Needless to say the second week of the show was less interesting than week one, which in turn was less interesting than the rehearsal period; by which I mean we are all getting to a point where the show runs smoothly and there are no great innovations to be made. But each audience and each show is different so here is the run down of week two of ‘To Begin With’:
After three days off we all gathered back at the Wesley Center for a Thursday matinee which will in likelihood be the largest audience of the run. Over two hundred seats had been booked by a Christian Academy and as 1.30 approached so yellow buses disgorged students ranging from the age of 11 to 17.
When Ben gave me my five-minute call I made my way from the dressing room, up the stairs, through the Daniel Group office and into the balcony from where I could look down on a full house below me: an excellent view! From the balcony it was down another flight of stairs and into my little room at the back of the hall, where I waited for the opening music to begin. On a regular performance I have been slipping through the door as the first bars ring through the hall, and then have surprised the audience by striding noisily from the back, but on this occasion the students somehow seemed to have a sixth sense and all 200 and whatever turned round and stared at me as I waited to begin – how did they know I was there? How did they know that? A few individuals at the back, maybe – but ALL of them?!
At the end of the performance we were due to have a brief talkback session on stage, which Dennis would moderate along with the school principal, but the latter couldn’t make it to the stage as he had to sort out an issue with the busses, so two teachers were delegated to take his place and made their way up to the stage completely unprepared. Dennis talked a little bit about the creation of the show, and then left the two gentlemen to it, who looked like rabbits caught in headlights as they desperately tried to think of things to ask me. I felt so sorry for them, and tried to make my answers as long as possible, so as to protect them from further struggles. Eventually their time in purgatory was brought to end when the principal returned and announced that the busses were ready.
A welcome addition to Thursday evening’s performance was the return of Jeffery, who had popped back to the Twin Cities from his other project in Arizona. After the show he drove me to a wonderful restaurant in the warehouse district of town where we ate dessert and talked literary James Bond – a shared passion.
On Friday and Saturday the audiences became more and more responsive and the play really began to work as I was able to react to both the laughter and the intense concentration of the audiences: the show is a fabulous one, and when everything really clicks it becomes something very special indeed.
On Sunday 9 April we entered the last week of our run, and more especially the Easter week. From here on in every day is referenced in the script and the lines began to have even more import and resonance. For instance as Dickens checks his ‘cheat cards’ he picks up one that says ‘Jerusalem’. As part of the rehearsal of his own play he says ‘Huge crowds gathered round him, crying: “Hosanna!”’ That of course refers to Palm Sunday – the day of our performance on Sunday. When we get to Friday the passages describing the Crucifixion will certainly be packed with even more emotion than usual.
But that is all to come. I am currently on a couple of day’s break before returning to the stage on Wednesday for an afternoon of photo and video shoots, before the last few days of our run commence. On Thursday Liz will arrive from England to share in the last couple of days, and I can’t wait – I have missed her so much during the past three weeks, and it will be wonderful to see her again.
Whilst some of the lines become more meaningful thanks to the time of the year, others seem to impinge on everyday life too. I shall share one in parting: “But suddenly I recalled that part of the New Testament having to do with Christ’s forty days and nights in the wilderness. Also known as the Temptation…”
Every evening as I leave the apartment to go to the theatre there is a little trolley set up in the lobby with complimentary champagne for the residents, and every evening I have resisted temptation!