This Is A Henry



This page contains rehearsal notes and thoughts from a past production’s rehearsal process:

This Is A Henry poster

REHEARSED Feb-May 2010

THIS IS A PLAY by Daniel MacIvor
Older Female Actor – Julie MacDonald
Female Actor – Jen McVicar
Male Actor – Matthew Spinney
Director – Scott Shannon

HERE LIES HENRY by Daniel MacIvor
Henry – Scott Shannon
Director – Matthew Spinney


And that’s the end of this chapter … SJ shows went well … Friday night had a good size house, while Saturday found us playing to a fairly small yet attentive audience. Always sad to see the end of a run, and the death of a play(s) but such is the nature of the work … and part of its attraction too, knowing you only have so much time with something before it goes away. While it’s always possible to re-visit shows that always seems like the beginning of a new life, not the continuation of an old one … and so, This Is A Henry sign off … thanks to the cast and crews for another Nasty experience I won’t soon forget.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – May 4/2010

Well, this might have been my last kick at this until we open Friday night in SJ and it was good we did it so I could try driving the ending section of the play a little better, and I did — in fact, it felt the best it has ever felt.

Missed my mark along the way a few times regarding pacing, and I need to keep the tension consistent in a few sections where it lulled but overall I’m feeling very good about heading to SJ and can’t wait to step up in front of an audience again.

And now, the next two days are occupied with travel to SJ and back to set up the tech side of things in the Mini-theatre … much driving ahead of us …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – May 4/2010

Ran the show again tonight and it’s funny the difference a day and a run make. Yesterday was our first go at the show in a couple of weeks really and while it worked, it was lacking the verve and snap the actors had before. Well, tonight found them finding their groove and firing most cylinders pretty well — I am sure the audience will bring the energy back up. We just need to keep the show on its toes until Friday!


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – May 3/2010

Our first run of the show in a wee bit and the only thing that was really lacking was the audience. As I know from coming back and running Henry in this classroom it’s kind of a downer returning to that environment after the thrill of being on stage with an audience. Nonetheless, it’s time to explore and we had some fun with everyone feeling slightly goofy and a couple of fun flubs that kept us entertained and on our toes.

I felt bad getting the cast to do the run in this sterile classroom but in order for the show to be sharp, we gotta put in this time to be ready for returning before a crowd. And I know the energy in the room on Friday night is going to just complete the feeling.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – May 2/2010

Another run today and the show is oozing off me quite easily at this point … I feel very much in control and this is scaring the SHIT out of me! HA! I need to step back and feel the panic and unease a little more and re-discover the edge I had — tonight and tomorrow will allow me time to find that.

And the ending of the play has lost some of it’s grip on me … I think it’s still reading fine, but as Matt pointed out yesterday I sort of lost my stride by not aiming in the right direction from the moment I sit down through to the end. I need to feel that fear again that leads Henry into accepting the fear and moving beyond it … again, tonight and tomorrow will enable work on this in preparation for our SJ run at week’s end.

Of course, being back in front of crowd is going to bubble up some of this needed emotion and fear … having the audience to connect with has become essential at this point.

Always nice taking a show back down home …


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Apr 25/2010

We had our first post-run rehearsal today and it was definitely a weird feeling to be back in that sterile classroom we use to rehearse after having been on the stage in Memorial Hall — but what I missed most was the people.

I commented to a couple of people that doing the show was like therapy in that it was a release of sorts, but what made that release possible and is certainly more important than that release is the connection with the audience — that space where what Henry says interacts with each person’s own thoughts and memories and creates a relationship, something shared.

This sort of relation with the audience is nothing new for sure, but MacIvor’s work is always structured to invoke and enhance that connection and push it into new places which is what makes his plays so enthralling. And judging from reactions here in town, we helped show some of that MacIvor magic.

(Anecdote: There were two older men at the show on Friday night (I think?) that personally thanked me at intermission for the theatre we do — this sort of moment along with what we feel in the performance space makes any low numbers in attendance entirely worthwhile because it does seem that most of those that attended are glad they did.)

So, all that to say: it’s going to be weird, as it always is, keeping the show going and fresh as we prepare for the SJ run next week … Matt had some thoughtful notes again yesterday that helped me to keep note of certain moments as well as suggestions for some new twists to things … nonetheless, it’ll be nice to be back in front of an audience … oh, and the smoking bit should be interesting in the SJ space …


HERE LIES HENRY + THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Apr 14-17/2010

And we have now completed our Fredericton run and things went incredibly well and the shows seemed to be very well received — strong scripts but I think we did a bang up job with them as well (not to sound boastful).

Many interesting moments:
– forgot the order of some sections during the start of Henry on opening night but straightened myself out and nobody was the wiser due to the nature of the opening 10min finding Henry not really knowing what he’s supposed to do anyway.
– some tech hiccups that got ironed out over the three nights
– Matt trying to re-enter through the house door on opening night but finding it stuck due to his previous entrance when he slammed it after him, so when he circled back around from back stage to the front of house door we got an extra long and slightly tweaked, “I *try* to enter with conviction!” HA!
– Julie’s wig popping off at one point, but that working perfectly fine in the context of her character hating this “bad wig”.
– my finally acquiring an actual cigarette from an audience member (thanks Davey!, and it was great you had smokes with you!) on Saturday night and getting to work that moment as it should go.

I was a bit worked up during the couple days leading to opening as we worked through adding the tech components and for the record just wish to apologize for any “freak outs” I had as I worried about integrating these new aspects into the performance for Henry, but all worked out … as it always does!

This Is A Play went off incredibly well for me as the audiences seemed to eat it right up, and I was very happy with the larger sense of movement we gave the telling this time in addition to a stronger focus on the play within the play being told more clearly … or as clear as it can be!

And now we are in a lull as we take a wee break before we do some prep work to take us to SJ for our run at the start of May.

Gonna miss these shows when this is over …


HERE LIES HENRY + THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Apr 11/2010

We did a run of each show tonight for a small audience of friends … lots learned, and some further things to tweak and work out in the coming runs before we open. Henry is still giving me a bit of trouble — the piece is so engrossing and overwhelming, but I need to really just give myself over to it because the times I have it has worked better for me … it’s also easy to step back and let things roll along mechanically, but that’s just a deadly avenue to follow. This Is A Play has a very quick pace and rhythm which I am just loving, but has a danger for Male Actor to get too large, and for the Female Actors to not be large enough — the Male Actor role has been given all the meaty melodrama, hence our need to be cautious with that running too far and for the other roles not to reach the same heights.

Of course, things are rolling along incredibly well and some of these concerns are just nit picky, but we have had the time to discover them and so should try to iron them out … these shows will be so much fun in front of a crowd.

We have another preview audience sitting in tonight, and a slightly larger group than last night, so that’ll be great. Tomorrow night will be devoted to some preliminary tech work as we sneak into Mem Hall a little early. We then take hold of the Hall on Wednesday, and everything is open game at that point! Gonna be a wild week!


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Apr 9/2010

Henry in the Hall tonight was a SUPER treat … we toyed with some tech sounds, and I got to play with the mic which was a great feeling to get hold of … AND, we even got a run in which was great since we thought the entire night might be eaten up by tech. The run went well overall, although I didn’t quite hit my mark at the end … started in a really good place though. So, just working at marrying that altogether … more work to do yet …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Apr 8/2010

It was VERY nice to use the theatre tonight. We worked some moments and mapped the use of of the stage in a few different busier moments, and then we did a run which found the actors playing upstage too much — which made me laugh, because in the rehearsal room they were constantly “stepping off the front of the stage” (I mark in the rehearsal room where the front edge is located), so this was them doing the opposite by avoiding the front edge. And the Hall is of course a much bigger space to fill than the room we’ve been using for rehearsal so they will have to fill that. But these are all growing pains as a result of where we have to rehearse and its limitations. Unfortunately, we just don’t have much time in the actual Hall. But fortunately, the cast is killer and have all used the stage in the past so it’s not such a harsh transition at all.

Oh, and we all had a chance to work out some giggles as Matt finally pulled his shirt off in the appropriate moments — it really seemed to throw Jen when she turned and saw the bare-chested Male Actor! HA!


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Apr 7/2010

With plans of doing a run, we opted to do some scene/spot work this evening instead — this was a good thing! While part of me was feeling the need for a run, we also needed to take time and just iron out some spots, work a few different approaches, and play a bit. So we took the entire evening to spend on this sort of work and it was WELL WORTH while doing so.

We started with notes from Monday since we didn’t get a chance to go over them at the time, so that led us into the spot work we did and cleaned up a number of things that had unraveled a bit or were in need of some alterations due to us now seeing the scope of the entire piece more clearly at this point.

Friday night we go into Memorial Hall and hopefully get to play with some of the tech/sound work that needs to be built.


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Apr 5-6/2010

We had a bit of a scare this past weekend — Julie was in a motorcycle accident and thank goodness she is indeed alright (for her sake and the play’s!). However, she broke her nose and cut it up, and so we’ve introduced some “nose-job” jokes into the play in lieu of the “wig” jokes to reflect this development — and it is working great!

2 days after the accident, Julie was in the rehearsal room giving all she had — THANK YOU! Julie rocks in my books!

And so, the first run in about 10 days (because of the break we had to take) went EXTREMELY well, all things considered. We are still adding some little and big nuances throughout with each pass through the script, but the cast has developed a great rhythm for the piece and are flowing together like a well oiled machine.

This Is A Play has become an entirely different beast from our last staging of the show 3 years ago proving how strong and rich the text is, and this cast is doing remarkable work which is going to hit audiences on a number of levels — super fun stuff!

We get to use the stage in Memorial Hall on Thursday night, so that will be a great step forward … and hopefully no pigeons like there were in our rehearsal room last night! HA!


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Apr 3-5/2010

Director at work

We ran the play three times this past weekend, Sat+Sun+Mon. I am exhausted! HA! It really takes a lot out of you. The show is running about 80min and that seems about right because it’s certainly not going slow.

Actor at work

After three passes through I am starting to feel my way through to map a path that leads me from the start to the end, to shape Henry’s journey. And thankfully Matt is guiding me through that because he can see the path a little more clearly, or at least from a different viewpoint. We have cleaned up a number of transition points for where Henry finds himself emotionally and psychologically (“but I h-h-hate psychology”), and so this, personally, has continued to blow my mind as Matt helps this play unfold in ways I never imagined and provokes thoughts that expand the play’s scope immeasurably — MacIvor’s writing in general, but with this play especially (for me), touches a spot and allows you to exist in a space or feeling that is full of wonder.

I really hope what we are feeling in rehearsals with these plays translates to the audience so they too can share in these feelings. If we can do that, then we are doing a service both to MacIvor’s work and the audience.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Apr 1/2010

And so, we finished the last scene of the play tonight. We worked bit by bit refining and detailing each scene as we went through the play, and then running chunks together. Well, Saturday will be the first time we put ALL the chunks together — and both Matt and I are REALLY looking forward to that.

So much seems to have changed along the way in some sense, but it all grew out of the nugget of an idea where we started: Henry is a bit of a showman, but he’s scared shitless. While I’ve been running lines and such at home for the whole play, Saturday will really show how where we found ourselves by the end of the play/process affects where we now wish to start.

Man, this script is so freakin’ good …


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 31/2010

Matt blew my mind tonight. I had been playing and thinking of the ending in, what I now believe to be, the entire wrong way. I had always thought of Henry being in a sad place at the end with having to offer up what he offers, but Matt (quite elegantly) explained that these moments are exactly why Henry is there (which I too thought, although I wasn’t playing Henry as welcoming this responsibility). But he put forth that Henry embraces this role more at this moment than he does in all the apparent dodgings throughout the show — there’s a noble move on the part of Henry here at the end that brings him and the audience together more than the way I was playing it, which was a sad attempt to invoke sympathy from the audience — it’s not sympathy he’s looking for, but understanding, communication and love between him and everyone in the room, and the text achieves this wonderfully … now, if only I can hit this note clearly so the audience follows along with me. It makes these last few pages of the play even more beautiful than I’d always thought … which is why this blew my mind since I thought I already had a perfect image/mood in my head and Matt turned that on its head to show even more beauty. Fantastic session tonight.


HERE LIES HENRY + THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 31/2010

Well. I’ve known about these rehearsal notes, but always forget about them. This isn’t any particular note about any particular rehearsal, but I feel like I need to chime in and say that every rehearsal has been a pleasure to be a part of, whether in the director seat or under direction.

From a director perspective, Scott brings an intensity and love to the shows that is inspiring. He is always game to try something new, listen to different ideas and most importantly push back with his own.

Scott has said this, but I’m going to say this too, Henry is some of the best play writing I’ve ever seen and it has been amazingly fun to delve into the script and discover the play with him.

For all those of you who are reading this, I will say this, there have been so many moments during the rehearsals where I’ve thought to myself … geeze this could be on stage right now and wow an audience.

I am confident that this is going to be a stellar show that everyone should come out to see.

Matt Spinney

PS – This is a Play, is also really funny, fun to act in, and although it doesn’t have the same sort of gut-punch that Henry does, it is also a treat to watch for it’s own reasons.

HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 28/2010

Worked an “audience participation” moment today — very fun, and should be a hoot with an actual crowd.

Then we moved into working what Matt has designated Sc.9, which is broken into 4 parts – A, B, C, & D … this is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever come across. The entire play builds to these last 5 wonderful pages of text that I only hope we can sculpt properly to share with the audience — just in memorizing these lines I am struck with an awe and it’s that awe I hope I am able to help and point to, and not get in the way of.

When I first read this play about 5 years ago, it was this final section that I remember getting to as I lay in a hot bath, and I was just overwhelmed by the momentum of the text and WHAT was being said and described: absolutely beautiful.

This coming week will find us finishing and pulling this altogether … it’s gonna be quite a ride.


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 26/2010

We could have easily had an audience watch tonight and be thrilled by what they saw — the cast did an incredible job with the run tonight after some spot work to start the evening. I was happy to see this because we will be sparsely rehearsing this over the next couple weeks until the lead up to the run due to some other commitments. Regardless, tonight was extremely pleasing and fun to watch. Everyone took the energy up a knotch, and I asked them all to have fun with it, to play more and they did and it really went well … the dance-like influences throughout are working wonderfully and I’m more and more convinced this is the way to go, at least this time around with the script, and use the hints of dance more and more. With the cast working a bit more of this into the run tonight, the show had this great build that went from hints of dance into that full-out choreography we have near the end. Hilariously perfect.

It’s been muchos fun revisiting this very rich script, and we are creating a much different version of this play than we did 3 years ago … which is all the more exciting and a testament to the strength of the play itself, I think.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 25/2010

Worked on hitting a balance between Henry relishing the love he speaks about and wallowing in it — very eye-opening session in terms of who Henry was and is. Tonight we picked up where we left off last night and I think we finally got me to find that balance which is needed here as Henry remembers the love and remembers the pain caused by and through that love. Now I just have to try and hang onto what we did and fill it out a bit more as well … and just a bit more text to stuff into my brain.

We’re on the home stretch now! The next week will be quite revealing as we then go back and piece it altogether having worked in sections/scenes for the most part and then cycling back and running from the start up to where we are at a given point. But it’s now been almost 2 weeks since we last ran this from the start of the play together in the space, which was about half the play at that time, and all I really do at home is run the lines with and without the emphasis or delivery they deserve and require. So I’m quite interestested to piece this altogether with the work and discoveries we’ve made in the latter half of the script, and how they colour that first half.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 24/2010

Danced up a storm tonight! HA! We went back a bit in the script because we’ve finally settled on a song to use for the manic dance scene and I think we’ve picked the right one for us and for Henry. So, we went through that a few times and discovered that I need to get into better shape because by the end of that scene I am gasping for breath — I mean, I am dancing hard too but I feel the need to because it’s a huge release for Henry at that point. Anyway, more work to do yet on the dancing.

Then we skipped ahead to where we actually are in the process and I tried to run what we did on Sunday but it had fallen out of me a bit as I haven’t paid attention to it since — been spending the time finishing off the last couple of pages of memorizing … Henry talks … a lot … but it’s good, the play is simply amazing to me.

So anyway, I didn’t hit what we’d done on Sunday, but doing that scene as well as continuing on showed Matt that the scene needs this edge under the love talk — and so he told me this and I trust him and think he’s right, and so this is what I’ll be trying to bring to rehearsal tomorrow night. Should be a good session …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 24/2010

Added more dance to the latter part of the play … I’m now seeing a progression where the piece should get more fluid in that way, and then comes to a still when it hits the coda.

I sense a wee reservation on the part of the cast, but I feel so far that it is indeed working. There does need to be fluid movement so that it always feels like it is in motion — that feeling is becoming important to me thematically and in a practical sense as well because it not only speaks to that sweeping and overwhelming sensation that MacIvor’s earlier work always seems to use so well and thus a “thesis” on his part that this is what makes for good theatre, but also because it’s simply fun to watch.

We’ll see how this gels again on Friday night …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 21/2010

After some individual work on monologues last week as well as working the kinks out of particular scenes (and discovering new ideas!), tonight we ran the show top to bottom and it is in excellent shape for us to start really paying attention to detail and refining all the moves and gestures, etc … the more I think about it, the more I think the whole thing needs to move like a dance or with a feeling more like a choreography than usual blocking … and we have some of that already in place, only now I am wanting to see more consistency with it overall — if only to discover it’s not a wise way to push things.

Also, went down to Saint John yesterday for a recording session with Bob (Robert Moore), who will be the voice of the Composer which is heard throughout the piece. The recordings came out sounding very nice thanks to some gear Michael H-L hooked me up with — very sensitive mics! But with the good sound and all the different takes we did, I came away with having captured some perfect deliveries of those Composer passages that will fit nicely with what we’re doing.


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 14/2010

Worked on a pretty huge section of text today that really showed me more of Henry. After this manic dance session smattered with quips and jokes, Henry then goes on a whirlwind lying spree which is big fun to perform but really sad in some sense too with Henry going this far … but the whole scene plays very funny (we hope!).

After carving out the way to tell these tall tales it was incredible how far the scene had come from my initial attempt at performing it when we started the day, after which Matt said the biggest thing was that the entire section (like 4-5 solid pages of text!) needed to move at least twice as fast — and he was right. By the end of the afternoon the scene was really cooking it seemed. Matt also had us work a great deal on refining aspects of detail about delivery and physicality, as he has been doing all along and which is really making for a very full performance on my part,I think — lots to think about and do. On Wednesday we’re going to go from the start to the end of that section which will roughly mean 2/3 of the show is under our belts in a fairly solid way … it’s going to be so great going through this last third of the play, and then when we see the whole thing together it’ll be a wonderful rush … and it will then teach us so much more about the Henry as well …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 11/2010

Finished off blocking and working each scene of the show by focusing on the very ending, the coda section, with the actors each standing in a line facing the audience … or so I thought — turns out I totally skipped the hand-holding scene between Sissy and Joey where Female Actor philosophizes and the Male Actor takes off his shirt. Damn. So, we worked it quickly (too quickly — note: spend time on this Sunday night), and then we ran the 2nd half up to the coda section … because I selfishly called rehearsal off at that point so Matt and I could get over to meet my wife and daughter to see a play at STU. So we rushed things a bit tonight …

Anyway, the play has a new life for me and is looking great … so I’m glad we revisited this script … incorporating more elements of dance is working nicely …

Again, no Henry work tonight … we’re buckling down as of Sunday though! I’ve been swallowing large portions of text this week … almost done with the memorization …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 10/2010

Worked the “arguement” > Mamet > Implore/Challenge section again tonight and it really works well incorporating more dance-like elements into certain moments of the play, and where this scene bubbles up to by the time the actors hit the Implore/Challenge section is just a whirlwind of movement with quick lines and we’ve outlined a choreography for this blocking that is more like dance … of some sort … it works though!

Then the following pages are comprised of three monologues interspersed with a few comments from the other actors. Last time we staged this, I had the actors play each of these like monologues and away from the other characters. This time, we’re doing it differently.

Tonight, Jen moved from the other two with her “I take all the focus now” speech, but then just before she was done she shot a look back in the direction of the other two, specifically at Male Actor/Joey. Then, Matt did his “substitution method” speech where he’s trying to summon the motivation to have his character cry at this point and he too made a gesture and reference to the others, and moved melodramatically upstage at one point which was just a perfect move — it made me really see more of a scene that they could be playing out in telling the story within the story, while doing these speeches about their internal conflicts on stage at that moment.

So now those pages all play out like a scene where each character has a chance to say their piece to the other two (i.e. Joey to Sissy & Auntie, and so on). It works really well … and grew organically out of a couple of moves by the actors in rehearsal … I love stuff like that …

No actual Henry rehearsal today … we used the time for a meeting and, (ahem), photo shoot …


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Mar 7/2010

Ended up with a 4 hour Henry rehearsal today, which was exactly what the show needed I think, having missed our mid-week meet. The process is about to get a little more intense as we add a third day of the week into our rehearsal time, and we’re just over a month from opening so having more of a focus on the project becomes necessary now … but that’s why we often start early too, is to give us a longer time with the scripts floating around in our heads, and things aren’t rushed and the final weeks are busy but on a solid foundation … anyway, we are about to enter into the more intense end of the process and it’s feeling good.

After working a section from the middle of the play where Henry is at his most frantic or frazzled, we then ran the show from the start up to that point which certainly helped me hit the mark more for where Henry is by that mid-point in the play. We’ve now got about half of the play worked through in very fine detail, and Matt’s pace is really helping us shape a Henry that I think should be very … full … we are combing over reasons and feelings for decisions we are making and that has been really engaging and inspiring, and I believe the work is benefitting.

Off to memorize more lines …


THIS IS A PLAY Notes – Mar 3/2010

Began the evening working with Jen and Matt on the scene where it is basically a giant monologue by Female Actor (Sissy), but Male Actor (Joey) is stuck on stage as well holding a bowl of soup … we’re pretty sure he’s supposed to be on the stage, but we know he shouldn’t be holding the soup — this is such a great play!

This is a re-staging of the play for us, with one new actor and the cast is working well together. We’re using accents again to distinguish between the lines that are the actors’ thoughts and the lines that are the play within the play’s dialogue … and this is real good fun fooling with accents. The delivery need not be perfect, and we’re going to try working a level of incompetence with accents into the actual staging …

Since this is my second time directing this, I’m steering away from the approach we took last time which was to really play up the moments of the actors thoughts/emotions but forgetting at times the fact that while the audience is hearing the actors thoughts, the actors are actually acting out a play/story — this time we are focusing more on ensuring that play within the play doesn’t get lost … and it is really adding a nice dimension for me and adding to the hilarity and insight the script has to offer … this play really shows what is fantastic about the theatre … it creates a feeling that the audience can just ride along with …


HERE LIES HENRY Notes – Feb 28/2010

So far we have done some amazingly inspiring work — Matt is really pushing my attention in ways I might not normally go which is really helping Henry become something new and different for me. We are working with the notion that Henry is a showman of sorts, but he also needs to maintain this unease and almost dread at times.

Today Matt continued our work on Sc.4, a section where Henry seems to get a little more serious while still using his charm and wit. The section resolves to a contemplative moment for both Henry and the audience, and then we’re into Sc.5 … what FUN we had working Sc.5! Frantic exclamations of failed jokes from earlier in the piece interspersed with moments of dance music … we still need to decide on some music …


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