“Why am I exiting stage left at the end of this scene?” asked Beverly. “It doesn’t make any sense to leave Sue when we’ve been together the whole song. We worked out a BFF background for these characters and then we just walk away from each other. It’s weird.”
‘Your role in this scene is townsperson, best friends aren’t required’ I thought. But that’s not what I said.
“Actually, that’s on purpose” I replied. “Rob really wanted to give the impression of a huge and varied town just offstage. You don’t enter from the same place at the top of the number do you?” That question was rhetorical, I knew they didn’t.
“No, we don’t.”
“Right, so you are friends who just happened to run into each other in town and you stopped to sing a song together.” We both grinned at the joyful absurdity of musical theater. “But you’ve each got your own things to finish, so you go on your separate ways.”
“That makes sense. We can work out a little hello and goodbye something. A small something, don’t worry. And thank you.” Beverly nodded at me and walked over to the clothes rack to take off her rehearsal skirt before catching up to the rest of the cast. The room had emptied and the only sound left was my keyboard clicking away.
“Can I interrupt you for a second?” asked Rachel, the stage management intern assigned to the show.
“Sure, what’s up?” I finished the sentence I was typing and turned to face her. As interns went she was awesome, both excited to be working on a big production and eager to help and learn.
“What you were just telling Beverly, how did you know that?”
“Oh, I made it up.”
“When an actor asks why they’re moving a certain way on stage they usually don’t want the reason, they want a motivation.” Rachel looked very confused.
“Look, from a stage management perspective she’s exiting stage left because she has a quick change to be a nun for the next scene and that’s where the dressers are. From Rob’s perspective she’s exiting stage left because it looks right. Those are the reasons. But what she wanted to know is why she was exiting stage left from a character perspective. So I invented a motivation for her.”
“Will Rob be upset that you did that?”
“I seriously doubt Rob will ever notice. He’s a director who works in images; he firmly believes that if it looks true it is true. He doesn’t spend time on individual character beats with the chorus, and on this hurry-up schedule we don’t really have the time. Beverly’s now happy doing exactly what he wants her to do, so everyone wins.”
“How did you come up with it so quickly?”
“We are in the business of playing make-believe, even us note-takers and organizers get to play sometimes."
A week later it was our last day in the rehearsal hall and we were resetting to run a scene shift, again. Everyone was tired, cranky, and ready to be onstage. I heard one of the actors in the wings whisper-bitch, “Why am I carrying a lantern in this scene anyway?” By the time I put down my rehearsal cube (currently part of a wagon) I realized that Rachel had been standing next to him, and was answering his question, though I couldn’t hear what she was saying. I caught her eye as she finished talking and raised an eyebrow; she returned a thumbs-up and a small satisfied smile. We both knew Anthony was carrying the lantern so he could leave it on the pedestal upstage where it would be discovered and used by the leading lady three scenes later, and really, he knew that too. But Rachel had given him a motivation, not just a reason. Running the shift again Anthony moved with purpose, holding the lantern high while singing counterpoint to the melody.
We were all playing make-believe together.
***Welcome to another entry for LJ Idol, this week's topic is The Fiction in the Fix. The interesting and varied character choices that happen just out of focus still fascinate me.***