Sunday, January 18, 2015

Le Grand Continental: Rehearsal 20

What a difference being outdoors makes! Yesterday afternoon we gathered on the damp and puddle-filled Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza for our first run-through on site. And what a huge site it is. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually traversed this space--so rarely is it accessible to the public (unless you want to pay to browse for over-prized Christmas ornaments). This is a shame, because it's a beautiful outdoor square that is crying out to be animated with people. Which, of course, is where we come in. Let's hope that the performances of Le Grand Continental next weekend are the start of a wave of free performance-based activities--dances, concerts, circus acts, plays and puppet shows, films--in this area. Needless to say, PuSh's recent relocation to the nearby CBC building makes it a logical incubator for such projects.

But back to questions of size. While the spacing of our lines hasn't actually changed, we have a lot more room on the outer edges. This means that--horizontally, vertically, and diagonally--we can travel a lot further during the bigger moves in the piece. Needless to say, this is something Sylvain encouraged us to take advantage of. However, it took some getting used to. For me, in particular, there was something about the fact that our "vast o'erhanging canopy" was now the sky instead of the ceiling of the Ukrainian Hall or Roundhouse Theatre that caused some initial disorientation. At first I was actually stumbling in places where I wouldn't normally--in part, I think, because my normal visual landmarks were gone. And also because the actual grade and texture of the ground were different. Dancing on concrete is not the same as dancing on parquet or a sprung studio floor. Concrete is hard and unyielding; it has striations and divots; it slopes in unexpected places. And when it's wet, marks painted in chalk tend to disappear quickly--which caused a great deal of confusion for all of us during one of the run-throughs of "India." (Mercifully, Emily is on this and will re-do the marks with something more permanent later this week, when it's dry.) Surprisingly, I didn't really mind lying down on the concrete during the "Fatboy Slim" section; it was cold, to be sure, but not massively uncomfortable, and the wetness and general dirt and detritus of the ground didn't seem to leave any lasting marks on my costume.

Yesterday's rehearsal actually coincided with a performance at the Queen E, which practically meant two things. First, there were a lot of people shooting us bewildered glances as they crossed the plaza to enter the theatre, and who then, once inside, took up positions along the glass wall to watch us as they waited for their own show to start. Second, once their show started we couldn't play the music at full volume, and so many of us were straining to hear our counts--most especially, for me, during the intro section. Our energy levels were also a bit lower than normal as a result--something that Sylvain reminded us we needed to work on for the actual performances.

Before a full run-through we spent most of our time arranging ourselves into lines of four in order to rehearse our entrance from the green room into the dance space on the plaza. It was a surprisingly complicated endeavour! Ditto the working out of our bows at the end, entailing as they do a front and back shuffle of lines; the singling out of Sylvain, Lara, Caroline and Anna; and the welcoming back on stage of the children. I'm sure by that point in the performances I'll be in a daze and on auto-pilot, so will just follow what my neighbours do.

As for the actual green room, where we dumped our gear and where, next Saturday and Sunday, we'll be able to change and hang out and kibitz before, in between, and following our performances, it's the former restaurant attached to the Queen E, on the east side of the plaza. Another shamefully wasted and underused part of this civic theatre complex, it nevertheless suits our purposes well: roomy enough to accommodate us all, and with washrooms in the basement. There is the issue of curtains or blackout paper needing to be hung between now and next weekend, but once again Emily is on that. Best of all, the room will be overseen by the watchful eye of Barb Clausen, who unfortunately had to drop out of the show midway through the rehearsal process, but who had asked to be a part of it in some way, if possible. I'm glad she could, and it was great to catch up with her yesterday.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned everyone's costumes! Suffice to say, they ran the gamut: from understated to over-the-top; from fun to formal; from culturally specific to a mish-mash of different styles. Many who were showing a bit more skin to begin with kept adding layers as the afternoon progressed, and the weather will likely affect some last-minute choices come performance days. For the time being, however, my first choice got a thumbs up. And, thanks to Hilary, I now have the bottom half of my second outfit, which I'll debut at rehearsal on Monday.

Only two more of those rehearsals left... One benefit of the Festival opening on Tuesday is that there will be no time to feel nervous. Onward!


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