Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marching to the beat of the prison

On the night of our third rehearsal, a snowstorm raged in the Northeast. A principal singer was stuck in an airport thousands of miles away from Houston, and rehearsal was canceled. This was yet another first for me. What could have been just another normal evening at home turned into a private tutoring session with Dead Man Walking Assistant Director Kim Prescott. When it comes to movement, I need all the help I can get, and in this case I had missed two early rehearsals. How was I to catch up with my colleagues?

Kim walked me through my toughest scene, in which the guards escort the opera’s title character, prisoner Joseph De Rocher, to the execution table. All of us must march in lockstep with the beat of the music, in a very specific series of steps. Thank goodness for Kim—walking through it with her, I did just fine. What would happen, though, when I was on my own again?

That night I went back down to the basement for yet another fitting in the HGO Costume Shop. Again, Norma Morales and Myrna Vallejo  made me feel at home, and the session flew by. They snapped photos of my two “new looks”:
Prison Guard Look, complete with official badge and real keys.

Deputy Look, with an even more official badge. Rauli smiles sincerely at his bona-fide new identity, and gets character cred with his "deputy stance."
The night before my first rehearsal with the other “super” guards, I practiced my moves. Three new guards joined us as we rehearsed, and actors walked the principal singers’ roles, so we could get a sense for the whole scene. We marched through the steps slowly at first, and then moved in time with the piano. 

We all rehearse in a huge, three-story room in the Wortham Theater, without the actual set, since it is being put together onstage while we learn our parts. Instead, we work in a labyrinth of colored tape—what seems like miles of it—laid out across the floor. Each configuration of tape represents a different part of the set, or a scene or an act, and is labeled with some kind of secret code. It does take me several minutes to figure out that the rectangle with the lines going through it represent steps we will be walking up on stage.  Good to Know!!  How am I going to visualize the through these layers, upon layers of tape??

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