Excerpts From Another Cat's Diary : Chapter Eight : Remembrance Of Things Past
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This chapter includes adult language.
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And, with that business taken care of, here's what you came for...
It’s now the fourth week of rehearsal. And the clock is ticking.
Here we go.
Cats : Day Twenty-One of Rehearsal
Monday, June 20th, 2016
41 DAYS TO OPENING
What’s Been Done And What’s Left To Do
9:30 am - 10:30 am, Studio 7B, Ubeda, Mistoffelees
10:30 am - 1:30 pm, Studio 7A, Full Company (sans Lewis), Dance Review
EXCERPT : Soaked Through
Andy to the company,
“So, I’m going to start each day with work notes and running the Opening and the Ball, for a couple of hours.”
He’s already soaked through with sweat from the 9:30-10:30 session. So is Ricky. Soaked. They’ve already been here for an hour working on the Misto solo next-door.
Me to Ricky, “Is it a lot?”
Ricky, “It’s really just more dance hard then technically hard. You know, hitting all that Andy stuff. But it’s not just me, it involves a lot more people. I love that.”
He sounds tired. And happy. And challenged and invigorated and proud and humble. And well-taken-care-of. Pretty much an ideal state for an artist in process, really.
BULLET POINTS :
- Some adjustments from Ricky Todd Adams from Saturday’s “Ball” rehearsal that I missed. Small head/focus notes. No new placements or entrances. Good.
- Run “Ball” Minimal for me. Excellent for everyone else. It’s going to be sooooo goooood.
- Run of the opening—in which I remember most, but not all of my choreography.
EXCERPT : All The Rooms, Most Of The Actors
11:50 and we break for a ten. When we’re called back at noon, it’s all three spaces in use and more:
Studio A : Andy, Ellenor, and the ladies doing some amazing stuff with physio balls
Studio B : Men and tapping
Studio C : Q singing with William
Hallway : Andy Jones—who’s work ethic is something to live up to—and Chrissie—about whom the same could be said—are woodshedding Munk’s physicality
Me? Wandering the edges of the rooms, the hallways, the stairwells—like the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Lunch
EXCERPT : Suspicions Confirmed
There’s cake! This is because it’s Giuseppe’s birthday.
It’s his nineteenth birthday. Giuseppe is the baby of the cast. I, at fifty, am the old man.
But, though he’s the baby, he’s also an old pro. I had suspected as much and just last night—due to a random meeting in front of Playwrights’ Horizons—I got the confirmation.
2:30 pm - 6:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Lewis), dance
EXCERPT : I Hope The Sound Survives
Back from lunch Ira calls me over to his table,
“Gurr, you can cool your heels for a while. We’re starting with Old Deuteronomy and… you’re not there.”
“That’s right,” I smile, “I’m not.”
As the actor blessed with the Bustopher/Gus track, I am more often than not—just like that wicked and wily Macavity—not there.
I wander off to grab my laptop and another cup of coffee. The company works on getting out of “Mungo/Rump” and into the entrance of Old Deuteronomy.
I’m typing away in the hall—humming along with the beautiful choral sound coming out of Studio A.
I hope the way we sound as a company here at New 42 survives the move to the Neil Simon. I really do. I think we sound very, very good. Our music team is doing a wonderful job and casting set them up better than any other dance show in recent memory. All Broadway dancers, I believe, are much better singers today than in times past. This, though, is a particularly fine group.
Also, embedded within this particularly fine group are the special ops of Cats: The Boothies.
There are six offstage singers—booth singers—for this production of Cats. I gather that that’s standard—to have offstage singers, that is. I’ve no idea about the usual number. Whatever the usual number, we have six—a three and three split—all of whom also cover multiple onstage roles. I think that the only people in this company who have been in previous iterations of Cats are to be found within this group (more on that, later) though I really am bad about tracking who’s done what in terms of credits. Everyone save Ricky Todd is new to me and I just don’t research people before a gig. Here’s what I do know about them :
They can all holler.
All that said, when we hit the theater and everyone is individually mic’d we may or may not be able to hear each other either acoustically or in the monitors. So… I just hope at least some of our musicianship here survives our move to there.
Our move that happens a week from this Thursday.
Seven working days from this very moment.
And here’s what we’ve staged so far:
“Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats”
“The Naming of Cats”
White Cat Solo
“The Old Gumbie Cat”
“The Rum Tug Tugger”
“The Rum Tum Tugger Playoff”
“Entry of Grizabella”
Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer playoff
“Song of the Jellicles and the Jellicle Ball”
Meaning, we have yet to stage :
Macavity Scare 1
“Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”
“Grizabella, The Glamour Cat”
“The Moments of Happiness”
“Gus the Theatre Cat”
“The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles”
“Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat”
“Macavity: the Mystery Cat”
“Magical Mr. Mistoffelees”
Return of Old Deuteronomy
White Cat Touch
“Journey to the Heaviside Layer”
The Ad-Dressing of Cats”
Finales 2 & 3
I repeat, we have seven working days left in the studio.
Cats : Day Twenty-Two of Rehearsal
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
40 DAYS TO OPENING
9:30 am - Studio 7B, Bergman, Hanes, Milgrim, Ubeda, “Mr. Mistoffelees” dance
10:30 am - 11:00 am, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Bergmann, Darrington, Gooden, Hanes, LeProtto, Lewis, Milgrim, Ubeda), “Bustopher Jones” music
11:00 am - 1:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Darrington, Gooden, Hanes, LeProtto, Lewis), “Bustopher Jones” dance
EXCERPT : So, I Guess I'm Working Today
The morning is Bustopher. Music then staging. The afternoon (after the Opening/Ball clean and review) is Gus staging.
It’s All Gurr All Day.
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Lewis), review “Jellicle Ball”
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm, Studio 7B, Darrington, Ford, Gurr, staging “Gus The Theatre Cat”
EXCERPT : Hmmm
How odd to wrap the day so very sad about the Gus work and so very optimistic about the Bustopher work. Didn’t see that coming.
Cats : Day Twenty-Three of Rehearsal
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
39 DAYS TO OPENING
These Aren’t The Droids You’re Looking For
9:30 am, Studio 7B, Gaymon, “Macavity”
10:00 am, Studio 7B, add Pazcoguin, “Jellicle Ball”
10:30 am Studio 7A, FULL COMPANY (sans Gurr), “Jellicle Ball”
EXCERPT : Run, Asparagus. Run.
So I had time to go for a jog this morning, and I took Gus with me.
QUESTIONS ALONG THE HUDSON :
- What if Jelly’s first verse was to keep me in the space and, in fact, is all that keeps me in the space?
- What if at the end of Jelly’s verse everyone, cats and audience, think, “Oh. Damn. Guess he’s not going to play along after all.”?
- What if Gus is as far gone in “The Ball” as he is at the top of “Gus”?
- What if he is not as quick on the lyric with Old D “We know how to dance a gavotte and a jig…”?
- What if…?
11:30 am ADD Gurr, continue “Ball,” out of “Ball” and “Little Memory”
EXCERPT : Changes
I gather from others that Andy came in this morning and said,
“‘The Ball’ is wrong, so we’re going to change it.”
And that he went on to say that he’d rather go into tech with it right and shaky than wrong and us have to re-stage it then.
And when I make it in to rehearsal, there have indeed been changes to the ball. The stop/suspended time element seems to be gone… Hmmmm.
THINGS ANDY SAYS :
“What would it look like if…?”
“We’ll all be happier if…”
“That formation is suspect.”
“You’re on the step, and you’re on the step, and you’re on the step. You are not on the step.”
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm, Studio A, FULL CAST (sans Darrington and Lewis) “Bustopher Jones”, dance
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm, Studio B, Gooden & LeProtto, “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer”, dance
EXCERPT : The Force Is Strong With This One
In Studio A we fill in rest of “Bustopher” from the day before and review all.
Andy drops me out of the tricky bit of the step with the kittens that was worrying me so much yesterday.
I can’t even remember how he dropped me from it. Or when. One moment I was drilling it off to the side, trying to do it and the next thing I know…
I am no longer “on the step.”
I think he Obi-Wan Kenobi’d me.
It’s just like when he excused Sassy Fucking Peter from the double in the opening. I don’t remember how or when I was taken off that step, but I was.
(Yes, Fucking Peter is now Sassy Fucking Peter. Details as to why withheld. For the moment)
However he did it, I’m off the step.
He’s going to take care of his show and he’s going to take care of me. He keeps earning my trust.
But I feel bad. I feel like I’ve let him down.
But, he never danced me for the job, sooooooo…….
Cats : Day Twenty-Four of Rehearsal
Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
38 DAYS TO OPENING
Your Brain Is Going To Explode
9:30 am - 10:30 am, Studio 7A, Darrington, Gurr, Jones, “Pekes & Pollicles” staging
9:30 am - 10:30 am, Studio 7B, Lewis, “Little Memory” staging
EXCERPT : Sketches Of Sketches
Roughing in Peeks & Pols with Q, Andy J. and Andy B. while Chrissie and Leona sketch in “Little Memory” next door.
PRESENT DAY POSTSCRIPT :
I see here, in my journal, notes from this blocking session . They bare only the slightest resemblance to what we finally ended up with for the Pekes & Polls number. This was an all new use of this song, sung by different characters than originally intended, and—at this point of rehearsal—Old Deuteronomy still had many of the lyrics. That was not to remain.
10:30 am - 12:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, end of “Bustopher Jones” through end of Act I
EXCERPT : Inspiration
Watching the twins during “The Ball” I catch my breath and almost sob from the joy of a watching people so good at what they do and doing it so well. Em and Corey are just beautiful together. They really are. I never tire of watching them.
PRESENT DAY POSTSCRIPT :
And I never did tire of watching them.
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Gaymon, Gurr, Krouse, Lewis) “Skimbleshanks” dance
EXCERPT : Ka-BOOM!
At the end of this session (for which I just hang out to watch Jeremy Davis work—if I could dance, I’d want to dance like Jeremy) there’s a little check in with us from Andy about heading towards the theatre, adding that next layer of paint, adding back the felinity, the character individuality.
He tells us,
“Your brain is going to explode in the theater. There’s so much.”
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Lunch
2:30 pm - 5:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Lewis) “Macavity Fight,” and “Mr. Mistoffelees” dance
EXCERPT : Not The Way We Do It In England
I chat with Chrissie in the hall while the gang is working on the transition into Macavity coming out of Skimble.
As I’m pouring myself yet another cup of coffee, I say to her,
“I was watching you walk Leona on after the ball and thought, ‘I wonder how many Grizabellas Chrissie has put into Cats?”
Chrissie does her wonderful, soft, twinkly, I-might-know-more-than-I’m-going-to-tell-you smile.
“Oh, well,” she says, reaching for the electric kettle, “They’re all different.”
“I imagine so.” I say. “Maybe, in the whole of Cats, Griz would be the role where the variety pack of actresses who have played her is greatest.”
She stirs her tea.
“Well, really, for any of the parts there’s variety.”
“We were talking about it in the production meeting at lunch. Talking about replacing actors in the future and they were saying ‘well, they’ll be more or less the same size and shape as the originals’ and that’s not the way we do it in England.”
“Bless your hearts,” I say, out loud.
She goes on, “I remember when I first started working on it, Trevor said ‘let’s not get into stereotypes. We find who we find who’s good in the role.’”
I couldn’t agree more.
Cats : Day Twenty-Five of Rehearsal
Friday, June 24th, 2016
37 DAYS TO OPENING
Warnings, Wizards, and Watching
10:30 am - 12:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Gaymon and Lewis), “Pekes & Pollicles,” dance
Which for me—blessedly—really means staging. I am perfectly happy doing staging.
EXCERPT : Andy’s First Temper
That I see at any rate. He’s unhappy with something that was going on at the top of the day.
Suddenly a little tense between those two camps.
Bound to happen. I’m sure there have been tons of clashes as old meets new but—to the entire team’s credit—we, the cast, have been almost entirely insulated from that. Which makes me like everyone on that side of the table even more.
Spent 10:30 am to 1:00 pm putting the company into “Pekes & Pollicles.” Good stuff.
Andy seems happy with the work on “Pekes & Polls” and so am I. Even without “Gus” before it, it’s a hell of a turn. With “Gus” it’s practically a one-act.
I’m a very lucky actor.
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Gaymon and Lewis), “Mr. Mistoffelees”, dance
EXCERPT: They Move On To “Mistoffelees”
I say “they” because—though I’m included in the call—I don’t believe Gus is in this number, so I scurry back to my little nest wedged between the windows and the set.
It is not long before Ira appears around the corner.
“Mm? Yes? I’m not in this. Am I?”
He smiles again and heading back to his table, says,
“So—come on out and get in his eye-line.”
I close my laptop.
You see, while it’s true I thought Gus was not in the “Mistoffelees” number, that was based entirely on watching the PBS DVD.
Well, Sir John Mills played Gus—and only Gus—in that staging, and you’re bloody well going to let Sir John Mills go home once he’s done his Gus turn. You’re not going to have Sir John Mills prancing and clapping in the “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” number, now, are you?
Because he’s Sir John Mills.
I am not.
So, I thought I’d help my case by simply not being in the director’s line-of-sight while he’s staging. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Standard character actor move. Along with blocking yourself seated in crowd scenes, dying first in fights, and standing behind the director and stage manager when they’re coordinating actor-driven set-moves.
But, Ira Mont has been at this game too long for me to get away with that particular trick.
Quite right, too.
Turns out Gus—inexplicably—is in this number.
Not a sound dramaturgical reason to be had, but—there it is.
And there I am.
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm Lunch
Lunch break and phone therapy with Ingrid. Ingrid’s mostly walking me through the perils of online dating these days and I’m just dealing with the bouts of actor doubt on my own. We’re sharing the burden of my burdens. I don’t particularly like doing therapy sessions on the phone in one of the locker rooms of New 42, but—can’t be helped. We must… well, you know the rest.
2:30 pm - 3:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST (sans Gaymon and Lewis), “Mr. Mistoffelees” cont.
EXCERPT : A Wizard In Our Midst
Natasha Katz sitting in the room today. She’s here watching the Misto number, the ball, and the McCavity fight. She is our lighting designer. I like watching lighting designers watch. I can hear the gears clicking over in their brains, their irises zooming in and out.
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, “Jellicle Ball” dance
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, (sans Adams, Darrington, Gurr, Lewis, Morgan), “McCavity Fight”
EXCERPT : MaCavity Most Certainly Is There
After watching Misto’s number—in which Ricky Ubeda is KILLING IT!!!!—I’m sitting at the back of the set, putting on my street shoes, as the company starts going through the McCavity entrance and fight.
Ricky, standing next to me says—to me? To himself?
“Daniel’s my favorite dancer.”
Even though I’m done for the day, I stop tying my shoes and decide not to leave just yet.
I believe Ricky and Daniel have danced together before, in the same dance company? Yes? From the scraps I’ve overheard. Maybe that’s where Andy B. found them.
I settle in to watch Daniel as McCavity.
As a walking-around-normal guy he is just so sweet, but—out there on the floor—he is…
It’s less flashy that Ricky’s work as Misto—Mistoffelees is a magician, after all—but it is taut…
and—as it should be—scary.
Andy wanted Macavity to be a real threat so, he hired Daniel.
Sweet, sweet Daniel.
Who can do
Cats : Day Twenty-Six of Rehearsal
Saturday, June 25th, 2016
36 DAYS TO OPENING
If You’re Going To Be Haunted, There Are Worse Ghosts
9:30 am - 12:30 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, Top of Act II, cont. Act II
BULLET POINTS :
- Morning, stage opening of II
- “Circle of convincing” with Q and Chrissie
- Gus for the first time in front of the company, adding the company in
- Tying Gus to Rumpus
12:30 pm lunch
1:00 pm - 1:30 pm, Neil Simon, Theater Visit
BULLET POINTS :
- walking to the theatre by myself thinking how-did-this-happen thoughts
- Bump into Trevor on 8th Avenue. He’s coming from the theatre, just off the plane from London. Big smile. Big hug. I’m so glad he’s back.
- Into the stage door at the Neil Simon for the first time since I moved out after All The Way. Tom, the day doorman, remembers me. It is good to be welcomed back.
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Studio 7A, FULL CAST, work-through top of Act I through “Mr. Mistoffelees”
BULLET POINTS :
- Trevor back in the room. Did I mention I was glad he was back?
- Remembering from the top of show
- Figuring out S.F. Peter
- That was NOT a stop and start - that was a run of Act I.
- Starting to time my costume changes
- Note from Chrissie to be more positive (not her word) in the memory of Firefrorefiddle. Which I’m pushing back on a bit. AND trying not to make him (Firefrorefiddle) a red herring re: Rumpus. Just make the memory before the horrifying part a better memory.
- Releasing the first photo of Gus on Instagram today :
END OF DAY
EXCERPT : Notes From A Bar (with wine and nibbly bits) :
Time to kill between rehearsal and seeing Chelsea and Bret in Paramour tonight and I find myself back at Wine Escape on 44th.
Pretty quiet early Saturday evening. Straight couple maybe my age, maybe a little younger, just all over each other in the window seats. Mercy. Just hands and lips and… DAMN! They must went from wine bar to back room. Ok then.
And here's my wine. Mmmmmmmmm....
So we did a run today. Of the entire show up the point that we’ve staged, and we just “sang down” the rest.
Trevor, bless his heart, stayed awake for the whole thing. Just in from London. He looked knackered, but he was sweetly complimentary to the company and did his dutiful (but sincere) rounds of the principals afterwards. He caught Q and I together and took us by our elbows and did the “well done” bit. The soft version of Trevoring.
I really do like him. I wonder what he was like as a young lion. And what the temper looks like. After seeing a little flare from Andy the other day, one wonders.
So… Gus. It went very well, I think. I don’t want to fall in love—lest Mike Nichols come back to haunt me (I should be so lucky)—and I want to build something that will survive a long run and an audience that’s harder to capture than a room full of actors and dancers.
This afternoon, on the lunch break, here’s a text I got from my friend James Latus:
HAPPY PRIDE WEEKEND!!!!
How are you doing?
How are rehearsals going?
I heard you had the room in tears after your song.
Good for you!!!!!
I did clock folks sniffling this morning.
And said to myself,
“No. Don’t get seduced by this. Do your work. Tell the story. Be responsible for the character.
You’re allowed to be pleased that the work is landing with people, and you should be sincere and gracious in thanking them when they compliment you.
DON’T GET SEDUCED BY YOUR REFLECTION IN THE MIRROR. The actual mirror or the mirror of other people."
I really did say all that to myself because a lot of that—what one might consider normal, or even obvious—doesn't come naturally to me. I have to coach myself through it.
It feels so good to feel this feeling.
That—in that moment, at least—I’m delivering.
That I’ve finally earned my place in the room. I’ve gotten to show everyone why I’m here. That it’s ok that I’m here.
It is not a feeling I walk around with on a day to day basis. I’m working on it, but I’m not there.
Tuck was an extended exercise in I don’t deserve to be here.
Amazing Grace an extended exercise in so, this is where I deserve to be.
Sitting here at Wine Escape I check my email and see a Facebook notice from Sara Anne Peacock, back in my home town of Americus, GA. She’s the mother of high school schoolmates of mine. She responded to my picture of Gus I posted earlier:
You look great, Chris.
I remember you singing the Gus song many years ago, when you were a teenager.
It sounded wonderful then - know it will sound fantastic now!
Really? I sang “Gus” in public in high school? Really!?!
Well, damn. I don’t remember that.
I don’t remember a lot of my life before college. I’m working on that, too. Kind of. First year of therapy (ninth month to be exact) and… Well, I’m working on it.
Anyway, I do recall singing “Gus” but only in my bedroom, alone. And, I contend, I did exactly that bedroom performance from 1983 in my auditions for this production.
That’s right. As a seventeen year old I “got” Gus. I also—as a freshman in high school—“got” Old Henry, the superannuated actor in The Fantastics. And I won Best Actor in the State for playing him.
Old guys, particularly old actors. They’re my thing. I guess.
What’s that about?
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