Different Arts, Different Behaviors

As a writer, I fly solo. That’s kinda the name of the game. The decisions made are mine and mine alone. It’s me and the keyboard, my imagination, and whatever command of language I happen to have at the time. If I want to adjust point of view, setting, character, or anything else, I can do it and not have to answer to anyone. 

There are times as a writer where I take in other people’s opinions. The most obvious example is my writers group. I submit pieces and they make notes and hand them back. In return, I do the same for them. And it’s rather satisfying to suggest to other people what they need to do to correct their story. (They should always, always listen to me.)
However, what they do with what I say is entirely up to them. After all, it’s their name on the title page. My name may or may not show up in the acknowledgements page. (Thanks, Fleur!) 
And I can take or leave their suggestions without a committee or an audience. I nod, say thanks, and move on. Every adjustment I make is my own and I’m the only one who has to answer for it. 
Theatre works a little differently. Theatre is collaborative. There is more than one voice going on at any given time: playwright, director, actor, etc. Collaboration has inherent constraints that aren’t present when you’re your own boss.
For example, tonight at rehearsal for Marat/Sade, I was reminded of just how different writing (solo) and acting (collaborating) are. There was a section where blocking was giving some difficulty in which Sade, who is the center man (after all, the play is his big Fuck You to the Man), was getting upstaged by some delightfully raucous musicians. This was understandably annoying to Sade, whose speech is kind of important to the point of the whole play. 
Being in the ensemble, I’m basically opposite the audience and saw that a small adjustment in blocking would keep Sade center man, instead of being brushed to the corner. I made the suggestion to the director — during the break — and he gave me a hug, said thank you, and then passed the suggestion on to Sade. 
Unfortunately, the set being the chaotic place it is, there was really no way to take the time to communicate the change in the time allotted. So there was a stumbling moment while director and actor went back and forth in front of everyone. No one got loud, but you could tell that maybe the better time to discuss this would be later. Which is basically what it boiled down to. 
Throughout the whole exchange, I cannot tell you how hard it was to stay quiet. I can see how it will work and if I had two seconds I could get the picture across. But, in the end, I’m the chorus girl. I’m not the director, or Sade, and their responsibilities aren’t mine. I’m there to fill one slot of the story. I’m not in charge of the whole story. 
And, while other writers can keep or dismiss my suggestions at their leisure (to their peril), theatre means you take the director’s note and adjust accordingly — because someone has to be in charge of this chaos. His tools are actors and sets and scripts. All of those things have opinions of their own. By jumping in further and insisting on my change (which may or may not work, after all) I would just be adding to the chaos. So, with great restraint, I kept my mouth shut. They’ll sort it out. 

Tonight there was a lot of screaming

Luckily, no one was injured in the riot rehearsal process of Marat/Sade. (That’s the short title. The long title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. It’s by Pete Weiss.)

Not to give anything away — but I totally am — the inmates stage a freakin’ riot at the end of the play. In case you were curious, staging that kind of thing a very aerobic activity. Especially when you have to do it six times.

To help you imagine it:

Picture an aerobics floor.

Picture some aerobic dancers on the floor.

Picture them doing something synchronized in a circle in the middle of the floor.

Picture the aerobics instructor leading them in an orderly fashion.  The aerobicizers do something cool and orderly. They do stuff like jazz hands and kickboxing moves.

It’s not at all like that.

Oh, there’s plenty of kickboxing moves. And there’s spinning. There’s clapping. There’s even some jumping jacks to go along with the skipping. You could even say there’s some step aerobics, because a few people go up some stairs and a few people go down some stairs.

None of it, however, is synchronized. There’s a significant danger of running into other people. There’s a distinct possibility that at a given moment you will step on someone’s toes, or pull their hair, or bump into them in some fashion.

And that’s just the visual elements.

Did I mention there’s singing? Well, there is. And the singing turns into screaming.  A crap ton of screaming.

Yes. Tonight there was a lot of running. Tonight there was a lot of screaming.

(My throat’s a little sore.)