Are you a behind-the-scenes junkie? If yes, you can get incredible insight into Director Bruce Kimmel's process for building In My Mind's Eye. Below we are highlighting his director's notes from various rehearsals. Enjoy!
We had an intimate audience at the dress rehearsal tonight, so that was really helpful for the cast. And what a cast it is, I must say.
I took mostly lighting and music/sound notes. My mantra from day one has been “cinematic.” But we haven’t achieved it quite yet and that mostly has to do with when music is starting and the fact that every cues has to be extended a tiny bit so the music tails over into the incoming scene – then everything becomes seamless, with no pauses. As to the show itself, it was pretty smooth. I sat in the last row of the theater and it became very apparent that everyone needs to notch up their vocal energy a bit – what seems okay in the third row isn’t okay at the top of the theater. But we got some healthy laughs, which was great, and I think people were involved in the play. One person afterwards said how much they liked the main device of the play, which made me very happy because I was concerned about it and worked very hard visually to make sure it was not confusing. The solutions to that I’m very proud of. And the show looks really good. All in all, it was a very good final dress rehearsal.
TWO RUN THROUGHS
Our first run-though began at ten – we had sound and music for the first time so most of my notes were about that. The music began too loud then dropped too soft for the monologues that it accompanies, so all that has to get adjusted.
There was music where none should have been, there was silence where there should have been music, and a couple of times the wrong theme was used. But I could tell it will work when all the notes are addressed.
We took an hour break then we had our second run-through and finished that at around four-thirty, I gave notes, switched up a few lighting things, and got everyone on their merry way at 4:45.
The two runs were fine, I just think we’re ready to start playing in front of an audience.
Our long tech day is behind us and a very interesting day it was. The run-through itself was smooth, but the tech end was a bit rough, as to be expected, although we never stopped. I took notes for both lighting and actors and gave out a few before we let everyone go for a five-hour break.
In that five hours, the lighting guy and I went cue-to-cue, finessing almost everything, adding lights, smoothing out transitions, correcting miscues, and making the changes that are normal to make after having written the show quickly and seen it only once. Mostly we added a lot of subtle color, smoothed out any hard edges to the lights (I wanted everything fuzzed out a bit, like our heroine’s slight sight), and that took the entire five hours.
The actors returned. We did our photo call, which took a bit longer than usual because there were several costume changes for different looks. When that was done, we began our evening run-through. And I am here to tell you, that it all clicked into place beautifully. Performances sometimes go a bit awry as we add in lights and all that tech stuff, and I’ve been giving notes about that, but all the notes were pretty much addressed, and it just played beautifully. All the lighting adjustments worked perfectly, save for a couple of late or early cue calls. It was the first time seeing the costumes and they’re really great. But it was the acting I was most pleased with, and Peyton was off the charts great – best performance I have ever seen her give. Funny, touching, emotional – it was just about perfect.
SO THERE’S THAT
I think our little set is going to look very nice once all is said and done but at the moment all is not quite said and done, all being a contrarian with a bad toupee. It’s a very sparse set, which is what I wanted, but it’s very evocative in its way and it enables our lighting guy to be very creative and artistic. We’ve got a lot of rented instruments for this show, which this show really needs. I’m not sure everything is in exactly the right place, but we’ll finesse as we go along. Our set designer also painted the floor and it’s really beautiful. I’ll try to get some photographs when the rest is up. As to our run-through, I think it was the one you always know you’re going to have, the one every show has. It had many excellent things but some of it was just a beat behind. And when I gave notes, that seemed to have been the consensus of everyone and that’s always helpful. Even with that, I have given less notes on this show than any show I’ve ever directed and that is a real testament to this wonderful company of actors. A couple of, for me anyway, the most powerful moments in the show are things I thought would not work, but I came up with a way to stage those moments that just makes them very moving.
I got there early, and we recorded all the stuff that’s voiceover in the play. So, that’s a big thing that’s now done. I’m letting the sound designer but these things together with the music cues that play under them and then we can swap things if I don’t think they work. We have fifteen minutes of cues, which should be fine. The show is running pretty consistently, time-wise. First act is coming in at between fifty-three and fifty-five minutes, which is fine, and the second act is coming in around fifty right now, which is also fine, as that means we’ll be at two hours WITH the intermission.
Today we completed the recording of some voices that are played during the show, pre-recorded stuff. Doug brought in a local group of visually impaired singers and actors to do it. These young people were so sweet and so captivating and had such positivity that I was absolutely taken by them. That session ended up being an unexpected and magical part of my day.
Our run-through was pretty terrific. We were upstairs for it, but it ran 110 minutes all in, which is just about right, although it continues to get tighter with each run. But I’m smart enough to let the play breathe when it needs to, to let moments happen. I can’t say enough how much I love this cast – when you have actors this good, all I need to do is sit there and marvel at the performances and that from day one we’ve all trusted each other and been on the exact same page. Have I mentioned their names? Well, let me: Kait Haire, Peyton Kirkner, Maria Kress, Bobby Slaski, Lloyd Pedersen, and Carla Rodriguez. We’re also blessed with a really talented standby, who’ll be playing Kait’s role for one weekend, Torrey Richardson. I had just a few tiny notes to give and I thought of a couple of tiny things we’ll try at the next one. As I watch now, I’m just looking for little things that would barely register on an audience but are little tiny moments between the characters that cumulatively add up. I have a lot of what I call mirroring in the play – mirror images, so to speak, and visually I really like the way those moments play. And not many line calls at all. And we’re still a week-and-a-half from opening night, although our invited dress is a week from tomorrow.
Today at rehearsal our designers showed up and we began our designer run-through. I think they were all a bit surprised that a show that still has two weeks until it opens is in relatively smooth shape. Line calls were very few, a few fumfered bits here and there and some tiny pacing issues, but the rest was pretty great. I love the cast and they really bring out everything that’s in the script, without ever devolving into melodrama or treacle, two things I was determined to completely avoid. Best of all, they’re all playing the same show. My experience is you always have one or two players who don’t understand that they have to play the same show as the other actors, otherwise it just gets weird. And adding lighting, music, and costumes, not to mention the set, and I’m hoping we make some real magic.
RUN-THROUGH WITH PLAYWRIGHT
Today I worked for about forty-five minutes with Peyton, then everyone showed up for our run-through, including the author of the play, Mr. Doug Haverty. While I’d told him he could come this week, I guess I’d assumed it would be to the designer run, so I didn’t really have time to warn the cast he’d be there.
The run-through was good – as is always the case when the actors are finally off book, some of the detailed acting we’ve had isn’t as sharp, simply because the job right now is to remember the lines and just get them out, along with calling for lines, which everyone did. I was pretty certain Doug didn’t care for it, but he called me after and said he had no notes, so that made me very happy and will make the cast happy. I told him the whole thing was a little off, but he knows this routine, especially from having just done The Man Who Came to Dinner, where we had an especially hard few days once the actors were off book. But I just cannot say enough about this cast – I really and truly adore every one of them and they’re all on the same page and all want to do the best job they can and serve Doug’s play, while putting their own personal touches on it, as am I. Given the importance of the lighting and music, and that we don’t have that yet, it’s still very affecting, even at this stage. I think in the next day or two we’ll be past this just off book phase and back to building the performances.
Today we were upstairs and we did our run-through. The cast is now off-book, so there were the usual calls for lines, but it ran pretty smoothly and is looking good. I also came up with a new way to stage a moment that, for me, is weird – it’s a device in the play and I want to make sure that the audience really understands the device. I figured out how I could do it visually in the same way I helped a similar moment later in the play, so we’re going to try that at the next run-through.
SET DESIGN APPROVED
Before starting the run-through today, I tried a couple of things to see how I liked them. I know one of the things works well, while I like the other but am not quite sold on it yet.
We did our run-through, which was pretty smooth. The actors are at that place now where they know most of it but are still clutching their scripts as a safety net. But as of Saturday, everyone should be off book and to that end, I think we’ll run lines tonight, as we can’t do a run-through since one of our leads is gone. The run time was about the same as the previous night. Our set designer was there, making notes, and we’ve approved the design.
THE FIRST RUN-THROUGH
We had our first full run-through of Doug Haverty’s In My Mind’s Eye last night. Not a stumble-through, not a tough it out run-through. A run-through that was surprisingly together and smooth, with the only minor stops being for an actor to glance at their script for a line. Watching the play as a whole I can see where I need to adjust some rhythms here and there. We worked on the rhythms of the separate scenes, of course, but when you see everything in context, then you see what’s what and what adjustments are needed. The actors are just wonderful. We’re still trying things, interpretation-wise, but I’m pretty pleased with the style and blocking, and we’ll see how all that works once we solidify the set this evening at our production meeting. The other good news is the run time is only about four minutes longer than I’d like the show to run, so that’s great. The one thing I know I got exactly right is the play’s final image. I’ve known from the very first time I read the play what I wanted that image to be and it’s just simple and effective.