How do you rehearse a play like Tuna Fish Eulogy? Head over to the sample pages to see what I’m talking about. This is no walk in the park. The play is in a ladder format, which means the actors read their lines from top to bottom instead of left to right. It’s a great way to showcase choral speaking because it’s clear when characters speak at the same time. But the format is a challenge. Elmira District Secondary School took the notion of “challenge” to a whole new level when they took a play written for four actors and turned it into a play for 18. Now 18 people have to figure out who’s speaking what and when. I talked to the cast about their experience and what advice they would give to other casts.
Lindsay: I am at the Regional West Sears Drama Festival with Elmira District Secondary School and they just performed Tuna Fish Eulogy! Woohoo!
Lindsay: Now, Tuna Fish Eulogy is a difficult play, yes?
Lindsay: Yeeees. It is in the ladder play format, right?
Lindsay: And you guys decided to take it to a whole new level of wacky difficulty because… Tell me, one of you, how many are originally in the cast?
Lindsay: Four. And how many are standing in front of me?
Lindsay: A-ha! So, there is so much, a great choral effect, so much more choral speaking which I think the script really lends itself naturally to, but what was that like to rehearse?
Boy 1: Gruelling.
Lindsay: Gruelling? Tell me why. You said it was gruelling, tell me why.
Boy 1: Well, at first, like, looking over the script, it was a lot of words and a lot of at the same time, and it was a jumble. But, once we got into the rehearsals, once we learned who was saying what, it flowed easier. But those first few weeks were rough.
Lindsay: Was there ever a point where you went, “Oh, this isn’t going to work.”
Girl 1: The very first…
Girl 2: Yes.
Boy 1: When we started.
Girl 1: I think, we kind of thought we knew what we were doing for the first rehearsal. We really had no idea! We were just kind of going with it, and then, Mr. Carroll, our teacher, kind of slapped it in our face, “You’re all wrong.”
It just took a couple of weeks for us to actually, like, get into it. And it took a lot, just rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Like, we had it, it kind of just took a lot to kind of go over just to get it, like, in the muscle memory.
Lindsay: So, basically, what you would say to anyone who is doing something that’s a challenge, you just have to do it over and over and over and over and over…
Boy 1: Ad nauseam.
Lindsay: But it’s worth it, right?
Lindsay: Because it was quite clear that you guys were a precision team, right?
So, do you feel good about your performance?
Lindsay: Good. That’s good to hear. And you have a very, very specific look to you, too. What was your first impression when you read the script?
Boy 1: Oh, I have to grow sideburns.
Lindsay: You had to grow sideburns. I’m not sure that’s the impression.
Girl 2: I think it was kind of how do we do it. Like, when we first read it, like, line-wise, how do you memorize or how do you even read lines like this?
Boy 2: Which way is up.
Girl 1: We didn’t really know what kind of time era we were in so we never really understood the concepts.
Lindsay: Oh, but you made… This is a very specific choice because I’ve seen it all kinds. I’ve seen it in pure black, I’ve seen it modern, and I love this choice very much. I think it suits the tone of the play very well.
Girl 1: Kind of notice there’s blue in everybody.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s all very held together. I like that. You know, it speaks of vision and I’m all about having a vision for a show.
Okay. So, I know you guys have got to get changed because we’re going to go see another play of mine. Congratulations, guys!
Cast: Thank you! Woohoo!