We are now in the “off-book” section of the rehearsal process for As You Like It. No more scripts in hand; lines are supposed to be memorized.
Supposed to be…
At this point in the process, if an actor blanks on the line, they can still call out “LINE!” and they will be fed the line. And I’m good with it as long as they stay in character and emotion when the call for it (none of this, “oh, sh!t…I knew this… god, what was it? oh, line!”).
The deadline for being off-book was a week ago Tuesday, but the first test was a week ago tonight. Both producer Laura and I were attending a meeting, so stage manager Karla took the helm. I texted her before rehearsal: “Don’t make a big deal of it, but keep a tally of how many times LINE is called. If you reach 75, shut down the rehearsal and send the actors home… tell them to learn their lines.”
Seventy-five seems an arbitrary number, but it’s the number of pages in the script…and if they’re calling for line (on average) on every page, they aren’t ready.
They hit 75 about 2/3 of the way through the read-through. But when she tried to shut it down, they requested that they be allowed to finish. I’ll give them that: they are a persistent bunch.
So, Monday night, we did a run-through of Act One. Only a handful of “LINE”s … quite a few skipping sections … a lot of alterations of the text. All to be expected, but as I pointed out to them, it also causes the speeches to be filled with unearned pauses… which pads the running time. We spent pretty much all three hours on Act One. Not good. Not all that surprising, but not good still.
Last night, we did Act Two. And… MUCH BETTER. Fewer callings of LINE (of course, one has to wonder how much of this is due to a fifth of the cast not being there because of work or illness). It moved more quickly. And it felt good. Solid. Like we’re well on our way.
They have another week of “LINE”… next Thursday, there is no safety net… they’re on their own.