By Kim Lee
When I tell people that I’m a stage manager for a full-length improvised play, they usually react with the same set of questions. Mostly involving the word “how?” This is fair, especially for anyone who has ever seen a play, or has an inkling of the amount of effort involved in such productions. How do you stage manage a play when you haven’t worked out the blocking beforehand, when you don’t know when scene changes will happen or where these scenes even are? When you learn who the characters are, and what the plot is, at the same time the audience does? Do you even rehearse? What exactly do you do in rehearsal?
We don’t run through lines or blocking in rehearsal (our actors are all off book, because there is no book). What we do is run through a gauntlet of exercises, designed to drill elements such as the basics of play structure, character relationships, staging and environments – with the net result that these become reflexive to our cast of actors. Armed with these tools, the possible worlds our actors can create on stage are limitless.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing an under-rehearsed play, where it’s painfully obvious that the actors don’t quite know their lines, and the scene changes are sloppy – do not worry about coming to this show. Trust me when I tell you that those of us in Unscripted will take good care of each other on stage, and you, our audience members and guests to our world. We may not know exactly what we are doing yet, but we know how to do it.
Alternately (and now I am speaking for myself as an avid theatre-lover) I have witnessed performances wherein the actors seem too rehearsed. Yes, they’ve 100% nailed their lines, moved where they were supposed to move, and made appropriate shapes with their faces conveying the proper emotions. Yet sometimes – and I have even seen this with those whom I consider to be great actors – there can be some element of staleness in the delivery of words. A lack of some essential spark, or perhaps a sense that the words themselves are props borrowed from someone else.
I can’t tell you what you’ll see on the night you choose to see Unscripted . There are ten nights of shows, and subsequently, ten different plays. You might see a play about vampires who fall in love with Ostrich Kings, or a time travel adventure featuring complicated machinations involving potatoes. What I can promise is that every word, and indeed every idea, is freshly formed on stage right then and there – created especially for you (and with your input). You’ve never seen anything quite like this play, and you’ll never see it again.
Kim Le, stage manager for Unscripted – a production by the Baltimore Improv Group.
Unscripted runs Thursdays through Saturdays from 4/27 – 5/13 at 8:00 (with a special Sunday matinee on 5/7 at 2:00), at Single Carrot Theatre. Tickets and more info at http://www.bigimprov.org/unscripted.
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Various BIG members and friends contribute to the blog. Enjoy!