Cruising toward the magic

Mar 18, 2015

Pasadena City College is hosting an exhibit on Jaime Escalante, the math teacher featured in the movie “Stand and Deliver”.  Mr. Escalante was a student at PCC.  There’ll be several activities taking place connected with the exhibit.

Tomorrow night, thursday, March 19th, 7:30 p.m. at Creveling Lounge there’ll be a staged reading of “Stand and Deliver”.  Usually actors will be on stage and will either sit or stand in one place.  The reading tomorrow night will be a far cry from that.

It’s at the rehearsal where you dig to the core to know what to share on stage.  You edit the context of the tale so that the audience can follow the characters in a way that is intimate and immediate.

I was reminded of this last night when I watched Dr. Alma Martinez direct a rehearsal at the Carrie Hamilton Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse.  You may be familiar with one of her most recent roles; she was a drug smuggling queen on the show “The Bridge”; a woman tough as nails and very clear about her desires.

Last night the director/educator was in the room.  The first hour was all about cuts to the script – 100 pages to review.  Most of the focus was on what stage directions to be read out loud.

In a soft, even voice – “We’re cutting out all the stage direction because Pancho is such a fine actor”. “You got that, m’ijo?” “We’ll cut, ‘Claudia cries.  Claudia’s sad.’, it breaks the magic”. “We’re almost there, guys, we’re almost there”. “Cut all of that because we’re going to do it”.  “Are you with me?”

And then came the making of the magic.
The actors were assigned a seating order.  The music stands were assigned an order.  
And the chart that I have seen on the back of all the script pages begins to make sense.  
The direction is about action; about the movement from place to place to make you believe that the interactions are in a school that has 4,000 students. 
How do you make the reading feel like it is taking place in the halls of Garfield High School?  You have all the actors stand, rather than sit, in place.  A sense of the motion that takes place when the bell rings? “Turn your bodies, away from each other, like a little mess of motion”.  The sound of the classroom before order is set – “Keep with the heckling – (but) let’s bring it down about 30%.  That way you’re not going over his lines”.
Notes are taken – by the most seasoned of the lot and by the young artists who may become directors themselves – in the future.   The directions are clear.  Point taken, point noted.  Lesson learned.
Like a ride in a fine, classic lowrider; it’s all easy and smooth.  
I can barely wait to see the finished production.  
Thursday at 7:00 p.m.  PCC.
By the way, there’ll be free tamales and churros prior to the show.  I’ll be there at 6:30, when the doors open.

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