By Mary Carter
Eagle Times Correspondent
August 2, 2023
CLAREMONT – Members of The Rep Theater Company are in final rehearsals for “Leading Ladies,” which opens this weekend at the Claremont Opera House, 58 Opera House Square. These final rehearsals are what is known as ‘tech week.’ Before we get technical, let’s review what else gets layered into a community theater show.
First, there are auditions. Unless an actor is familiar with the show, they are emoting from a script with little knowledge of what is really occurring in the scene. This is called a ‘cold reading,’ and should never be confused with the ‘warming up’ that those who are cast get to do.
Next, comes a read-through, followed by blocking. Blocking involves the action of the play getting mapped out, typically with a confusion of taped floors, zero props, and no furniture set pieces. Actors who don’t enter until well into the storyline are wise to bring needlework or a Tolstoy novel.
The blocking continues, backing up multiple times for those who either missed rehearsals or never wrote down the original blocking in the first place. Those with later entrances will find themselves either cursing the fact that Tolstoy never wrote a sequel to ‘Anna Karenina,’ or creating their own.
Act runs. These are opportunities for the players to test their memorization skills by attempting to recite their countless lines ‘off book.’ Off book means the script is either not in one’s hands, or well concealed from the director’s view in a deep but viable pocket.
Songs, dance numbers, and those dreaded ‘first kiss’ moments are worked in, along with trying out costumes, hairstyle changes, and the handling of props. One can no longer ‘air answer’ an old-fashioned rotary phone. In fact, one must even dial a rotary phone which, when done by anyone under the age of 30, comes across as an acting skill all its own.
Tech week arrives, in which all ingredients must be carefully blended together. The set has appeared and is mostly secured in place. Actors can now gingerly rehearse those comedic ‘revolving doors’ scenes while doing their best not to slam into the suddenly new couches, end tables, and chairs. Lighting and sound effects are added. One must wait for that old-fashioned rotary phone to actually ring. At the start of tech week, a 90-minute show can take nine hours to get through.
Still, something magical happens. A group of people from varied walks of life have joined together to produce, along with their ever-patient director and crew, an evening of enjoyable entertainment that looked effortless to create.
So, yes, acting is a piece of cake – a 24 varied layer cake with more ingredients than one can name, and topped with nuts. But the end result is delectable!
Performances of “Leading Ladies” are at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 4 and 5, at the Claremont Opera House. Admission is $10 and tickets can be reserved at cohnh.org, or at the door on the night of the performance. Students younger than 18 can attend for free, thanks to a grant from the Couch Family Foundation.