As it is with other obligations, I forget all the time-consuming annoying, beat-your-head-against-the-wall, why-did-I-agree-to-this parts when I audition for a play.  And after last fall’s rousing success, and the immediate performance high that followed, Mr. Apron and I are once again gracing the stage in community theatre.  He is again starring in a leading role, and I have again joined the ensemble.  This time the women’s chorus numbers not 16, but 6, so I’m a little less hidden by the stronger voices, but a little more confident because I’ve done this before.

Unfortunately, our current “director” has made it clear to us her strength is not choreography.  Nor would it seem to be singing, which is okay, because our musical director is a heavy-set gay man who manages to work his name into warm-ups, and I appreciate that bit of egotism in a man who is simultaneously cuing us and playing the piano.  However, I have yet to discover what is our director’s particular talent, as she seems, on the whole, not only to be good at nothing directorial, but also makes nothing much in the way of contributions to the play whatsoever. 

On the first rehearsal where we were on our feet, where she said we were going to be blocking, she spent an hour positioning us for the Act I finale like little dollies at a tea party.  Except that was the extent of the blocking.  And it was clear she hadn’t thought this out in advance, not even to practice with her dollies at home, because she was having untoward difficulties balancing the numbers on stage right and stage left.  Lots of mumbling to herself, lots of mumbling at her heretofore impotent and silent husband.  I’m not sure what he’s doing there, either.  And then, when she was satisfied with our positions, she had to write them down, making it absolutely clear there was no forethought whatsoever.  

Other times she has herded us all offstage into a back hallway from which we would try to make an entrance, only to try to give us direction, which we of course cannot hear, being squashed one up against each other in the religious school classrooms of the church we rent space from.  “Now, I just want to see if this will work.  Can you, um, skip in, and you walk up there?”  And she’s greeted by a host of blank looks, because we are now barricaded backstage awaiting something resembling direction and can’t hear her.

And then there’s her famous Stand and Sing, where she tell us to gesture with our right and left arms almost as if leading in the Macarena, and then tells us nothing more, leaving us standing stock still as if we’re the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who I’m sure were given more direction on how to hold their hands than we were. 

For a while, those of us who are accustomed to being directed stood there uncomfortably as she “blocked” another scene, hoping that the awkwardness we felt was emanating from the stage, and that eventually she would tell us what to do besides stand there and sing about joyful things while our bodies screamed, “I am not joyful.  Leave me alone.”  Maybe she would get the message.

One night while again being herded into the back hallway to look at the posters of “How we can help the Earth”, the women’s chorus began a revolt.  It started innocently enough, some whispers of discontent, some bitching about how dumb we’re going to feel in front of our friends and family, assuming we even invite them to the show.  Then it evolved into a mutiny.  While having the entire women’s chorus quit would have sent the desired message that the play, thus far, was so sucktastic we couldn’t take part, we chose a different type of revolution.  We decided to meet early before the next rehearsal, brainstorm our own choreography, and present it to Madame Un-director as little bits of support.  As supplements.  As mere ideas.  We didn’t think she’d be offended if we presented it in the right way, as “help”, not as coup. 

And she’s such a pushover with so few real ideas, she went for it immediately.  Now here’s one of those situations where picking up the slack for someone else’s laissez-faire attitude might not teach her to pull her own weight, but, since we’re the ones on stage, it’s going to save our own asses.  That kind of compensation, I’m all for.  I like my ass, and I’d like not to embarrass myself on stage by standing there, hands locked in choral pose, singing through dancing music.   And, what’s more, I can learn from her mistakes, and never again sign up to do a show she’s involved with.

There are subtle ways Madame Un-director tries to exert, if not her outright influence, then at least her power over us.  She lets us know she will grace the program as director even if we know she’s a joke.  She has told several people to “cheat out”, which seems to be her only bit of theatrical jargon, and her only real feedback.  Last night after the chorus had learned the new choreography and had run through the opening number, (with music!) and it actually didn’t suck, and I actually almost felt we might have a show, she let us know that when we, the women, turn over our shoulders and “talk” to the men behind us, she’s losing our faces, and, thus, our voices.  In a theatre of 75 seats, that’s actually a church social hall.  Oh, thank you for your single piece of input on a number we have taken from awful to enjoyable!   She also made the bold move of taking a script out of an actor’s hands while he was on stage, because we’re supposed to be off book.  Though, as Mr. Apron later told me, she tried that particular assertion twice, and chickened out the first time, returning to her folding chair without his script. 

 If she needs to feel important, or powerful, or in control when she tells us to “cheat out”, or arranges us like pawns on a chess board, or by timidly ripping scripts out of people’s hands, then so be it.  If that helps her feel like a director while we undermine her by blocking and choreographing while she’s on the phone, then it all works out. 

It’ll all be okay in the end, I know.  We’ll keep working on choreography surreptitiously to avoid embarrassment, and the slack-asses on stage will learn their lines eventually.  Our friends and family will come, and while there won’t be a curtain per-se, that will rise and fall, we’ll be back in the bright lights, on stage together.  As Mr. Apron said last night, by the first week of April we might really have a show.  Too bad we open February 26.   

Advertisements