Day 1 - Detail time
Two major things happened today. Firstly, Jack Offord, the fantastic photographer and film maker, came into the room and took some rehearsal photographs. All the sci-fi blue cold and vibrant photos on this blog are taken by him. He had done our production photos for our last show, The Hours Before We Wake. So that was an exciting start to the day.
Secondly, we went back through act one with a fine tooth comb. This consisted of finalising the number of loops in the time loop scene, deciding exactly where Millie will go in the time bender and working out the scene transitions. We're starting to feel the time pressure of the showcase on Thursday, so we've got to get the first act fluid and together. One thing that we're still struggling with is the opening of act one. The introduction of Millie is very brief and doesn't give us enough time with the character. We want to crack on with the story but if we don't spend a little longer getting to know Millie at the top of the show then it's not going to feel like her story. In the first run we did of the whole show in the first half of act one it felt like Edgar was the main character. One solution we proposed for this was to have Millie explain, in her own quirky way, a science concept that is emblematic of the whole structure of the show. I wrote a brief monologue for Millie at the start and we'll test it with Bea tomorrow to see if it works.
After rehearsals Hal, Hannah and I went back to my house to catch up with some music and sound design work that we didn't have time to finish in the room. We wrote a disco track that will serve as the background music to the looping scene and transition into the hocketting song for Edgar's gig. I also collected a load of sound cues to add to the sound design operated from the tech box. These sounds were arranged in order using a free programme called QLab. I highly recommend trying out the fully functional free version if you ever need to play sound cues during a show.
Day 2 - Lets get it together
Today Bea was back in the room and we started the day by showing her Act One. She suggested we go back to use the first Millie monologue we had in a much earlier version of the show. It allows the audience to be introduced to Millie in the same way she introduces herself to her YouTube audience. There are some details that give us a sense of Millie's character and also establish that she's starting out in the online world and has a lot to learn. This really helped solve the problem we had yesterday and highlights the importance of a dramaturg in a rehearsal process. They can be an outside eye that can take a look at the bigger picture while everyone gets their head stuck into the details.
Another realisation from today is that we're going to struggle to get everything we've devised up on it's feet and polished enough to be impressive at the showcase. After a chat with Bea and Emma, our producer, we came to the conclusion that it's going to be more exciting to an audience to get a flavour of what we've made through a series of 'edited highlights' with narration in between rather than to try and show everything we've got. It would be possible to perform everything but some scenes would need to be script in hand and others would be under rehearsed. This idea sparked a mixed bag of emotions because it's disappointing not to be able to show everything, but after a discussion with the whole group we decided to minimise stress levels and maximise quality at the showcase.
In the afternoon we focused on the scenes in act three. We're more familiar with the first two acts so making sure everything is in place for act three is a priority at this stage. After rehearsals we had a company social gathering where Emma cooked the company Fajitas. We also used some of the time together to go over the music and songs in a casual setting. Having time together outside of rehearsals is valuable for group morale and can help the team evolve. Also you often accidentally come up with interesting ideas that relate to the show by chatting and hanging out. Also, lets be honest, its just nice to relax a bit.
Day 3 - Polish and Cement
With a new energy from last night Fajita's we hit the ground running and started the day by doing final tweaks to the script, printing and doing runs. Last night I went through the script and added in all the lighting cues, which will give us a head start during the tech on showcase day, which is tomorrow. I also made sure we had all the sound cues ready while the actors ran their own brief warmup and walked thought their own path through the show.
Bea spent the morning making sure that our master document on Google Docs was all up to date for when we come back to work on the show for full rehearsals. This is a super important task because we'd never remember which versions of scenes were the most up to date if they're spread across different documents.
We managed to fit one run though into the morning session and in the afternoon we ran through the show twice more. Between each run I'd give out notes and we'd solve the problems that the run through had thrown up. Over the last two days we'd made a preset list, which documented where the props are set at the top of the show. This was constantly being updated as we rehearsed, but we now had the final version that we will be using on the day. If we'd employed a stage manager then they'd be on top of this, but we shared this job out as a company with each person being responsible for their own props.
At the end of the day we made sure to leave enough time to pack up all the props, set and costume into the two cars we'd be taking to The Wardrobe Theatre tomorrow.
Day 4 - The Showcase
We started the day at the Wardrobe Theatre at 9:00 AM. We did a very fast get-in and sound check before Chris Collier arrived to help us with our lighting. He rigged some extra lights for the time machine, focussed some of the lights for Edgar's gig and plotted all the lighting cues into the desk. He worked at lightning speed so by 11:30 we started a tech run. We only stopped once to solve a problem and carried on. Jack Offord watched to see which moments we should pick out to film to make a trailer. We chose a list of 8 scenes to film before the lunch break. The actors absolutely nailed all the takes and we gave them a short lunch break before a warmup and the showcase. The audience arrived at 3:00 and I jumped up on stage beforehand to mention the nature of the showcase and to re-itterate that my narration, to fill in the missing parts of story, won't be part of the final show.
The showcase went really well. Unusually, it was actually the best run we had ever done. The audience laughed, no one forgot their lines, the sound and lighting cues were smooth and the songs went well. It lasted just under an hour so when we actually perform the whole show it's looking like it might last about 70 minutes. This could be a problem if we take Then Again to any festivals, like Edinburgh Fringe, but we may be able to cut down some scenes and re-work some sections. After the showcase we invited the audience back for a Q and A session to gather feedback and to hear what people thought about the show as a whole. The discussion was productive and informative and we audio recorded the whole thing for future reference.
After packing everything back into the cars the whole cast sat down for a drink and a chat. We all collected what people thought and enjoyed the feeling of relief that it all went well.
Day 5 - What do we do next?
This final day came about accidentally, but was actually invaluable. We could only use the Wardrobe during the day on the Thursday for the showcase, which meant we had the Friday as a spare day which we figured we would use for a de-brief with the full company. It turned out this was the most fantastically useful day, full of reflections, insights, thoughts and plans. I'd highly recommend it to anyone making a show, give yourself a full day to digest the process, collate all the feedback and layout your vision for the future of the show.
As well as talking about the content of the show we also did some quick fire sketches of what we imagine the poster could look like. This will be helpful for the upcoming design session I'll be having with our graphic designer Harry Wright.
At the end of the day we said our final goodbyes and took the last photo for our daily tweets. It's not all sad though because we know that we'll be finishing off the show together at some point soon.