So, I thought I’d check in with a little 3800 Elizabeth update, since I hadn’t really done so yet. We’ve got the first two episodes under our belts already and have figured out what it takes to put this thing together every week. Namely: diligence.
You see, since the show adheres to an episodic sitcom format, we’re essentially doing a brand new show every week. Which means learning a new 22-page short play every seven days. And, since the show is subject to indie theater economics, rehearsal time is minimal – only two days a week, including our run-through/tech rehearsal the day of performance. Which means doing a lot of work on my own, mostly in the form of learning and running my lines wherever I can, whenever I can, and for as long as I can. Obviously, this means a lot of time spent sequestered in my bedroom, pacing back and forth and ritualistically muttering to myself (I hope my neighbors aren’t spying on me – I must look like a maniac). It also means doing much of the same during my lunch break (it’s a miracle that security at the pedestrian thoroughfare across the street from my office hasn’t started following me around the premises as I burrow down with my script). The Companion has been extremely helpful in running lines with me whenever we get together, and with nary a complaint (she’s a good egg, that one). So, all in all, I’m finding ways to get it done.
But still, hard work. Because it has to be done every day. Skipping a day puts one perilously behind. I found this out the hard way last week when I skipped more than one day, and then found myself floundering on tech day. A frustrating and embarrassing situation. I pride myself on being prepared come show day (or, at least, trying to be), and I wasn’t this time. So, I had to make like I was cramming for the final exam and drill drill drill my trouble spots over and over until I could, at least, reasonably paraphrase them without sounding like I was about to go up. A lesson well-learned, I tell you.
So, this week I’m blocking out time to work on my lines at some point every day. Episode 3 is especially line-heavy for both me and my co-star, Iracel Rivero, so we will individually be working overtime all week.
As much work as the show is, it is also mostly a lot of damn fun. Doing this show is like taking a crash course in comedy. Learning how to play the scene and get the laughs without pandering for them (a temptation that is easy to give in to); learning how to time things best and pick up cues so as to develop a good rhythm; discovering which bits of business work and which ones don’t (i.e. body language, facial expressions, vocal inflections, etc.); knowing when to turn up the urgency for laughs and when to dial it down. It’s all pretty incredible. The fast pace at which everything happens – from the speed at which acting choices need to made to the total time it takes to put everything together – gives me a newfound respect for both sitcom actors and soap opera actors. I will never scoff at either again.
And everyone has been a joy to work with so far: my co-stars, Iracel and Peter Handy, who are both talented, funny, and inspiringly dedicated; writer-director Aaron Baker, whose quicksilver non-sequiturs leave me in stitches; stage manager Berit Johnson, who brings a level head and a lot of good cheer and know-how to the proceedings; and our guest stars (so far), Ian W. Hill and Christiaan Koop, both of whom came in on short notice and knocked one out of the park. To think that we’re only just getting started – i.e. we’ve got five more weeks and many more guest stars to go – is very, very exciting.
One thing I’ve noticed is that we’ve run smack up against some other significant cultural happening on both performances thus far. Episode 1 was the same night as The Super Bowl (we played to a small, but appreciative crowd); Episode 2 was the same night as The Grammys (we played to a much larger, but no less appreciative crowd). This week we’re up against The NBA All-Star Game, and next week we’re competing with The Oscars.
I hope we can keep that audience-building momentum going. So do your part, people, and come check us out. We’re really good, and we’d love to see you there! (Besides, the writer’s strike just ended so you’ll have to wait a little while longer for your favorite shows to come back on.)
Episode 3, “Sonja the Boneless,” debuts at The Battle Ranch this Sunday night at 8pm. And, did I mention that all performances are FREE?!?! As in: no admission/ticket price! That’s a deal you just can’t quabble with. Come see us in action, and let us become your new favorite show.