Concluding thoughts on performing
Well, PantheaCon is concluded for another year! Also, our ritual/performance of The Descent of Inanna was enormously successful — “House of Inanna” has been asked to do it again! There were far more audience members than we expected, which was a real delight — they filled the room and we even had folks standing in the back. Further, we had handouts for the audience so they could engage in a sort of call & response with the Narrator, and we made far more than we thought we’d need… but at the actual performance we had to ask the audience members to please share their handouts with the folks next to them! It was really nice.
So now that we’ve been through the entire play and some time has passed, I’ve had a few more thoughts on things I’d like to remember for future. A few of these are repeats from my previous post simply because I felt strongly that they were really important, but most of them are just me musing to myself again, or a happy pat-on-the-back. That said, enjoy and please feel free to contribute in the comments!
- More rehearsals! I really, really want to make sure there’s more time to rehearse. Quite frankly the vast majority of issues I saw — and there were blessedly few of them — had to do with people not being entirely confident in where they should be and when. Also there were a few stage directions such as: “The attendants… [are] carrying baskets and greeting each other as they wander around the stage.” If we’d had a bit more time to work on learning how to do stuff like that I think it would’ve really added a visually striking element to the ritual.
- A pat-on-the-back: the circle dances went really well as far, as I could see! Some of us practiced together while the stage was getting set up before the show, so we were all together and right on the money. I was one of the participants in the circle dances, so all I could see consistently during the actual ritual was my side of the circle… but from what I saw my side stuck together nicely. Yay! With just a bit more practice I bet we could have all of us moving smoothly and gracefully together!
- Another thing I’d like to see as part of rehearsals: how to come out and bow after the performance! We had a singer who started and closed the ritual, but she wasn’t at any of our rehearsals and so not only were we shaky on how to come out to bow… but we started doing so as she waited to sing. Yet another note to self: make sure EVERYONE attends at least a few rehearsals, if I’m ever organizing something like this — no excuses! Having the singer teaching a volunteer how to drum with her as the stage was being set up just before the actual performance? Can’t have been confidence-inspiring. I felt bad for the poor woman.
- For that matter: our Narrator was awesome at projecting her voice — but I suspect both she and the singer (whose voice filled the room less than the Narrator’s did) would have appreciated a microphone. I hope someone thought to make sure there was a drink handy for the Narrator too, now I think about it.
- I’ve already mentioned how I wanted more rehearsals for the performers. In future, though, I also want to remember that the stage crew itself needs a rehearsal — so they know what props go where, and when, and how to bring them onto the stage between acts, and how to not be seen behind the larger props that need moving while the performance is on-going. That kind of rehearsal would also give the stage hands time to figure out which props go where behind the stage too, so the various pieces are ready to be quickly and smoothly moved on or off stage. So: MOAR REEHERSLZ! :)
- Speaking of changing scenes: since we were in two hotel seminar rooms we didn’t have any sort of stage curtain. In such a situation I think having something to mark a scene’s closing would be good — not just for the audience but also so the actors know to clear off or on as needed. A suggestion from the theatre-trained housemate: two tall poles attached on each side of a wide, very light, possibly decorated piece of cloth. Have two people (one to a pole) walk out downstage side by side at end of scene. The first one will stay on one side of the stage while the second one walks to the other side. The cloth will (at the very least symbolically) block sight of the stage as actors hustle off and stage crew hustles props on… and when everything is ready the second pole-holder walks back to the first, they both head off stage — and the next scene begins.
- For that matter, I think a sort of “costume” for the stage hands would’ve helped build more of a sense of being part of the performance community. Heck, it could also function to help obscure the stage hands as they moved around on the stage. Maybe all-black clothing with an appropriate (dark) T-shirt that we could gift to them to wear?
- Another thought re the actual stage: the backdrop needs to be sturdy — or the non-sturdy bits need to not be where people are entering and exiting — and people need to know precisely where those bits are so they don’t bump into the fragile pieces and/or dislodge them. This fortunately did not happen at our performance, but there was some confusion as to where and whether we could exit between certain backdrop curtains. Oh, another thought: all the backdrop needs to be opaque! We don’t want to give the audience an unexpected shock as a half-dressed actor wanders backstage behind the lacy curtain backdrop. Hmm… maybe a few more chairs for those backstage would be nice too — I’m not sure there were enough for everyone to sit quietly when it wasn’t their time on stage.
- If I can find one, I’d love to have a photographer present with a good camera too! We had a couple of folks taking shots from the audience, and I posted those I received on the website. Unfortunately many of the photos taken during the performance were either quite blurry or very dimly lit — we didn’t want a flash disrupting the performance, you know? However, I was surprised and pleased at how excited the various participants were at the photos! I’d like to have better ones for us all, if possible — and I strongly feel good photos and videos make for good publicity for the group.
- Having more than one set of eyes check all printed materials — well ahead of time! — is an excellent idea… as well as the best way I know of to avoid typos!
- Something to consider for everyone who comes out on stage at any point, even if it’s just for a bow at the end: body language! As well, if anyone intends to speak — or even thinks they might be called on to speak — planning ahead on what would be appropriate is an excellent idea. Everyone should know to carry their head high, smile warmly, walk with confidence, speak clearly, and move strongly. We may feel awkwardly shy, embarrassed, or self-disparaging — but when in the spotlight we want to portray ourselves as polished and professional in both language and behavior.
- Something I need to consider for later: would it be helpful to have the occasional all-crew meal together? I think building a feeling of community amongst everyone is an important part of ensuring we’re all committed to making the best show we can, after all. Or would this be something better done to celebrate the end of the show?
Whew! That’s all I can think of right now. The ritual was a really wonderful experience for me — I had a great time! I’m very much hoping we do it again. Next time, too, I hope those who want to will get to change around what roles they’re playing. That’s one of the best ways I know to make sure: (a) we get to reuse all the lovely props and costumes, and revise those items that need a bit more work; (b) everyone gets a chance to stretch by trying roles they don’t ordinarily do; (c) we get smoother and more polished in our performing together — especially the circle dances! — and (d) we all get to learn a broader range of dance and performance together!
Heh… think I’ve been bitten by the performing bug — I want to do more! This has been a nerve-wracking and wonderful blast. Cheers! ;)