It's obvious when you see The Fair Maid of the West, Parts I and II how many hats we as actors wear in this one production, and while playing multiple roles onstage is a new thing for most members of this ensemble, assuming multiple roles offstage is not. This marks the seventh production that I have taken on the role of carpenter, master carpenter, or Technical Director and in four of those shows I was an actor as well (I am by no means the only member of our ensemble who does this but this is my blog entry so I’m going to talk about me).
As an actor and a carpenter, the pressure usually builds leading up to tech week. The functional parts of the set have to be complete by the time we enter technical rehearsals so the cast and crew can get comfortable with all of the moving parts, spacing, entrances and exits. This pre-tech time is also usually the last chance to have “regular” rehearsals without costumes, tech, and makeup. In the past this pressure sometimes caused a split in focus. I might have found myself worrying about how to finish a complicated set piece when I needed to be warming up for rehearsal or I may have slowed down my build work by dwelling too much on a particular mistake I made in a scene. Either way, allowing yourself to be distracted always keeps you from making strong acting choices or working efficiently.
With this production we made it a goal as an ensemble to make sure we did everything in our power to put our full focus on our art. This show was just too big and complicated. There was no way to succeed otherwise. We could not allow responsibility in one discipline to affect quality in another. Keeping this in mind we made sure to start work on the set early, finishing projects like planking the floor way back in August. As actors we also had early versions of the adapted script as well as dialect CD’s back in July, so I had no excuse not be prepared. This allowed me to come to build calls with more peace of mind.
When it came down to tech/dress rehearsal week, I remembered what I should be focused on. Instead of running around half-costumed with a hammer and nail fixing some broken trim, I was warming up my voice and going through my script. Brad and Melissa, our Technical Director and Set Designer, did an awesome job of shouldering a great part of the finishing touches that this set needed. The extended preview time and added rehearsals before we opened really allowed all of us as artists to tighten up the show we worked on for so long. I am proud of all of my hats…one smells of sweat and sawdust the other is stained with dirt makeup from a seventeenth century sea battle.