Wednesday after the show, I told the cast that they have put on at least four minutes since opening night. I figured I was exaggerating, but that they’d go “oh shit!” and work on their lines & cue pick ups. Instead, I got excuses. In fact, the first question was “well, are the scene changes going longer?”
In case you’re wondering, they’re not. They’ve actually trimmed time off when there isn’t a costume change involved. Last night I showed them the sheet I whipped together that has the act timing for each of the performances, the total show time and then the comparison to opening night. We had two where we’ve pushed over four minutes, another half a dozen where it has been over two minutes added. (Last night, we topped five.) So before the show when I showed them the times and made a point of commenting on the pacing, what do you think the response was?
- Incredulous surprise, followed by a vow to pick it up
- Amazement and self-recrimination
- Thanks for the notification, or
- Excuses and commentary on the rehearsal process
If you guessed the #4, you’d be right. I was told a variety of things — that they didn’t really know who their characters were on opening and that it was just a line through so it wasn’t a fair comparison, that they are now acting instead of just reciting lines so of course time is going to be added. I was asked to relax, because adding two minutes to each act is really no big deal. Only one actor pointed out, privately, that a majority of the text is in one character, and that might be a problem.
This is the first show I have ever worked on that has gained time after opening. I’ve had shows where there may be one or two nights that went long, but usually that’s the result of holding for laughs with a phenomenal audience. Here, it’s just acting.
The problem, for me, is I’ve never had a cast that when I’ve told them their time is slipping has returned with anything but “thanks – can you cite where?” and I tell them and they fix it. When we’ve called for a speed through, they do one. When I’ve asked them to look at lines, they do. Here, all I get is a blow off and excuses. I’ve never been so happy to have a cast go. There are people I will miss and hope to work with again, but overall, Sunday is going to be wonderful.