Friday, June 5, 2009

All the Old Familiar Places ...

When it was announced at the end of 2008's inaugural Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival that "The Bluest Water" would be re-mounted as part of this year's festival, I think there are two things that escaped the expectations of many of those involved. First, I don't think anyone foresaw that the ENTIRE CAST would be able to return, as would most of the crew. Second, for many who have come back, the chance to return to a role is a new experience and has brought some interesting twists.

Such is the case for me personally. Even now it seems hard to believe that almost a year has passed since I first stepped into the shoes of Young Emory McCullough. Just as last year's festival provided me my first opportunity to originate a role, this year's sees my first time reprising one.

From the very first meeting/read-through, it was a surreal experience. It was amazing how many of the words on the page were still fairly easily-accessible in memory! All of our characters were still there within us, and they re-presented themselves like a family reunion, full of lots of laughs and lots of fond memories.

As the time to begin working on the show approached, I wondered whether it would be strange ... or would be like seeing an old friend again. Interestingly, it was a mix of the two.

I reviewed the new script for the first time during
our initial cast meeting and read-through.

But the process this year has not been simple. After only two weeks of rehearsal, we are preparing to head into the final stretch and open in under a week. While much of the production is identical, there have been changes both major and minor (often for clarity, correct chronology, or adherence to accuracy/protocol). At least one of the scenes (Young Emory and the HAM radio operators, of which I'm a part) got an entire re-write and actually required new memorization of both lines and blocking. It was awkward being one of the few who had to have a script in-hand, although everyone understood!

The scene which has changed the most in the entire play is the HAM Radio scene.

The minor edits, on the other hand, have been an even more interesting challenge. When lines that have been so ingrained for a year change slightly, it's still habit to say them as they originally were! I quickly found it was an interesting challenge replacing one rote with another. We have had to stop frequently for "no, you don't say that anymore"s, "that's in a different order"s and "that line belongs to [so-and-so] now"s! As with others in the cast who have experienced the same: while I know it's for the benefit of the production, sometimes it's painful to have lost lines of which I was particularly fond! [I have frequently been reminded of what film editors and directors say about the sometimes heart-wrenching decisions that have to be made in the editing room to take out things that simply aren't needed.]

The Young Emory / Neddy "ABC" scene did not change
drastically, but it was trimmed down quite a bit.

Nevertheless, despite minor hiccups the rehearsals are rolling right along and we are already days from our opening. While some aspects have been a little alien, the familiarity far outweighs them. Still with us are the powerful images, the touching subject matter, the heart and soul of the production, and rekindled friendships.

Of my scenes, the one that changed the least was that
in the helicopter, but it was not without its edits.

Now, last year's production feels to have served much like the 'previews' with which professional productions often open in other cities before moving, for example, to New York City. With audience reaction, feedback, and a scrutinizing staff, they are allowed the chance to revise and refine the production. This is true for us too. In our case the venue is the same, but for the re-mounting of this show (which corresponds even more appropriately with the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Camille), we have a slightly different library of tools with which to tell our story.

I look forward to seeing how this "2nd Edition" plays out when we open June 12! Will you be there to "re-experience" it with us?

Jared M Anderson
Endstation Blogger and "The Bluest Water" Cast Member

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