This is a collection of anecdotes from our dress rehearsal for the Ring Bearer performance in the Backnang Burgerhaus. Little snippets of what went on, generally the amusing moments. It was written from back stage though, with many interruptions for me to run onstage and act, so read it as a series of excerpts, a sporadic running commentary, not necessarily linked into a cohesive whole.
I’m sitting backstage in this fabulously huge and professional theatre waiting for our dress rehearsal to begin. Kristin has spent the morning attempting to get some lighting set up and is now up at the back of the theatre in the lighting box playing with very high tech equipment. Rohan and Theo are backstage with me and have just broken into a rendition of ‘To Isengard’ with harmonies and in F major (not minor) which is highly amusing, but they sang a little too loud so have earned themselves shouts from those who are working on stage QUIET BACKSTAGE!
Those who did the workshop with us who are dancing Song of the Elves have come backstage to get an elf dress, so all Wayfarers have got out their different sized robes and are matched them up with the appropriate sized person. “you put in on by first putting the elastic over your head, then you flip the long bit over…” passing on all the tricks of the trade… Kia is organising things and doing it well. Including ensuring that everyone knows where to put the robe after they have finished with it so that those Wayfarers who need them in a later scene don’t have to run around backstage frantically trying to find them! Then a final reminder for how to stand and walk as an elf before heading onstage to practice the dance.
As the rehearsal progresses, we get the same reminders that we seem to need everywhere we go. Keep further to stage left and COME FORWARD! The ‘old forest’ scene is looking and sounding fabulous. This group have come up with a whole lot of very evil tree noises which makes the whole thing so much more effective. Gawain and Will have just run off stage yelling Help! and when offstage, with big grins on their faces, have reverted to amusingly pathetic high pitched calls. The scenes are so familiar now that I only half listen to what is going on, but I am surprised out of my complacency by the sound of a new voice responding to their calls for help. With a German accent. He does a fabulous job and it immediately reminds me of when we performed this in Taiwan. The student there who played Tom Bom was fantastic and his “Bombadil is talking” line was so cool that we still quote it!
The pub scene is always a lot of fun to do. Normally I stand on stage and chat to the Theodore, very animatedly, with broad grins and lots of unrelated hand gestures, about whatever particular thing his gone wrong in our performance so far, but today there are so many more people in the pub that I am not needed and can stand in the wings and watch the new blocking that has gone into the scene.
The next amusing moment comes from Theodore who points out that he and the other black riders, after stabbing Frodo then running away (for no good reason), come back on stage to finish him off, but instead of actually doing it, they then wait patiently a few steps away giving the elves time to gather themselves and finally come on stage and fight them off! But we fixed the timing so it is now all okay!
One of the biggest challenges for us is in this performance is that all the narrations are being done in German. This is particularly hard in the Council of Elrond scene where we have a long narration during which everyone on stage simultaneously freezes and unfreezes about six times. All at specific moments. I walk on as Legolas and stand gravely beside Theo (a random elf), and I find it almost impossible to look at him and not laugh. Particularly when we repeatedly stop the scene to shuffle further downstage, or because Bilbo hesitated too long before singing, or people didn’t go up on their toes at the correct moment. Then I look at Boromir and see that the under tunic for his costume is all bunched up around his ears and he hasn’t noticed. My favourite moment though was watching Matt as Bilbo standing with the most fabulously hopeful look on his face in the moment in the scene where Elrond is choosing those who will travel with Frodo. Priceless.
Then the death of Gandalf. Genevieve is fabulous as the Balrog, she finally has enough space to really jump around and look wild. Gandalf is caught and falls off stage crying “fly you fools!” Then, instead of being horror struck, we all grin widely then burst out laughing because there is Terry, out of view of the audience, but in full view of us, sitting on the floor. A figure wearing a long grey cloak and a pointy hat, with her hands folded neatly in her lap, her legs out straight in front of her, her toes pointing upward, and watching us with a very interested and expectant expression. The complete opposite of the horrifying death which is what we are meant to be picturing as we act out horror and grief.
I’m not sure that our dress rehearsals are particularly professional. Well, that is if the dress rehearsal is meant to be serious like a performance. We use our dress rehearsals to make jokes and do silly things. Or perhaps it is the other way around. We make jokes and laugh a lot to help us to get through the dress rehearsals. This is really the more sensible view, I think, because our rehearsals are usually at the end of an already long day’s teaching and everyone is always tired. Today hasn’t been too bad in the scheme of Ring Bearer days though. Teaching in the morning, then dress rehearsal all afternoon- about a ten hour day. Not too bad really. It will be twelve hours tomorrow with the children’s performance in the morning then this a at night.
There is always an added level of excitement for me when we are performing it with other people. I haven’t really spoken a lot about the wonderful people who did the workshop with us this time. But they did a fabulous job and have been more fully integrated into the play than we have ever managed before. Narrators, small speaking roles, Orcs, elf dance, trees, soloists and instrumentalists. They have really added to the richness of the production. Having the narrations in German (mammoth task as it probably was to translate) certainly made the whole thing more understandable for everyone.
And now the performance has been and gone. It went well! Congrats, all!