Making Gentlemen Songsters (the show) Part 4

With the script written, and the music rehearsed and road tested, we’ve now got a only a few rehearsals to go. We’ve been lucky enough to secure Michael Futcher to help us to shape the piece as director: he helped us on Bear with Me also, so apart from anything else, there’s less to explain about our quirky way of going about things. We’ve only got around 11 hours to rehearse the piece. Read parts one,  two and three for the story so far.

Rehearsal 1

I prepare the rehearsal room with our ‘set’: a vintage drinks table and two old mic stands. We start to assemble the performance,  balancing patter with music under. Even in this rough state, the balance of music and spoken word in the interludes between the songs, at times, takes the performance to a new place: either emotionally, or geographically. These intermedial outros and intros set up the next song, but also sew together the ‘set’ in a broader sense.

Tyrone appears in  MX,  June 2014

Tyrone appears in MX, June 2014

Michael’s responses to some of the songs (that he hasn’t heard before) are that they are at times ‘lovely mediations, that you’re… carried away by the scenes of each one.’  He also notes that no two tunes, side by side, seem to repeat, or be samey,  which is a good sign that the effort I’ve put into sequencing them was worth it.

We’ve assembled Part 1 before Michael’s arrival,  so we can run that straight through. It’s just him and us in the room and it’s good to have an ‘audience’. As I’m working I notice that his presence makes me focus more carefully on the moments as they flow by. Ordinarily my focus shifts between script to musical arrangement, to choreography and much else. Now I have to take responsibility for my own performance of the material and put it all together as a performer.

This video captures all the exciting action of rehearsal. Not really.

We step down and take notes. We take lunch. We stumble through Part 2 in front of him, and receive notes and do ‘fixups’ as we go. These are about blocking, movement, clarity of intention, segmentation of action, and the way Tyrone and Lesley attend to one another in the performance of the music.

It’s collaborative. The script’s there to guide us, and the music propels the whole thing. Michael’s outside eye (and ear & heart) also means he can also grant us permission to dwell in certain moments: to slow the tempo and allow words, music and image to ‘rest’.

I’ll continue to work individually, memorising text and running the trickier bits of music.

Other stuff

In the next few days with the assistance of James Lees, I arrange and perform media calls and personal appearances by Tyrone that will hopefully encourage people to come see this thing we’re making. I try to keep social media ticking along,  but it’s not really my forte. The Powerhouse is marketing the show as well, but we’re just one of many in the festival. Luke Monsour and I exchange notes about the video he’s editing: he tells me the dog,  Indi, watched the clip and was fascinated by watching himself on screen.

There’s a photo shoot with MX, a Murdoch rag that’s distributed in its thousands to commuters: I work to ensure that the photo isn’t as daggy as theatre promo shots usually are in this publication.  Tyrone also makes an appearance at the Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society. Every morning an electronically generated sales report hits my inbox.  Slow at first,  it now tells me we’re on the way to selling out,  but it’s not just about keeping your fingers crossed.

Rehearsal 2

Today we sketched the last act,  then ran through it,  stopping for notes from time to time.

Michael’s notes were focused on building the connection between Tyrone and Lesley, and  there was further adjoining and segue-ing of tunes, sometimes when the rhythm of the show and the relatively short durations of some of the songs seemed to compel a run-on than a stop for applause (as one might do if it was a straight music gig.)

…each one of your little ‘ways in’ to each one is a little meditation… you don’t actually give the audience too much information.You… just touch on something that will spark their minds, or open their minds up to a certain kind of theme and then the song kind of takes them further in that direction.

I think that’s what’s charming about it,  you don’t make too much of it, and you don’t make too much of trying to add weight to anything or too much thematic detail or biographical detail or story detail.

Michael Futcher

Rehearsing Gentlemen Songsters

Rehearsing Gentlemen Songsters

I keep working on the text, mainly cutting or trying to contract statements so they get to the point. Some of Michael’s directorial notes also assist in punctuating sequences of spoken word and music under: again, this is rhythmic, but it’s conceptually rhythmic as well: clarifying where one moment stops and another begins. Where the focus and emphasis should be. We’re working on unspoken understandings here, but this sense of ‘beats’ and emphasis or ‘accent’ when studying how to understand or perform a line of dialogue are terms that could also be applied to the realization of a musical phrase.

This shifts the work more towards the spontaneous: or rather, seemingly spontaneous. It’s a more theatrical mode of rehearsal in which you work and re-work a moment in until you’re familiar with it in minute detail, in order to make it look like you’re making it up on the spot.

Reh1This kind of work pushes me harder as an ‘actor’ to attend to the crafting of these moments: as a musician, if I was reaching for a new chord or rhythmic curlicue on my instrument I’d practice it until I got it right. The same must go for these more ‘theatrical’ elements.

There’s another edit of the script to do so it’s ready for the technician on Friday, I have to learn this text,  plus arranging the projected images, publicity stuff to sell the few remaining tickets, dry cleaning costumes, pickup and manufacture of merch.

We have one more rehearsal, then we go to the Powerhouse and do it.

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