Monday, 16 September 2013

Big, BIGGER...Technical?

My directors have often said it to me, and I have said it to my casts: in live performance things go wrong. Somewhere you are going to make a mistake. It's part of what we do and what matters is how you handle the blunder, miss-spoken word, the entrance you missed or the choreography that temporarily vacated your current consciousness. And 2 weeks ago our cast had to deal with just that. The insanity of live performance.

CHASING had been invited to perform at the University's weekly 'Lunch Hour Performances'. So the week before the performance we changed the format of the show to fit the 40 minute time limit we had. Our director and choreographer could not attend these rehearsals and we were left in the equally competent hands of her business partner, friend and the designer of our show. With the time imposition placed upon us many of the transitions between the pieces of our show changed, meaning that entrances and exits were different, and people were on stage or off stage when they had previously been doing something else. Many of the routines were also shortened to carve our hour plus show into the 40 minutes. But knowing the show as well as we did, and being comfortable with the changes we weren't too stressed about the performance. That was until the morning of our show.

Checking the lights and setting up the morning of our performance.
We moved into the theatre, which none of us had performed in before, the night before our lunch time performance. We were informed that the workshop and props department had lost one of our four boxes. I found it odd that they were able to lose a box made of steel and wood, which weighed almost 5kilograms and stands about a meter high. But it was gone. A new one had made to replace it, so we were not too bothered about this first development. Two other props were also missing, including a black chair and an old fashioned typewriter, which was essential to some of the show's spectacular visual elements. We thought we knew where they were, and we would get them early the next morning before we performed.

And so we arrived bright and early on campus the morning of our lunch time performance, with earrings in place for later, we all realized, and costumes in hand. We found our typewriter without too much bother, but our chair was missing. This meant that while I was fixing the box used for my solo with contact adhesive which had broken in Grahamstown (using my fingers as a brush as it too was missing) our stand-in director found a stand-in chair, bought spray paint and painted it black (I ended up performing with a thin stripe of black paint on my forearm and bits of stubborn contact adhesive all over my fingers).

And then we heard the news that changed the energy of our entire group instantly: it had been made compulsory for the entire drama department to come and watch our performance. Classes and meetings were put on hold and rescheduled so that we would have an audience. And as we walked on stage, to an audience of about 700 people, more than double our biggest audience we had had before we realized that the black coats which were supposed to be hanging on a hatstand for the beginning of the show had not been pre-set. And there was nothing we could do in that moment. Thankfully one of our male cast members on the opposite side of the stage and the sense to put them on the hatstand in the momentary blackout we had after the opening of the show, and the show was off to a roaring start...and yet not without its hitches...

 A Section of the seating...which was soon filled.
The large rolls of paper we had never had a problem with before and which we use in our show decided to tear while being used on stage, or simply not to roll across the stage as they were supposed to, and had done so often before. In the second routine of the show the four ladies in our cast dance to a piece of music called "Fragment". The music comes from a poem written by the female poet Ingrid  Jonker, whose life serves as inspiration for the show. Essentially a large sheet of paper is held across the stage and in so doing our bodies are fragmented while we dance as the paper covers parts of us and only disjointed arms, heads and legs can be seen. When the paper tore this illusion was broken, but we carried on without batting an eyelid. This was followed by our essential, and incredibly heavy typewriter being put down on top of my dress and I had to keep my calm in order to free myself unobtrusively before we started dancing again. Seconds later the typewriter hooked on the edge of our new chair when it needed to be lifted high in the air, and I again had to unobtrusively manoeuvre the typewriter to get it to do what it was supposed to do. And my favourite moment of them all…
Our show

After my feet got covered in salt in the new format of the show, we performed the second last routine, a routine our cast dubbed 'chasing', and by implication involves quite a lot of running. As I jumped my salt-slick feet broke my trust in them and I fell on my (already temperamental) right knee. I was up in a flash and only grazed but only I will manage to do that in front of an audience of 700.

So despite the technical issues, and dancers forgetting cues, and spectacular falls I had fun on stage. And we performed our hearts out. I couldn’t be happier.

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