So we’ve reached the half way point in our run of The Swan. It’s been an amazing ride so far, and we’re excited about the week ahead. The second week of a run at Chester Theatre Company is a completely different experience for the actors and the rest of the company than the first week.
In the first week, we’re pushing through every moment to get ready for an audience. On Sunday afternoon, we finish the matinee performance of our previous play (in this case Animals Out of Paper). As soon as Byam finishes that last talkback, and the theatre is cleared, a crew comes in to begin striking the set, the costumes, the props, etc. Next, the set for the next show arrives, and has to be loaded in and put together in the theatre.
After that’s done, or often overlapping with it, the lights are moved and re-circuited for the next show. The work continues deep into the night, and on into Monday morning. At some point that morning, the lighting and sound designers start to look at/listen to possible cues in the space. Time is short, because by that afternoon, the director (me, in this case) and the stage manager come in for “dry tech.” This is a chance for the director and the lighting and sound designers to prepare a bit for the arrival of the actors in the evening. We look at lights and listen to sound together, trying to get even a tiny bit ahead of the technical rehearsal we’ll be starting after dinner.
On Monday night, the actors arrive, and get into costume, often for the first time. Until 11 that night, we start adapting to the realities of the stage, and laying in lighting and sound, and costume changes. This time round, we were perhaps a third of the way through the script when it was time to stop for the night. Starting after 11 pm, Travis George, our set designer, was in the space painting, so that everything would be dry by the next morning.
Tuesday morning is for set, lighting, and sound, because the actors are back in the afternoon, and we keep on with tech rehearsal. The goal is to get to the end of the play by dinner. We didn’t make it. So we came back after dinner, finished, and then had our first run of the play in the space, with lights, with sound, with costumes. So far so good, but guess what: we have an audience the next evening. After 11 that night, Travis is at it again on the set. Costume adjustments, shopping, etc., continue the next morning.
Wednesday afternoon, we have a final dress rehearsal. The actors take a dinner break, and then we have our first preview performance in front of a paying audience. Afterwards we do notes and make adjustments based on what we’ve learned. Then Travis…, well, you know this part.
Thursday afternoon, we’re back again, with another audience for our second preview. Notes, then final set adjustments. Then Thursday evening another audience: our official press opening.
Friday is the first time the actors and crew get to breathe, as there’s no rehearsal or performance that afternoon. We perform Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon. Then an amazing thing happens: the cast and crew get an actual break. They’re off from the end of Sunday’s matinee their call on Wednesday evening. As you might imagine, the actors come into week 2 with new energy, something that was in short supply in week 1.
The actors are still on that break, but they’ll be back tomorrow evening! We hope you’ll come join them this week. We made it through week 1; week 2, here we come!
Daniel Elihu Kramer