Behind the Scenes of “The Tape Recorder.”
We began rehearsals by having Loren read The Writer’s part and let Maegan walk through her wordless performance so that Loren could see how she acted and what she did. Once he had an idea of how she would react, we recorded his voice digitally and then burned it to a CD so Maegan could practice with the recording now instead of his live performance. We re-recorded some of Loren’s voice for timing or delivery reasons, and updated Maegan with new versions.
Finally, the tape recorder arrived. I have to say, it exceeded my wildest expectations. I never thought in a million years we would find an actual reel-to-reel tape recorder, and when this thing showed up I got really excited. Multiply that excitement times 10 when I found out it worked. And…it had one reel of tape that didn’t have someone’s family memories recorded onto it – so we could record Loren’s voice onto analog tape! It got real creepy after that.
It also got pretty intense working with that tape. We discovered in dress rehearsal that fast forward was evil and it would snap the tape. It wouldn’t just snap it, either – it would get caught and twisted in the reels. This was bad.
Running Crew-master Tim kept his cool with this. We just wouldn’t fast forward. We had now split our one reel into two pieces, but we only had one empty take-up reel. I took the tape recorder home late one night after dress and attempted to record Loren’s part onto the larger of the two pieces. It fit.
On the other piece, I recorded our pre-show music. It almost fit, so we would just open house late each night. No big deal. And…I went ahead and ordered the one reel of tape I could find that could be delivered in time for the show, just in case anything else bad happened to the tape.
Two days later, the order for the tape was cancelled. No real reason given – just that the order had been cancelled and our money had been refunded. So. We had no backup.
Our “backup” was Emily. The plan was that she would play and stop the digital version of Loren’s voice on her computer with the sound muted through the house speakers. If anything were to happen during the show, she would simply un-mute the track and continue with Loren’s voice coming through the speakers instead of the tape recorder onstage.
Not ideal, but at least it would have kept broken tape from being a show-stopper.
After tech week and four performances, we managed to break a wooden chair and a mirror, but miraculously the tape did not break. I am supremely thankful for this, and I love the effect created by the creepy-looking old tape recorder slowly turning as the writer laid out his terrifying plans to the unsuspecting Miss Collins.