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Liz's Production Diary

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July 30

Liz and scriptWe did the first “stumble-through” of the play in Horse Cave today. I don’t know if they use these terms in television, but a stumble-through is the first time you go through the show from beginning to end, off book, without stopping. It is understood in advance that the thing is going to be a mess, but you have to jump in and go through the thing from beginning to end at some point. So we did. I fluffed a number of lines, had trouble remembering some stuff, etc., but we got through it. Vince [Spoekler, the TV director] timed it—and it was 71 minutes long. Oh, no! I told KET that I would give them a 56-minute script. I mean, I read this sucker this spring in 58 minutes. I know I fluffed lines today, and I know I was slow, I always am, and that the pace will pick up. I know I can do this thing in 56 minutes—but I am worried. I think Vince is VERY WORRIED. See, I’m not sure he understands the concept of “stumble-through” and that it will go faster. 71 minutes is WAY TOO LONG. It occurs to me that there is a huge difference between the importance of running time in theater and television. In the theater, if a 56-minute play runs, say, 61 minutes, it is no big deal. It generally means that the actors need to pick up their cues. I understand that in TV, especially in the situation where a piece is going to be broadcast, there is less flexibility in the running time. If you have a 56-minute slot, then the piece needs to be 56 minutes.

A number of things we did in the theatrical production have been changed as we have rehearsed the show for TV. For one thing, we are using more “real” props. I’ll explain that. For the production in the theater, we set the play in a circus big top and then the character of Liz used whatever was at hand to tell the story. For example, at the beginning of the play, she makes a phone call. Well, there wouldn’t be a telephone in a circus tent, so for the purpose of telling the story, Liz grabbed a curry brush and pretended it was a telephone. The use of objects to represent other objects was a theatrical device that we used throughout the production. The audience understood what we were doing, and the audience liked seeing objects used as other objects.

phonesVince and Bob [Pickering, KET set designer] and I agree that it would look very weird for Liz to talk into a curry brush on television. For the television production we have agreed that the play takes place in Liz’s imagination. In Liz’s imagination, she remembers talking on a rotary phone; it is easier to have a rotary phone for the first scene in the television production, and then later have a push-button phone. Having to stop the play to change phones so many times in the theater would get really tedious for the audience. For the television production, they can simply stop the cameras and change the set or, in this case, the props.

Bob brought up a really important point, I think, at a meeting where we were discussing all this. He asked, “What can we bring to this piece by producing it on television?” In other words, I think what he was asking is what can TV add that we couldn’t do in the theater. (Other than the fact that the show will be able to play for a much larger audience on TV.) I think specificity of props with ease—in other words, detail—is one thing that TV can add.

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