Episode 112: The Mess Rehearsal
Ms. Julie and David Hyde Pierce teach the Greenies to have a little faith in themselves after they stumble through a rough dress rehearsal.
Featured Art: Rehearsal
Directing is an all-inclusive gig. And when David Hyde Pierce stops by for Tech Rehearsal, he learns the Greenies have some all-inclusive problems. But that’s what tech rehearsals are for! To start with, it seems some of the Greenies may not know all their lines. Thankfully, rehearsals exist to help catch those mistakes.
But rehearsals aren’t just for the actors – a good rehearsal checks the readiness of the stage itself. Those preparations are done by the Stage Crew: almost every musical that has ever existed has had one. Those are the folks behind the scenes, running around in black as they wheel sets off stage and bring up the lights. Sets can be hung, or wheeling, but most of them have to be mobile. The Greenies will have to learn to watch out for them!
Another important element of tech rehearsal is the double checking of any visual effects: these can include pyrotechnics, a fog machine, inventive lighting, and more. While visual effects are often quite magical, they require strict rehearsing to get right! You never want a rogue fog machine going off during an actual performance. These effects can be simple, like colored cloth used to simulate fire or water, or actual technical marvels, designed by innovative engineers.
Finally, a huge portion of the rehearsal will be spent on cues. A “Cue” is a marking point: it can signal when an actor speaks, or a song plays, or a curtain goes down. The Greenies have trouble with their ‘marking,’ which means the spot on stage they have to be when certain set cues happen. Those marks are noted via “spikemarks,” or exes made with tape. Those spikemarks can exist on film and television sets as well – actors are sometimes too busy to remember the same place every time.
Tech rehearsal will be a part of any musical. Drama students often take turns as the stage crew for different productions, learning about the process and helping the actors shine.
Emmy and Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce made his professional and Broadway debut in 1982 as the waiter in Christopher Durang's Beyond Therapy, and is currently on the Great White Way as Horace Vandergelder in the revival of Hello, Dolly!, opposite Bette Midler. The show, which broke box office records, began previews at the Shubart Theatre on March 15, in advance of an April 20 opening. This performance marks Pierce’s return to the Broadway stage as an actor, and his first in a musical in over a decade.
Pierce was last seen Off-Broadway this fall in Adam Bock’s A Life, played at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater for Playwrights’ Horizons and earned him some of the best reviews of his career.
As a director, Pierce most recently helmed David Lindsay-Abaire’s dark comedy Ripcord for Manhattan Theater Club. The show, which starred Mary-Louise Burke and Holland Taylor as mismatched roommates in an assisted living facility, played a limited engagement in the winter of 2015.
Pierce made his Broadway directorial debut with Barbara Anselmi and Brian Hargrove’s original musical It Shoulda Been You, which opened in the Spring of 2015 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and ran through the summer. Pierce first directed the show at the George Street Playhouse, starring Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, who reprised their roles on Broadway.
His other directing credits include Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Los Angeles's Mark Taper Forum (Pierce originated the role of Vanya on Broadway, and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance), as well as a reimagining of The Importance of Being Earnest for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in which he set the play in Prohibition era times.
Pierce won the Tony Award for his role as Lieutenant Frank Cioffi in the Musical Comedy Curtains, before going on to appear in the Manhattan Theatre Club revival of the 1930's comedy Accent on Youth. In 2010, Pierce starred in the acclaimed London and Broadway productions of La Bete. He returned to Off-Broadway in the Vineyard Theatre's 2013 production of The Landing, a new musical from John Kander. In 2005, he originated the role of Sir Robin in the Broadway production of Monty Python's Spamalot. For his performance, Pierce was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical. Pierce’s many other credits include the off-Broadway productions of That's it Folks!, The Author's Voice, Maderati, Zero Positive, and Elliot Loves, before returning to Broadway in The Heidi Chronicles.
In addition to his work in new plays, Pierce has appeared in Hamlet and Much Ado (New York Shakespeare Festival), Holiday and Camille (Long Wharf Theatre), Candida (Goodman Theatre), The Seagull, Tartuffe, Cyrano, and Midsummer's Night's Dream (Guthrie Theatre), and Peter Brook's The Cherry Orchard in New York, Moscow, Leningrad, and Tokyo. In Los Angeles, he appeared in Terrence McNally's It's Only a Play at the Doolittle Theatre and in the Geffen Playhouse production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks with Uta Hagen.
Pierce's film credits include Bright Lights, Big City, Crossing Delancey, Little Man Tate, Sleepless in Seattle, Wolf, Nixon, Isn't She Great, Wet Hot American Summer, Full Frontal, Down With Love, A Bug's Life, Osmosis Jones, Treasure Planet, and the Sundance Film Festival Selection The Perfect Host.
His television credits include a short but happy stint on Norman Lear's political satire "The Powers That Be," and a long but happy stint on "Frasier," for which he earned four Emmy Awards and the American Comedy, Television Critics, Viewers for Quality Television and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He returned to series television in 2014 with a guest arc on the critically acclaimed CBS drama "The Good Wife." He also reprised his role in the 2015 Netflix reboot of "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” and will be seen in the newest installment. Pierce was most recently seen on television in ABC’s lauded drama “When We Rise,” which chronicled the life of Cleve Jones and the gay rights’ movement of the 1970s, and as a guest star on the recently launched Netflix children’s program “Julie’s Greenroom,” starring Dame Julie Andrews.
Pierce has worked with The Alzheimer's Association for nearly twenty years. As a board member and national spokesperson, he has worked with the Association in its mission to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. In 2010, he was awarded the Tony Awards' Isabelle Stevenson Award for his work with the Association.
Warm Up Game: That's Who I'm Gonna Be
Tech rehearsal is the final stop before opening night! And getting into character is absolutely essential before putting on a performance.
Start by stating who you’re going to be, followed by performing it and adding an adverb. An adverb describes how the line is delivered, and ends with “-ly”. For example, Gus starts us off:
I’m gonna be the Stage Manager, that’s who I’m gonna be.
The Stage Manager says “Lights 101, sound X,” oh so professionally!
The formula goes like that: “I’m going to be ______, that’s who I’m going to be. The _______ says _______ oh so ______ - ly!”
Figure out who you’d like to be, then figure out how that character talks. Peri’s Ogre says “Grrr” oh so frighteningly! Spike’s Wizard says “Alakazam” enchantingly, and Riley’s Jester says “Badaboom” humorously. It doesn’t have to just be a role from a play, either. A pig says “oink” oh so messily, or a computer can say “beep boop” oh so robotically!
Here’s Fizz for good measure:
I’m gonna be a Princess, that’s who I’m gonna be,
The Princess says “have a waffle, oh so royally!”
Got it? Think about not only what your character would say, but HOW they would say it. That descriptive adverb you come up with will help you later on in your performance!