Last week was the first read thru for The Snow Queen. I only realised during the evening that a significant number of the cast were there on a lot of faith – they hadn’t seen a script at audition, or even when being offered a part. (They should consider themselves lucky: some of my casts haven’t seen a complete script until halfway through rehearsal. You think I’m kidding).
It was a lovely night. Obviously, as director/writer, you’re hyper-sensitive to the mood of the room, anxiously scanning the faces to gauge the reaction of everybody (particularly when they’re not reading, and simply listening to others), but it seemed to me that everyone was generally positive, even allowing for my manical paranoia. The play itself seemed to whip along at a fair pace – a good sign if that’s happening on the very first read thru – and no scenes sounded like they outstayed their welcome.
A couple of lines still clanged in my ears, dialogue that just snagged like a jagged nail on a jumper (lines like that one, for instance), but they seem to me to be easy fixes: a word here or there to get everything breezy. And it’s encouraging to know that all of the actors are already finding the character within their characters – in a play like this one, even though it’s not actually a pantomime, it’s really important (to me at least) that each character, even those who might only be on stage for a matter of minutes, have the potential to be the absolute favourite character of some kid in the audience.
Despite my very best intentions to keep things simple (no, honestly – don’t laugh), there are still a good number of technical demands on the show, not least a number of snow effects. To their credit, the team on Snow Queen (Team Queen?) have not yet ran away screaming, and are clearly thinking hard about how to get me what I want, or at the very least a decent facsimile. It’s all very humbling, and prompts in me a desire to look like I know what the hell I’m talking about. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals proper since then, and I’m keeping them fairly small and simple – the big rehearsals with twenty-plus (?!?) won’t start really untill next month. We’ve got a couple of issues, like the image that’s in my head for the Snow Queen’s throne, and the fact that, while we have the music and lyrics written, we’ve just lost our best chance of someone to arrange the music. It’s not that surprising, really – its quite a challenge to find someone who’s prepared to give up lots and lots of hours of creativity and talent for no money whatsoever.
Actually, scratch that – it’s what the New Venture Theatre (and many other non-professional theatres up and down the country) are absolutely brilliant at. Obviously, a good few of us – such as the actors and directors – are reasonably guaranteed of some degree of praise at the end of everything. Generally speaking, people don’t tend to go out of their way to praise the set. Indeed, if they do, it’s usually an implicit criticism of the production. So I’m reasonably confident that we’ll be able to solve our musical quandary (I must be, otherwise I wouldn’t be happy talking about it on a public blog).
Tonight’s rehearsal is with Gerda and the Robber Girl, both of whom I’m rehearsing with for the first time – Gerda partially because the actress is already deep into rehearsals for another production which goes up in about a fortnight, so frankly, that tends to be her priority at the moment. I’m really looking forward to tonights session, and seeing what everyone does with the roles, particularly as I’ve altered the characteristics somewhat from the Hans Christian Andersen original. But then, I had to do that once or twice in the adaptation ..