Complications, or The Search for a New Venue.
Artists who deal in collaborative arts are well-acquainted with complications. “That which can go wrong, will.”
The Beatles and Pink Floyd had their fall-outs, which tore apart their bands. Francis Ford Coppola had a well-documented meltdown on the sprawling set of Apocalypse Now (captured in gut wrenching detail in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse), and Terry Gilliam is still working on his star-crossed Don Quixote picture (documented in Lost in La Mancha). And then there’s Julie Taymor’s Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark – the biggest Broadway budget-buster ever – which could just turn out to be the biggest flop in theatre history.
Picasso had it easy.
The artistic vision of a play or film ultimately comes from the director. Sure, the original vision is the writer’s, but writers know they have to let go of a script at some point and let someone else either complete their dream, or mangle it entirely. The actors and production designers all bring elements of their own into the picture, but the director is the one who makes the final call on every aspect of a production. As long as the producer says it’s okay.
I love the image of the frazzled director who is beset on all sides by his own production when nothing seems to go right. I say that having been there, although more in the producer’s seat. It can make you want to repeatedly want to smack yourself with a cinder block. And while sometimes Murphy’s Law can seem its worst on film and stage productions, there is one important thing for a frustrated director to remember:
It’s just art.
Don’t get me wrong – I live for art, but it’s still just art. No one is actually dying, just pretending to.
One of my favorite instances of production gone-awry from Bare Theatre’ catalog was when we did The Crucible several years ago. This was back when we were big on using the entrance doors that went directly outside from the stage. Actors were constantly running around the building to enter and exit from different locations. The costumer (who does excellent work and I respect him tremendously) announced when costumes arrived the week of tech rehearsals that several of the period garments could not be washed or even get wet, or they would be ruined.
We opened the show the weekend Hurricane Ernesto made landfall in North Carolina.
In order to not get the costumes wet (and avoid trying to re-block the show days before opening), we set up two canopies over the two outside stage entrances, and prayed that the heavy winds would not carry them off. Heather and I ran around outside in the wind and rain, chasing after actors and holding umbrellas over them until they could get to the canopies.
There are many stories of production issues, and I have become so used to them at this point that they are just funny when they happen. So it was when we found out one of our two venues for Much Ado About Nothing – a newly renovated center for the arts – may have sound issues with the adjacent concert hall, which was booked with large concerts the same time Much Ado runs. Not only that, but there are no stage lights in the space nor will there be at that time…so we would have to rent all the lighting.
Let me be absolutely clear that I do not blame the folks who are managing the center and its renovations. They are working overtime to make the building a success, and they are very passionate about cultivating the arts. These things happen. Just like with a production.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what’s around the corner. This happens everywhere else in life, too. Business, family, relationships – things go wrong left and right and we are not prepared for many of them, despite the best planning. Plus it’s way too early to start freaking out.
I will say though that the chain reaction that can ensue from complications can get a little…uh…”interesting.” How do you cast a show when you don’t know where (and when) it will be? How can your actors commit to a schedule that doesn’t exist? Will we be in a new space the week before our other venue or the week after? How do you tell your actors who’s in the cast before you know?
The answer is, you do the best you can. And trust that the show will go on.