Anne Washburn’s 10 out of 12, an ensemble piece, reveals how cast and crew (stagehands, lights, sound, designers, director, assistant director…) function as a team, during the grueling process of tech rehearsal. All cues and blocking, all light and sound and any hiccups are smoothed over before the show opens. It’s like childbirth. It might be interesting to reflect on, but you’re grateful to be spared the experience. Washburn makes us privy to this universe in small We are actually handed headsets so we can hear backstage chatter between crew members. It’s impressive to consider that we get just enough information from each character, to get a sense of their personality and contribution.
Perhaps few audience members have a grasp of how a show functions before it’s up on its feet, or after opening night. 10 out of 12 is a demonstration of the mishaps, foibles, confrontations, quirky and grotesque exchanges that occur, in the incredibly stressful context of pulling all the components together, while maintaining the sense of playfulness vital to making it work. As with all the artistic disciplines, actors and the creative team must strike a shaky balance between being relaxed and yet alert and focused. They pass through each cycle of rehearsal, preparation, changes as opening night looms ever closer and emotions run hot.
There is a key turn in the second act in which one of the actors has a meltdown, loudly proclaiming that the very welfare of his soul is at stake. Up until this outburst he keeps trying to dissuade the director from his interpretation of the script. Usually these issues are resolved before tech rehearsals, and it’s to Washburn’s credit that a single event adds such clarity and complication to the story. When the actor goes off the deep end, we’re incredulous. It’s not that the others don’t care, but if he takes it so much to heart, why did he wait this long? The way the rest of the company responds immediately and in the following days, tells us much about the warmth and care they have for each other. We may not believe his spiritual welfare is in peril, but his colleagues do. Even if they disagree, they respect his devotion to the craft.
Undermain Theater presents the Dallas Premiere of 10 out of 12, playing November 9th-december 3rd, 2016. 3200 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75226. 214-747-5515. www.undermain.org.