14. R & J REHEARSAL REPORT
There was a hope that there would be more of these, but I'll be lucky to get two or three completed. The following was written three weeks into the rehearsal process and two weeks out from opening night.
After over four years of script and music development and over a year of dreaming and strategizing here in Asheville, we are on an irreversible course towards the opening of the full production of The Ballad of R & J in downtown Asheville, North Carolina on June 2. That’s impossible to wrap my head around, so I’ve taken the day by day approach to keep steady on the course. That said, I’ll give myself this brief moment to step back and share before plunging back in.
First, I have to talk about this fine cast. The talent was evident in the audition room, but when the sum total of time spent together is less than a get-to-know-you coffee, you can never truly know. Moreover, I’m asking people who don’t know me from Adam to not only trust my vision of the play, but the experimental production as well. Compound that with slightly non-traditional methods and an ever-present irreverence to a classical approach to Shakespeare, and I thank my stars they’re not only still coming to rehearsal, but coming completely bought in. They are the true gift of this process. While I’ve had two wonderful versions of the cast in the workshops, I’ve never had the opportunity to deepen the work beyond first choices. Brand new discoveries are being unearthed about this play and these characters that four years didn’t reveal and it’s the actors that are giving it to me. With three weeks behind us, a cohesive ensemble is developing and I’m ecstatic to journey onwards with this team.
Second, the Show Truck. Since its inception, it has been both vital to our delivery system and a mystery in its execution. Arnel Sancianco, the initial designer of what was then called the Stage Wagon (then Boxcar Theatre, now Show Truck) created this gorgeous, spot on design and yet admittedly had no idea how to build it. That was totally fair and yet I had no idea how to go about finding someone to take it on. That, my friends, is when Serendipity touched me on the shoulder. Flashback to the AMC’s first project, An Appalachian Christmas Carol, and I desperately needed a third team member, whose description was somewhere in between a stage manager and a puppeteer. Over the weeks leading up to crunch time, I had been through three possibilities and was now staring down not having anyone at all. I sent an email to a local theatre ally, Michelle Carello, who then forwarded it on to folks she knew, and lo and behold at the eleventh hour, I received an email from one Alex Smith. Not only was he a great collaborator for that project, but I came to understand he was a man of many talents. One talent, in particular, was building things and he just happen to be starting a fabrication company, whose first project became the Show Truck. Single-handedly, he built our beautiful mobile stage that debuted at the Creative Intervention of Carolina Lane and now rests in the middle of my lawn in its rehearsal position. Needless to say, we are absolutely fortunate to have Alex on our team.
Finally, a brief word about the process with much more to come later. It’s been a dream, but certainly not without its challenges and the biggest one has been having rehearsals at home. It’s a blending of worlds that has huge advantages in the commute, the rent, and the scenery. Like much of this process, the choice was easy, but the execution has had its difficulties. Most of that has fallen on my wife, Simone, and our daughter, Matilda, and I owe them the world for it. Try explaining to a three-year old that all these people are coming over to work and need to focus on their job, which is…playing pretend. Just yesterday, she yelled down to the stage, “Daddy, I think you’re working AND playing.” What could I say? She was absolutely right.