If you’ve never witnessed the magic of seeing the process of a script being transformed from mere words on a page to a living, breathing organism, it’s pretty hard to describe the magic that’s ingrained in the process (although I’ve tried several times). But, it’s that peek into what goes into mounting a play that Anne Washburn gives us in 10 Out of 12, which Wildside Productions is running at The Roxy on Gateway October 4 – 16.
Specifically, 10 Out of 12 lets the audience experience what it’s like to be on set during tech weekend – the two or three twelve hour days where the actor’s work melds with the lighting, sound and other technical crew’s work. Welcome to the technical rehearsal – where the exact timing of the cues is figured out, seemingly minute adjustments are made to the lighting and sound design, and snippets of scenes are repeatedly run until the cues line up exactly as they should.
And if this work doesn’t sound that exacting – trust me, it is. For proof, look no further than the title of the play, which is a reference to the Actors’ Equity Association’s rule specifying that no more than 10 hours may be worked in a 12 consecutive hour rehearsal day. But every theatre practitioner knows that effort is more than worth it when they see the way the play has transformed after tech weekend.
A glimpse into the beautiful impossibility of putting on a play.
Robert Benz, who plays Paul, an exacting actor in the play within 10 Out of 12, says, “It’s a really fascinating play. It’s a bit of a kaleidoscope of fragments of conversation, scenes, and the working process. You get these little pieces that all sort of tie together: the fragile egos, passions, ideas and the mundane practicality that all weave together into a glimpse into the beautiful impossibility of putting on a play.”
Robert says his character Paul has, “very specific ideas about what he thinks we should be doing and he’s frustrated that we’re not doing it. There’s a reality in that our work often gets defined by budget, which translates to time. We never have enough time in rehearsal to do the play we want to do and all those things pile up on him. He wants it to be better – to be as good as possible and gets frustrated by the feeling that we’re doing mediocre work.”
“One of the themes in the play is that we try to build something and sometimes it feels impossible – what we want to build and what we achieve are not always the same thing. But whatever we achieve is hopefully something to behold to experience and it’s so ephemeral. I kind of liken theatre to Sand Mandala, where they put all this work into it and this incredible detail to create something stunning and beautiful and they disassemble it and it’s gone.”
Ultimately it is a picture of people working together and that’s what fascinates us.
Whether or not you’re a theatre aficionado, Robert says at its heart, 10 Out of 12 is the story of people working together to create something beautiful and the conflicts and relationships that form throughout that process. “Ultimately it is a picture of people working together and that’s what fascinates us… It’s fascinating what goes on behind the scenes of any endeavour.”
“Something you see in large families and feels missing today in society, in general, is that people can live together and work together and have a blow up or argument or fight and get through it and get over it and carry on with their life or working together or living together or whatever they’re doing together. As opposed to what seems commonplace to me today where people have a disagreement and that relationship is over – they don’t have to deal with each other anymore… Part of the work is solving those creative differences in how we should be doing things but ultimately the conversations that come out of those different ideas hopefully build something better than either one idea on its own. Work is really about collaboration and conversation and disagreement are huge parts of that. Disagreement in and of itself is not a bad thing, it’s how we cope with that disagreement.”
Technology integration provides a full back-stage experience
The previous few times I’ve volunteered with Walterdale Theatre to help out on a show, I’ve been in a role where I’m on headset – one of my favourite things about volunteering as an assistant stage manager or a sound op. When you’re on headset, it’s like you’re in a secret society. You see the play and what’s happening, but you also hear the cues being called that make it all possible. In 10 Out of 12, the audience is brought into the world of being on headset, as they are given an earphone to listen in on the conversations between the stage manager and technicians.
This aspect of pulling back the curtain on all the work, choreography and skill that goes into a production that oftentimes looks so natural is what excites me the most about 10 Out of 12. As Robert says, “There’s all these really specific technical elements that come together to create something that doesn’t look contrived at all, which is the same with any art. You put all of this practical craft and skill into making something that looks like there’s no craft involved. If you achieve that, I think you’ve achieved something.”
Under Jim Guedo’s direction, a stellar cast of Edmonton actors brings 10 Out of 12 to life: Robert Benz, Nadien Chu, Jesse Gervais, Garett Ross, Melissa Thingelstad, Dave Horak, Mat Hulshof, Kristi Hansen, Rebecca Merkley, Larissa Pohoreski, Scott Peters, Corben Kushneryk, Scott Spidell, and Natasha Prasad.
10 Out of 12 runs October 4 – 16 at The Roxy on Gateway (8529 Gateway Boulevard). Previews are October 4 and 5 and the official opening is October 6. Tickets are $18 – $22 through Theatre Network’s box office.