The long drought is over, Constant Reader; for the first time since the start of this long (and still ongoing dammit) pandemic, I’ve been cast in a theatrical production. I’ll be performing in a short one-act, part of the Blurring Boundaries festival of short pieces being presented next month by New Ambassadors. (Details will of course be forthcoming.) The first rehearsal for the piece was this past week, an event which I’d been eagerly anticipating. At last, after years of subsisting on cold readings and zoom events, I’d be in an actual rehearsal studio again, for an actual rehearsal with an actual director and actual fellow actors. That wonderfully weird first day of school energy as you all gather for the first time, winding your way to some grubby studio in Midtown; the awkward little dance as you all figure out exactly where you’re supposed to sit for that initial table read; the scratch of number two pencils against scripts, the sounds of the front desk staff taking other reservations; the smell of highlighter in the air. I hadn’t experienced any of these in a good long while, and I was exhilarated at the thought of savoring all of these sensations, only possible when gathering in person, at the start of rehearsals last Monday night. I couldn’t wait.
And yet, I did have to wait, because we wound up conducting that first rehearsal over Zoom.
It made more sense for a night of pure table work, you see. With only a ten-minute script to work on, there was no need for more than an hour’s rehearsal and therefore no need to incur the expense of renting studio space. Likewise, there was no need any of us to deal with the hassle of commuting to and from such a space – especially since, given the various other scheduling commitments we had, the rehearsal wound up being scheduled for 9pm that evening. (Also, as mentioned above, the pandemic is still ongoing dammit.)
And so, the night of our first rehearsal, when in another time I’d be looking over my script on the subway ride into midtown and anxiously waiting to begin, I was strolling around my neighborhood, killing time until the appointed hour came to sit back down at my keyboard. And when that hour did come, I logged into a zoom meeting just as I’ve done countless times over the course of this pandemic, hunched over a keyboard talking into the digital squares before me. We got a lot done, those squares and I – we went over the text thoroughly and repeatedly, and my co-star and I started developing a nice rhythm and chemistry. But still and all, it was a zoom meeting, at a time when I was ready – nay, desperate, for those to be over and done with. For an in-person rehearsal to happen at last.
That rehearsal has since happened, of course – we’ve spent this past weekend in a midtown studio, just as I’d hoped, doing all the blocking and the costume parading and the wandering through labyrinthine hallways to find the bathroom and everything else I’ve missed these past few years. So yes, the rumors are true, live theater is back.
And yet –
Given the fact that (and I’ll say it a third time) the pandemic is still ongoing dammit, and given the expense and logistical difficulties involved in rehearsing, I have to believe that this hybrid model is here to stay. I can easily see full productions doing their first week of table week over zoom, saving a week’s expenses in studio rental before meeting in person. In some ways, it makes practical sense. In other ways, it’s hideously impractical – how are casts supposed to bond, figure out a consistent tone, and take care of that all-important Equity paperwork if they spend that long of a time never meeting with each other?
I don’t know; it will be a good long while before any of us know. But that’s the point – we keep wanting to get back to the way things were done in the past, but the past is gone and the future is still uncertain, because this weird and tumultuous present isn’t done with us yet.