the freedom to discover who we are and how we get to where we’ll need to go.
I have to say, with each version of the script, I’ve found myself falling deeper in love with my character, Gloria. She’s feisty, outspoken, passionate, intelligent, maternal and a lot of fun. She’s undergone quite a transformation throughout this development stage.
Actually, all the characters have undergone change and I’m sure that will continue, for as long as the musical’s development continues. We have three more weeks of rehearsals left. I wonder what we’ll be discovering next.
There have been a slew of shows left and right in Manila which, sadly, I’ve had to miss, so to all the artists and musicians who sang and played their faces off and their guts out, congratulations! I pray for repeat performances, and plenty of them.
To the family of Jo Ramos on her passing, our prayers and thoughts are with you.
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