I am glad I waited until it was done before I wrote this post. I went through every possible emotion in the last two days, from despair to pride, to vulnerability to hope.
Ultimately the showcase of The Tent was a success. But it has been quite a hectic learning curve for me along the way, and I think it deserves writing about.
Lesson number one is one that I knew but now am sure of. The Tent needs another director. I need to hand over my writing to someone who can re-interpret the text. I believe I couldn’t help but fall into the same trap that Milton Schorr fell into. The rhythm of the play suffers when it is directed by the writer. Hopefully, if this production is given a full run, somebody else will direct.
Lesson number two is a most valuable new one. I now completely understand why a show has previews to run it in. The Tent was only audience ready last night. The first two performances were like trial runs and it showed. The humour was lost. Pace was a problem. This was already a thousand times better last night and you could tell from the audience’s reactions.
My strength in this production was my casting. Everyone was perfectly cast, and one of the hard things about doing the play again and handing it over to another director will be that they will re-cast.
My expectations were very high and I completely forgot that we only had two and a half weeks to get the whole thing together. Obviously, with a longer rehearsal process the thing will settle, actors will have more clarity, things will be more sharply defined and there will be greater familiarity with the flow and movement of the piece.
I did the bravest, most stupid thing on the first night. I read the feedback forms that audience members are encouraged to fill out. They were mostly positive, ranging from fair to really good, and were generally very helpful. They mentioned the pace problem that I was instantly able to pass on to the actors and the improvement was dramatic. Then there was one guy. His comments were hard core. He was an actor.
I still need to have long conversations with my friends and colleagues. I need to hear what they thought. It is not easy to just blab about it afterwards. The play is bleak and shattering. I did go for a late meal and chat with Big Friendly and our big friends and we talked and talked. (We went to the Roxy, in Dunkley Square.)
One of the funny things that happened: We had a long break in between shows yesterday and the cleaners were obviously put under pressure to clean the venue in between shows. Tandi and the boys were downstairs in the dressing room when they heard movement on stage; a hard sweeping noise. And finally, when the cast came up to do a warm-up and focus they were faced with a sparklingly swept stage. Every last bit of leaf, dust, strategically placed can and sweet wrapper had been swept and thrown away. The poor stage manager went berserk! They had to re-dirtyfy the whole set in fifteen minutes.
I am putting The Tent to sleep for a while. I hope it wakes up. I believe it has value as a production and I’d like to see it go further. And we have all learned so much. Mostly, I am indebted to a brilliant bunch of cast, crew, designers and management who made this possible.