Well, another week and more things to practice (see my last blog for more information on that) Will has taught almost all the music and Lisa taught some more choreography. Cindy also placed actors in our opening number and gave a little blocking leading up to it. I’d say we are off to a good start!
Cindy also took some time to talk to the cast about the set. It’s really hard to imagine what the set is going to look like until you see it. Some people are better at this than others – I am not one of them. I always understand how I think the set is going to look, but spatially it’s always really hard for me to picture. Thankfully I’ve done enough of these shows now that I at least have a general idea based on drawings and past shows at Kennedy and Wilson.
The problem is that the Cole gym and stage is so radically different from a school auditorium. This is a somewhat amusing statement as I happen to know, first hand, that the Cole gym used to also function as a school auditorium (and cafeteria). We do our best with what we have, which is too much space. How do you go about picturing the stage? How do you go about figuring out where offstage is? Where is the front row of the audience and the edge of the stage? How do I know where to stand if I’m entering through an aisle or on the Loge? Well, we do our best. Sometimes we are able to put up markers, but I never know if these are in the exact same place from week to week. So, we all do our best and WRITE DOWN OUR BLOCKING, hoping that the transition from Cole to Wilson (or Kennedy in the fall) won’t be too difficult.
And that brings me to the importance of blocking notes – you know, in case you missed the fact that caps lock was used for a bit in the last paragraph. What is blocking? Glad you asked. Blocking is where the actors move on the stage and when they make those moves. Generally, blocking consists of entering, crossing, and exiting, but there are other levels of it as well. It might be a gesture you give or a glance at another character at a specific point in a scene. Sometimes songs are blocked, rather than choreographed, with precise movements given instead of dance moves. A good example of this would be “Cinderella Do This (Bob Do That)” from Twinderella. Cinderella and Bob had to walk at certain points during the song, hold an arm up here and then put it down there, etc. You could refer to this as choreography, but there weren’t any traditional dance moves involved.
Blocking is given for a reason. In some cases, the reasons are obvious. If a character has a line, it would help if they entered the stage at some point to deliver it, for example. You could perform a play in which everyone is on stage at the same time and they only move forward when they need to say a line, and move back when they are done. That would be pretty boring though.
A lot of times, blocking is given for character reasons, rather than practical ones. For example, if a character is charismatic and can get the attention of anyone from anywhere, the approach to that character launching into a speech might not be the same as a shy character (say Gloria from Mirror Image) who would need to be centrally located in order to get the attention needed from other characters. Tiny movements and gestures also fall into this category. Sitting and standing usually falls into this category, as well.
So, when an actor is given blocking, it is crucial that s/he writes it down. In our case, because we rehearse in a different space than our performance venue this is key. As we build up muscle memory at Cole, we all learn our blocking a certain way, but when we get to the middle school for tech week, our muscle memory might hinder us, as we are now in a new location with an actual set and levels and doors. By writing blocking down, one can look at her notes and reassess where to go during a scene or how to exit now that you aren’t just on a gym floor.
How does one record blocking? I think everyone has their own way of doing this, however, there are some things that are pretty standard. “X” is a big one – this means “cross,” as in Character A crosses (or just X) to Character B. I also usually use an arrow instead of the word “to.” I also abbreviate characters, but as an actor I’m probably only writing my own blocking, so I would have less character names to write down. The other pretty standard blocking shorthand are the quadrants of the stage: C (center), SL (stage left), UR (upstage right), DC (down center), DL (down left), and so on and so forth. For entrances, I usually just write “ent.” and for exits I usually write “ex.” For things like gestures, I do write that full out usually, but you can develop your own shorthand for these things. However you choose to write down your blocking is up to you, but I strongly suggest that it does get written down, in your script, where it happens. (In other words, don’t write that you enter from UR at the top of the page if you actually enter halfway down.)
The more effort you put into all of these little things – writing down blocking, practicing your choreography, etc. – the easier the tech week transition will be!
Now, as promised, more 60s music! Sonny and Cher are somewhat spoofed in Flower Power! In the form of Lester and Hester who go incognito as Sunny and Clair. Their song “Oh, My Honey Babe” is strikingly similar to Sonny and Cher’s most well-known hit, “I Got You Babe” and so it’s only fitting that you be able to compare the two! Here is a performance from a British show called “Top of the Pops.” This was a really popular music show on the BBC that lasted from 1964 until 2006. “I Got You Babe” is from 1965, so this was a pretty early episode considering how long this show was on the tele (British slang for tv). Sonny and Cher’s hit is still popular today. To try to explain its popularity, here is another video featuring Beavis and Butthead. I must say that while I did grow up in the 1990s, I never really liked these guys, but this is pretty funny and awesome. And finally, this video (right before the 2 minute mark for direct access) is from the 1980s and was a really exciting moment – the only time that Sonny and Cher reunited to sing – and guess what song they sang? Enjoy!