The first rehearsal for a collaborative piece is always slightly nerve wracking for me as a designer. I am walking into a room where there is already a dynamic in place, and it is even worse when everyone is funny and smart. This Is The Week That Is is a show that’s been annually happening longer than I have lived in Philadelphia; if my puzzle piece is to properly fit into this institution I have to go above and beyond as a designer, and get into the brains of these people who are churning out the characters.
This Is The Week That Is doesn’t start with a rehearsal though… the first gathering is over a meal.
The only way to crack the ice is with some spicy Indian food. Can every show start with a table big enough to fit everyone, some wine, and a vat of curry?! The ease in which people handle themselves while sharing a meal seems to be the best foot on which to start making a piece. It’s casual, it’s welcoming, it’s comfortable, and everyone’s ideas are on the same playing field. There’s no hierarchy at a dinner table. From creators, to office staff, stage management, and designers, we had an assembly of funny people with different backgrounds and strengths bringing what they were in tune with in the world. As a designer I find it wildly helpful to hear everyone share their opinions from their own lens, because I can already see how that’s going to reflect in the clothes that they will wear. It filled my heart to be surrounded by people that actually wanted to hear what the designer had to say, and they were even warm enough to laugh at my jokes.
Jen guided the team through conversations about the “temperature” (socially, politically, culturally) of the country right now, taking notes on hot spots that we may be able to harvest a sketch from. It felt like talking in circles of concern and worry of a country spiraling out of control. We were all burnt out and tired of CNN news alerts… so how are we going to make this funny? What kind of pressure does the Cheeto in Chief indirectly put on our show?
Well, luckily I don’t write the script, no one wants that, I just have to make them look funny! For a show that ebbs with daily changes it’s heartening to walk into the rehearsal room on days like today, the day after local elections where people voted for accurate representation and won. I don’t want to give anything away, but the blonde comb-over wig will not be making an appearance this year…
(This Is The Week That Is runs from November 24 thru December 31 at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place. Click HERE for more information.)