Kiss Me Kate is our school’s musical production this year, running from 3rd July – 6th July. I play 1st violin and mandolin in the band. For the record, I don’t know how to play the mandolin, but as nobody else does either and it’s written in my part, I might as well do it.
Sunday, July 1st – Rehearsals
This is not going well. I’ve broken my camera, so can’t take a vlog of what’s going on (which I originally intended to do). We’ve discovered there’s a song the band have never played and it’s ridiculously hard. It’s taken us three hours to get through Act 1 and we have to be out of the building by 5pm. At this rate we’ll barely have started Act 2 by then.
Meanwhile, actors are wandering around in half a costume – breeches and tights with a t-shirt, or a ruffled shirt and waistcoat with jeans, or tights but no breeches… No one knows which tab is meant to be pulled across when and one of our Two Men just turned up having broken his shoulder, leaving him delicate and unable to do his dance in Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
The band are tired. We have the hardest job. Principles get scenes they’re not in. Chorus have multiple scenes they’re not in. We play in every scene and between scenes and are all shattered.
Monday, July 2nd – Rehearsals and Dress Rehearsal
8:30am: I’m standing on the stage as a lighting prop, to let Drew program in the lighting changes with a real person there. This is an opportunity to walk around and explore the set, since I haven’t had a chance to do that yet. Being in the band means pretty scenery is just something to look at. I’m also dancing, which probably isn’t most helpful. Then again, there’ll be dancers he needs to do the lighting for, so it might make it more realistic.
8:50am: The musical director’s just decided we’re going to move the entire pit around so that the keyboard set up is with the rest of the rhythm section. I’m press-ganged into helping carry Ben’s three keyboards (complete with connecting poles and wires) to the other end of the pit, and then shifting stands and lights around to accommodate the woodwind who have now invaded our special string space.
9:00am: Resuming the run from yesterday, we discover that the point in the musical that has the most scene changing to do has no scene change music. We therefore have to borrow it from elsewhere, meaning that those of us who ripped out pages we’d cut are a little bit stuck.
10:15am: Break time. I’m siting with the second violinist, Poppy, and reading aloud the poetic edda so that we can laugh at the unexpected dragons. A few people are giving us odd looks as I’m declaiming in somewhat antiquated English (even the translation could do with some translating), but we carry on. At several points we offer suggestions of what they might actually be saying.
10:35am: Back to the run and we’re working on a few scenes that have gone horrible wrong. Microphones in particular seem to be an issue, with the wrong ones being backstage at the wrong times. A few actors are still in half-costumes.
12:00pm: Lunch, and it’s just as well, for we’re shattered. Again, Poppy and I are laughing at the poetic edda. This time they seem to be giving life advice, like proverbs only with funnier analogies. I’m reading each stanza before ‘translating’ it into modern English – “So basically, if you’re stupid, keep your mouth shut and no one will notice, and if you’re clever, learn how to answer questions so people will realise you’re clever.”
12:35pm: Pre-dress rehearsal pep talk. Those in charge of make up seem unusually fierce – “We’ll provide the theatre foundation layer, but you need to bring your own eye pencils. If it doesn’t look good, we’ll finish you off.” The musical director, meanwhile, has treated the band with a traybake made with chocolate, maltesers, digestives, and various other gooey delights. None of the woodwind are going to be able to play for some time.
12:40pm: Dress rehearsal begins. All seems to be going well, apart from the fact that our broken shouldered Second Man isn’t here, so Conor (who plays the First Man) is doing the part on his own. He sounds slightly schizophrenic and keeps switching between ‘I’ and ‘We’, but his ad-libbing is very impressive.
13:25pm: New Year 7 students, in school for their induction day, file into the hall to watch the dress rehearsal in process. They arrive in time to see “I Hate Men” – several of them jump as ‘Kate’ sweeps the tankards off the table onto the floor. They’re so cute, bless them.
14:00pm: The new students leave and once again we’re playing to an empty hall. It hadn’t felt weird before but now it does, because we’re used to having an audience who clap at the end of numbers (if rather nervously). With no one to laugh, jokes seem to fall a bit flat and for a while this pushes us off balance.
14:10pm: We’re released for a quick break between acts. No poetic edda this time – it’s a drink and toilet break only.
14:15pm: Resuming with act two and desperately praying we’ll be done by half three. We want to go home – the band especially, as we have to be here an hour and a half before the cast for rehearsals tomorrow.
15:20pm: This is when we realise we haven’t yet choreographed the bows. But we need to go home. My wrist is killing me, so I’ve been sitting out for the last few songs. I’m well aware that my violin playing technique is bad, but the show seems to have killed it further!
15:35pm: Band are released and cast are told to be here ten minutes earlier tomorrow to get notes, because no one’s feeling up to giving them now. I’m shattered, but with my wrist playing up as much as it is I don’t have the strength to go straight home. Instead I hang around waiting for a lift – my mum being the careers’ adviser at my school means that on a Monday, this is something I can do. In the meantime I do a bit of writing in my notebook. I always carry a notebook.
Tuesday, 3rd July
I’m just checking in before I head out to rehearsals in nearly an hour. Because I’ll have to stay at school from when I arrive to when the show finishes – there isn’t time to come home between the rehearsal and the performance – I’m not going to be back until half ten or later tonight. Food’s therefore an issue, so I’ll be having brunch before I leave and taking a packed tea. If I know these productions, though, there’ll probably be cake.
Pity I’m on a diet in preparation for my ballet show in 11 days, isn’t it?