Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Blogs | Artistic Liberties
Previews ~ Max Maven | Thinking In Person
Last week, Max Maven | Thinking In Person opened on Off Broadway. Before that was accomplished, we had to have PREVIEWS. Let me tell you about previews. Along with having a paying audience to see the full run of what you’ve created so far, you’re experimenting to see if all of your great ideas will work out.
When I stage managed Boneyard Prayer at Redmoon, we’d spent weeks of rehearsals planning the opening number which included a gravedigger shoveling dirt on the faux proscenium stage that was a mere feet or so away from the audience. It was the most amazing idea ever to those of us involved with the production. That is, until previews when an audience member wrote a review saying how she loved the show but didn’t appreciate having dirt shoveled in her face two minutes into the show. While the stage picture of that moment was great, we missed the fact that an audience member would be sitting right there eating dirt. That’s what previews are for. You¬† present all your great ideas before an audience to see if it all works.
The first preview for Max Maven had my nerves running in circles. I’d only run the show, meaning the light and sound board, once. During that run in dress rehearsal I had messed up the timing in many cues, especially the final one which is a big deal cue. By first preview, I found myself giving my nerves a pep talk. “You can do it! You’ve been stage managing for 11 years. You can do it!” After both previews Jules Fisher found me, “I have a lot of notes to give you.” My heart dropped. A lot of notes? Crap. I thought I had done pretty well. It turned out ok. Most of his notes involved me needing to anticipate a moment just a bit quicker. I must say its a little challenging anticipating the moment when its a mentalist show. Still, I took the notes, made the adjustments and Jules Fisher smiled and said good job.
Usually during and after previews, you also find pages of the script on the editing room floor. Based on the audiences response and the run time of the show, you realize can’t have the audience sitting there for 5 billion hours. Something has got to go. Sometimes its your favorite moment. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s that one bit that the actors and director went back and forth over during rehearsal and during that crucial moment of previews, there are no more discussions needed. The scene just has to go so that the show can flow right.
Max Maven | Thinking In Person was no exception. After previews Sandy sat me down. “Act one is running too long. I have some suggestions on what has to go. Let’s look at your script to see if any light cues are affected.” Sandy sat with me for about 15 minutes showing me the areas he wanted to cut. There was one section in particular where I fought back though. He pointed to a part in the script. “This second part here. It’s just taking too long. My suggestion is that we cut from here to here,” Sandy said pointing on my script. I made a face. “I see what you’re saying BUT that part in the script was an aha moment for me. If he only says the first part, you miss the aha moment. And for me, someone who knows so little about magic, that was a big moment. I think this whole part could be done quicker but we need all those words,” I countered.
Sandy considered what I said. “I think you’ve convinced me to keep it. Let’s review the other two cuts with Max and see if it helps with the run time on Act One. And for now, we’ll keep this other part.” I smiled.¬† This is why I like theater.
It was during previews that I noticed part of Max and Sandy’s reach in the magic, theater and entertainment industry.¬† Both Max Maven and¬† producer/director Alexander “Sandy” Marshall are well known in their respective industries. Therefore it was no surprise that during our second preview Sandy turned to me and said, “Do you know who that is right there?” I nodded no. ‘That’s Richard Garriott.” I must admit I had to google him and when I did, I was silenced. Just freaking wow. Richard Garriott came to our previews? What the what? Along with Richard Garriott coming to Max Maven | Thinking In Person, we’ve had Bob Fitch, David Blaine and Dick Cavett. We’ve gotten emails from Neil Patrick Harris and Penn & Teller. This all blows my mind. To Sandy and Max, its just another day at the metaphorical office.
If you’re in New York, come see Max Maven | Thinking In Person. You can buy your tickets at MaxMavenOffBroadway.com.