How do you capture this feeling? I swore to myself I would blog. That was in the beginning of rehearsals, the one-month period which came to a dramatic halt today as we left the basement rehearsal room of the Alliance Theatre and began our morning “IN THE THEATER.” It’s a cliche, it’s a known transition; any actors reading this will go, “Ok yeah yeah, then WHAT…”
Let me back up.
One day, I arrived in Atlanta over a month ago, with three small kids in tow, checked into the local Residence Inn (nothing fancy) and made room for our many stuffed animals, the Calico Critters Treehouse and creatures, a pile of games like Uno, Trouble, Twister, and Chutes & Ladders. I settled who sleeps where, I had two cots delivered, moved furniture, unplugged TVs and made a small space workable for such a big family as ours. We needed food. We needed to display the 17 colorful fashion headbands we traveled with. Husband Patrick took an ESPN job the first weekend commentating the tennis in Atlanta, and I was able to tour the girls around to the zoo and the YMCA. My big girl (now 8-years old) Victoria jumped in on double-dutch jump roping in Piedmont Park.
Rehearsals began a few days into our stay in Atlanta, and I put on my zebra skirt and off I went to work!
There was a design presentation. The incredible and large staff of the Alliance Theatre showed their great hospitality in some really lovely greetings. Then, we had a table read (when the cast sits around big tables, set into a large rectangle, and reads the script – and sings…for the first time). I had never sung those songs out loud but I had heard some demos over the summer. Will Swenson (Crash) was so nice and said he couldn’t believe how prepared I was. He’d done the show before, and I was just thrilled I had done homework and kept the reading humming, and that he was so kind and fun. Everyone was so warm and funny and our director made us feel like we were doing something really special, with a real heart. After all, A-ball baseball players (the bottom rung of the professional circuit) play baseball because they love it. Not for money. Not for anything but the love of playing. Real love of doing it. I know that feeling.
Ron Shelton was in the room. Need I say more? He is the screenwriter of the beloved film BULL DURHAM, and he also directed the movie. And he has since told me a wondrous story of meeting Susan Sarandon who flew herself from Italy to audition for the role, traveling with her toddler daughter and came in wearing a red and white stripe tube dress. He loved her. She auditioned with Kevin Costner and was fearless. In a month’s time, I can now talk freely with Ron, but for a while I stayed somewhat to myself because my awe of him and the movie was so deep that I didn’t even know how to begin to step into any of that sacred space. I just wanted to take time and love it forward. He has been such an uplifting and loving presence every day. He sits in on every rehearsal, and writes lines and listens and studies us. We all talk. Yes, sometimes we talk bawdy. We have become a team.
“Love it forward.”
Teams that ACT (sing/dance) are different than ball players though!! So one day, they took us to the Gwinnett Braves training field and stadium and we met Marty Reed, the coach of the Braves, and we had a full day of “spring training”! It was fantastic.
I cannot say enough nice things about Susan Werner, our composer. She has put me on to listening to some of her influences, and she has explained to me how she feels about singing “the time” and “the words.” She is a true poet. Her voice is singular and she is one of the kindest and most exciting people I have ever met. I am in awe of musicians, and there is something about her musicianship partnered with her SPIRIT and her intelligence which is just thrilling. In this last month, she has told me to trust myself, to not be a perfectionist. I told her that theater people are accustomed to getting a lot of notes and having to retain a lot of detailed instruction. She said, “This is not that party.” She lets me let go. I think you’re gonna like her songs. I have one in the first act which swept me off my feet the day I first heard it and every day since.
The first week of rehearsal we had a photo shoot. Will and John Behlmann (Nuke) and I had to get up early and have our photos taken at 9:00am.
I remember walking through the empty theater one day and seeing boxes arriving. The stage was so empty but something had arrived…
I had that feeling in my heart, a quickening, that seeds were being planted all over and would all start growing. Costumes were being made in New York and in Atlanta, seamstresses in both cities working overtime. Wigs being built and shipped from New York. We recorded our rehearsals and voices and emailed those recordings to an orchestrator who worked in the mountains upstate somewhere, and would be writing incredible charts for a 10-piece pop-rock theater band. Derek McLane was designing the sets. (He’s one of my old friends and designed my Sunday in The Park With George at The Kennedy Center.) The delightful choreographer Josh Bergasse taught us dances and gave us some tricks which some of us are still practicing to master. There are so many elements. It has been like watching an enormous puzzle be built.
Perhaps it’s cool to stay up late (later than late!!) in the aftermath of the first day of tech (perhaps its crazy!! I gotta get up early with the kids tomorrow), and try to capture this gratitude. To try to recall what happened – one exciting month – up until this day, and what hopes and warmth fill the bodies and minds of so many actors and creative people tonight. We got up on stage tonight. Even if I was sometimes center stage, I was supported by and inspired by so many, and hardly stood alone. Will Swenson, John Behlmann, Lora Lee Gayer, everyone in the company. I cannot imagine a more wonderful group of people who do this because they love it.
And one last little tidbit – a collection of videos from our rehearsals!