“After Mrs. Rochester” in fightin’ form

So Monday night’s rehearsal (yes, folks – not only did we rehearse all day Saturday of a holiday weekend, we also had 3 hrs of fights and falls on Labour Day.  Not that I’m complaining – loving every minute of it!) was devoted to fight choreography with Fight Director Christopher Mott.  The last time he came (August 17), it was only a week and a half after the official first read-through.

He led us through the warm-up exercises he taught us last time: synergy (two people place the backs of their hands together and move around, always keeping the hands in contact), hard synergy (same as synergy, but tighten the muscles so it looks like you’re pressing/pushing the other actor), assisted sit (basically how to fall without hurting yourself – another actor helps), assisted lift (hoisting another actor on your back – fun!), and finger fencing (think thumb wrestling – the goal is to poke the other actor’s arm, leg or body).  Surprisingly strenuous – the finger fencing especially brought out the competitive streak in many of us!

Then Chris had us run the fights he’d developed last time, tweaking or revising if necessary.  Actor Laura Jabalee (who plays several characters including Jane Eyre, Jean’s daughter Maryvonne, and a chorus girl named Maudie) is not in any fights, but trained with the same teacher as Chris Mott, so she’s going to be our Fight Captain once the show is running.  She took notes and pointed out that Ella (Jessica Rose) is quite a little scrapper – she’s in seven fights!

One of Chris’ funny notes was to actor Julie Burris, playing Ella’s mother.  The mother is whacking her daughter with a cane, and Chris wanted to adjust Julie’s starting pose, with cane upraised.  The note was:  “Think less Staying Alive, more Star Wars.”  🙂  

But my favourite bit from Fight Night has to be when Rochester is protecting Jane Eyre from Bertha’s mad onslaught.  After pushing Bertha to the floor, he puts up his hand to hold Jane back, and the angle and positioning made it look like he was telling Bertha, “Hands off – this rack is mine!”  I think I blurted, “He’s protecting Jane’s boobs!”  Much mirth and hilarity ensued.  Fight was delayed until the actors regained composure.

Lighting Designer Paul Hardy was in the house last night for the first time, and after a quick fight rehearsal, watched us run the show (with occasional calls to Stage Manager Karen McMichael for “line” – especially in Act II.  It may be only half as long as Act I, but by golly a lot happens!).  He is dreaming up something “rich and sensual, but humid and shadowy”.  Sounds delicious.

Costume bits (sourced by multi-tasking co-producer PJ Hammond) are appearing.  I am encouraged to wear Bertha’s white nightgown and bloomers at every rehearsal from now on, so that they get ‘distressed’ – aka good & dirty.  Well, Bertha has been shut up in an attic for 10 years, and I guess laundry for lunatics wasn’t a priority back in the 1850’s.  Other characters get jackets, boots (Tabitha Keast’s big ‘Rochester’ riding boots cracked me up when she first put them on to rehearse our fight scene), glasses, and many of us coveted Jessica’s beautiful 1920’s-style cream coloured dress that she’ll wear in Act II.

Next:  music and choreography for the chorus girl scene and the carnival scene.

Oh, yes – there’s a snippet from an Edwardian music hall number (Ella joins a touring show in London as a chorus girl in 1909) as well as an earlier bit of a Caribbean carnival song and dance.  Luckily, I just get to watch those parts and don’t have to learn the songs!

Two and a half weeks to opening…

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Filed under 2011/12 season, After Mrs. Rochester

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