Loving Rehearsals

This could be one of those blog posts where the two-word title tells you absolutely everything that you need to know, and the rest is just filler. I hope not. I’ll try my best to prevent it. But, really, it’s all there. 

I love these rehearsals we are currently in the middle of. End of.

But of course, that can’t just be ‘end of’. That’s not a blog post, that’s a telegram.

In a little over two week’s time, my newest play takes to the stage at The Linenhall Arts Centre here in Castlebar. We’ve been through the wars with it a little bit. Deferred by Omicron, cast brushed with the same virus. As a result, we’ve been living with, and working on, the play for quite a bit longer than we normally would. There have been breaks and hiatuses galore but still we sail on towards our goal – an opening on March 9th.

And you know this already, because it’s all there in the title, but I have loved the entire process - every minute of it. The Linenhall Arts Centre have been a dream to work with, as they always and ever have been. Help and encouragement has never been found wanting and Sean in the theatre is a beacon of positivity and technical input. While writing, many congratulations to Bernie on her wonderful news x.

My ‘loving’ of the rehearsal process is at least a two-fold thing. Maybe more. But let’s do two for starters.

Firstly, it’s such a huge compliment to speculatively write a play for the most talented people you know and then slip it in an envelope in their letterbox or Facebook-message them the script in a lowercase-titled PDF. Let me break that sentence ‘cos it’s getting unwieldly. It’s such a huge compliment to have them unanimously come back at speed and say, “Yes, let’s do it.” There is an element of kindness in this, for they are indeed kind people, but there is a warming vote of confidence too. No matter how much they like me as a person, it’s far too much of an ask to go up on a stage with a meritless piece, spending months learning and rehearsing, all without reckonable reward, all for the sheer love of the game. So, there’s an affirmation of friendship and support but there’s that other thing too. Just maybe, the play is not so bad and maybe we’ll do okay.

Secondly… well, it’s the process, isn’t it? The four actors who have committed to stand up and give this little play in a fortnight’s time are all hugely experienced. They have all spent more time treading the boards in front of audiences than… than… I don’t know what. Not hot dinners, I’ve had an absolute shedload of hot dinners. Let's just say they all know their stuff and that’s why this particular process of rehearsal is so wonderfully rich. They don’t just turn up and do lines and move around. They engage deeply with the characters and the reasons why they end up doing what they do. As a result, the play morphs subtly over time. Parts that don’t work slough away and new flesh grows on the barer bones (sounds gross, doesn’t it?). I think everyone in rehearsal with a new play has to be open to that. It is only when it is played-out in a room that one can start to see how it should really be.

I love this process. I find it tremendously exciting but also amazing funny and nerve-wracking in almost equal measure.

I suppose, if you ask anyone, I am directing this play as well as having written it. But, to my mind, I’m not really. We are a small collective and we work together with a common aim of trying to do the very best darned thing that we can.

Sometimes, when there is so much to do and such a long way to go, a person might wonder why they didn’t just stay on the couch and watch the next boxset. But this is living. This is our life. We have to step up and try to make something outside of our day’s work and our evening dinner. If it works (and I’m pretty sure now that it will) it will be a lovely glittering little moment to remember. If it doesn’t then we are once again like Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest when he tried, and failed, to lift the shower block. We tried, dammit, at least we tried.

Thirdly. Yes, I figured there would be a third thing, and a fourth and a fifth but I’ll stop here. I’ll stop at three. 

It’s the people, isn’t it? It’s just the wonderful cast.

This is a first for me. I never wrote a longish play with specific players in mind for each of the four parts. I did it here and how blessed and lucky am I to have the exact four actors agree to play the exact parts I intended for them. And I didn’t write for them by accident. I love them, of course, and respect them, obviously, but there’s a little calculation too. I want the very best I can possibly get for my little play. I want to give it the best start in life. So, I chose the best to write for. The best to ask to do it. And they said yes. Oh lucky me.

In order of appearance, they are Vivienne Lee, Donna Ruane, Ronan Egan and Eamon Smith.

I have known them all for years and have sat and loved Vivienne and Ronan in the numerous musical and theatre productions they have excelled in. They are both consummate actors and the roles I wrote for them reflect, at least to some extent, the things I have watched them do so well up there on stage.

Donna and Eamon and me have done many things together. I have written a total of seven short plays for them for the Claremorris Fringe since its inception year (when we won) and they have even persuaded me to get up on stage myself in four separate productions. Never again though. As Dirty Harry used to say, “A man’s got to know his limitations”. Donna and me have done more together than I can even recount, she had directed all my teens plays and made them infinitely better along the way. 

And so, the days fall away and showtime rolls into view. The little deal that we all made together, quite a few months ago, will soon be consummated.

There remains one key unknown element to the deal. Yes, my Castlebar and Mayo friends, it’s you. Will you come out and see our little play? Share a laugh and a smile? For that is all we will ask of you. We continue to live in strange times. In normal times I know you would come, as you have come before, because you are brilliant and supportive. If you can come this time too, despite all the oddity and the continuous learning we are all doing about our new situation, well that would be just great.

It's not about money or turning a profit. There is none of that in a little endeavour like this. We just want to show you what we have been doing for these last few months and hopefully bring you for a spin on this tiny carnival ride we have built together.

Whatever happens, it’s been a blast.

An absolute blast.

You can book tickets here:  https://thelinenhall.ticketsolve.com/shows/873630326 or on 094 90 23733 during office hours.


Roberta Beary said...

Well done, Ken!

Sending you big Congrats from Clew Bay!

Ken Armstrong said...

Thanks, Roberta

Jim Murdoch said...

Mostly when I write I don’t have a voice in mind, not even my own. I have written a few poems where my daughter has been the narrator but she’s never even read most of them. My wife got to narrate a recent one but my last poem’s title really says it all: ‘Imagine Joker Reading This.’ Christ knows what possessed me to write a poem in the Joker’s voice but there you go. I guess it’s a luxury few writers get, to know who’ll get to declaim their words from the stage so you’re lucky and I know you know that. I still think I’d find it hard having other people involved in the creation of a work bearing my name; I’d want them to have writers’ credits. It’s like the artist’s assistant. When I first learned that not every stroke of paint on a canvas belonged to the artist’s getting lauded for their work I was aghast and I still struggle with it to this day.

Anyway enough of my witterings. I wish you all well and no doubt you'll tell us how it goes. A wee video clip for us who’ll never make it might be nice. Just saying.