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

Tooth of Crime (2nd Dance) poster

REHEARSED Sept-Oct 2011

TOOTH OF CRIME (2nd DANCE) by Sam Shepard
Hoss – Scott Shannon
Becky – Becky Forbes
Meera / Ref – Elizabeth Goodyear
Ruido Ran / Doc – Andrew Jones
Chaser – Rebekah Chassé
Crow – Matthew Spinney

Director – Nicholas Cole
Music director and guitarist – Matt Gray

TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Oct 19/2011(AM)
Freddy run COMPLETE and what a ride it was! Hard to believe it’s all over for that run – we head to SJ at week’s end to move this show into a completely different environment/space which is going to greatly alter the overall feel of the show as well … which I think is a cool development for the show, and is often the case when moving between venues in each city.

Fredericton’s run had the feel of us filling a big concert hall – SJ is going to feel like a basement rock club atmosphere, which will add to the gritty feel of the show in a different way.

Our first performance in Fredericton was a little sloppy, I thought. A few loose ends all around that never pulled in tightly until Friday night’s show – for both actors and tech. Friday night’s show kicked ass, with Saturday a close second, if not better for me personally in some areas.

Bringing this show before a crowd of folks each night that weren’t familiar with it (and there was a legitimate crowd each night!) showed us how strange and tough the play is for the audience as well. We’ve made wonderful sense out of much of Shepard’s elusive passages and the show drives solidly through those steps to its finish with action moving much of that along. However, each night we lost a few folks halfway through the journey – i.e. every night found a few people, mainly young students I was told, leaving at intermission citing incomprehension as the reason or just that the script was stupid or we were doing a terrible job. I would wager these folks are very steeped in realistic drama/TV/movies and simply didn’t have the imagination and/or earlier exposure to something so odd that would have helped them to hold on to the ride we were giving them.

I liken it unto music. There was a time that I could not *listen* to the music I listen to now because I couldn’t hear it the same way I do now and soak it in. Not that the music is now *better* but that I engage with it differently and in a more rewarding way – certain music simply bores me when perhaps it used to thrill me. I figure just about any experience breaks down like this, and so some of the audience simply wasn’t ready for Shepard’s Tooth to bite them.

We did a run through of the show on Monday for rehearsal and it’s always so strange to take the audience away after having that exposure and energy, and Matt wasn’t there playing so there was a certain lack in the room. Nonetheless, we moved steadily and with good pace through the show even if much of it was being marked by each of us – i.e. we were not playing to full energy and such but still maintaining the drive and spirit of the scenes. I’ll admit to not normally being a fan of just marking it since I generally see each run, performance or rehearsal, as an opportunity hit the note I want with a role but Monday felt okay easing off. Hoss takes a lot out of me. Thursday will find me bringing full energy back into things to fire me into the weekend’s performances.


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Oct 13/2011(PM)
Tuesday we set up in Memorial Hall, hung lights, worked the sound, and set up risers and chairs for the audience. Pretty wiped at the end of the night (after a day at work too …). But, we’re very lucky to get that time in there to do that on Tuesday night because it meant that tonight (Wednesday) we were able to get in a run of the show.

In a twist to the day, Nick was in earlier designing looks and setting levels, etc. Wasn’t quite the way it was planned to go down, but it did, and he banged out some cool looks and feels for different moments in the show. After some preliminary set-up and soundchecking for the songs, we were then ready to do a run of the show with full tech and such in the Hall.

The run went very well, I thought, despite some dropped moments on my part and whatnot. I found myself digging in a little deeper for Hoss and it paid off a number of times. Again, it’s always hard to balance getting swept up in the action with maintaining the practical thought process needed to just keep going moment to moment. Luckily, the lines and much of the blocking are just about second nature now so they just happen – this is what allowed me to drift into Hoss a bit more.

Everybody looks great in their wacky costumes, the music is just sounding better and better everytime, and the scenes are tightening up nicely. Diane snapped some photos last night too, so hopefully we’ll put a few up in the next day or so.

It’s really too bad we only get 3 kicks at the can here in Fredericton and that’s it. At least we’ve got Saint John to look forward to! Although, due to the space we’re using down there and the limited resources (we have to bring our own chairs for one thing! HA!), the SJ performances will be drastically different. SJ will be more gritty and club-like – Freddy is like a big concert Hall feel. Both have their appeal in my mind with neither being “better”, just different.

We open tonight. No nerves yet, but they’re coming … they are comin’ …


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Oct 11/2011(AM)
The “Tonight” from my last note has now come and gone, and it certainly was a different story. Act I went the best for me that it had up to this point, which was last Friday (more below about tonight’s run). I was “choogin’”, as we say in the play. Many things were nailed nicely and I had good energy right off the top. Make the Metal Scream felt real nice, aside from lacking Matt on guitar (he had to work). But the energy, based off a pre-run note by Nick, really felt great – I actually felt, which is not an experience I readily attain throughout a show. Anyway, good song and good moments going in and out. I’ve added a little moment to compose myself when Becky brings in Ruido, that I presume is working okay – it seems appropriate to the post-song moment.

Anyway, the rest of Act I went quite well for me and I could tell I was jiving well with the other actors – we were playing off each other, and it felt good. Hmmm, there’s that “feeling” again … different than emotion, this feeling of syncing up on stage. It’s a state of something, but it’s not emotional. It’s a connection and I thought it was there in Act I.

Act II, I have to say, started badly for me — partly due to my taking a resistant attitude towards Matthew’s new Crow, and partly just due to the new Crow. Part of what I’d always thought was happening in the beginning of Act II was that Hoss, when he finally meets Crow, is intrigued by Crow, if not actually impressed. Crow speaks plainly to Hoss and holds nothing back, which grabs Hoss’ attention. Crow then busts Hoss wide open when the Mind Train duelling begins.

Well, on Friday night the Crow that came in the room was offensive and smarmy – after all, he has just entered my place. I realize he’s cocky, but this was too much. *BUT* it was great to see Matthew pushing Crow into all these new places because he and the role needed some of that – just not all of it. So I had a hard time playing my Hoss to this new Crow – it wasn’t working. I couldn’t find the character intriguing because I was appalled at his behaviour in my crib. I can’t lie, it was difficult to play these scenes until we got into the duelling.

I wrote an email to the guys with my concerns over how to now play Hoss in response to the new Crow. It seemed the work we’d done in playing against/with each other had now taken a new direction as well. I wasn’t thrilled with the new direction entirely, but if we were heading that way I had to voice that I needed to know how to play it.

Before tonight’s run, Nick spoke to us about fusing the old and new way we *both* have played this scene in the past. My Hoss had actually become far too complacent with Crow’s presence right from the top of the Act, and it then hit me – and especially so during the actual run tonight – that part of the reason Hoss had found Friday’s Crow so hard to take was precisely because I had come to have “expectations” for Crow and these were not those expectations. Lo and behold, I find myself the actor in exactly the same spot Hoss the character finds himself in relation to Crow (Thank you Mr. Mamet for triggering my recognition of such instances of this phenomenon). A VERY good lesson to keep in mind. I had thought this thought earlier when writing the email to the guys, but I didn’t give it much weight or credence until getting the note from Nick and actually playing the note when we started the Act. Nonetheless, there is a slight difference in so far as we the performers are preparing and choreographing movements, line deliveries, etc, so it’s important to know the next move, to an extent. The above is wonderful for rehearsal, and finding new discoveries in performance is an amazing thing, but changing gears entirely calls for putting everyone’s heads together, so I’m really glad Nick took the time before we started tonight to address my concerns, and yet challenge me at the same time. Which is exactly what I needed, I think.

As a result, I think Act II went its best so far tonight. It FELT quite good.

Tomorrow night is gonna be a *long* night … tech night and load-in at the Hall. Dress rehearsal Wednesday, and opening Thursday is quite exciting. I think we’ve got a strong wacked-out show, and those are just the kind of shows I dig for the Shadows.


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Oct 7/2011(PM)

Rebekah Chassé as 'Chaser' & Scott Shannon as 'Hoss'

Good show run last night; bad Hoss performance though. I never really got myself going all night it seemed. Every time I’d try to infuse myself with energy or try to immerse myself in the event, I’d just keep pulling out noting in my head what it was I was attempting to do without any success – VERY frustrating! This is a tight rope one always walks as an actor: I have to be *in* the world of the show, but I also need to be *aware* of my surroundings, and what I’m doing. Then of course you need to try and turn off that internal narrative that’s always running through your own mind: “Are these shoes comfortable?”; “Did I lock the door when I left home?”; “Does that other actor hate me? Is that why I’m getting that look?”; “I can’t wait to have a beer”; etc. It’s not a matter of preoccupation, but simply the deal inside all our heads. Being on stage doesn’t shut that down, you just have to learn to steer around those thoughts and not allow them too much attention in the moment.

But, being overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy only makes those thoughts bubble more to the forefront, and I couldn’t shake that last night. Damn it.

Luckily, I get another kick at the can tonight … I’m tired from lack of sleep, sure, but that’s not the same as the exhaustion I was feeling last night when trying to run this show after hitting my Pilates class – BAD IDEA! We (my wife and I) even stepped it up and attended a higher level class last night for Pilates, which meant I worked *that* much harder in the class. I just didn’t have the energy when I got to rehearsal and I couldn’t force it to happen.

Tonight should be a different story … I hope …


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Oct 5/2011(AM)
Rehearsing, REhearsing, REHEARSING! We’ve been busy working Act II in detailed snippets and then running those portions together – things are coming along VERY nicely, I feel. This cast is stellar. The director is rocking our acting minds and the show is solidifying into a wonderful beast.

This past Saturday we did a session at Gallery Connexion as part of the nationwide initiative called Culture Days – the idea was we would have an open rehearsal that folks could watch, and we’d play some theatre games with them and allow them to ask questions about the process. Only 2 people came through the Gallery all afternoon, and when Nick asked if they’d care to join us we were met with an emphatic, “No!”. So, we carried on with our work!

It was good though since Spinney and I got to really work the opening of Act II without much distraction! HA! This work was very helpful though.

On Sunday, we carried on from the opening scene of Act II and further into the Hoss/Crow encounter that gets Act II rolling and sets Hoss up for his tragic downfall – it really is tragic, in the classical/Shakespearean sense. This moved into the beginning of the “Mind Train” duel which is a section that takes up the latter half of Act II – and it’s extremely exhausting. The start of this is heavy on Crow – really, he drives the duel for the most part.

Monday night we made it to Hoss’ counter actions in the duel. So after spending the first half of the duel getting psychically hammered by Crow, which plays out into a physicality finding me receiving “punches” and “blows” from Crow’s words, as well as tremors through my body that break me down cause me to collapse a couple of times, at this point Hoss rises and tries to give one last shot at conquering Crow, and … well, I don’t wanna give away what happens! HA!

The very final scene of the play, after this “Mind Train” duel, is a hard note to hit. VERY hard. It’s the sort of scene that you really only have so many goes in you for a given night, so while working it is helpful it starts to belabour the attitude and “emotion” that needs to be hit and then just goes to pot. The last time through this last night went well … well, better than the night before, although that run of the scene on Monday night did create some good emotional reactions from the cast and in the room’s atmosphere. That’s the magic we’re always trying to capture. I’ve still got work to do in this scene, but each time I feel like I’m getting closer to hitting that note.

Last night we ran the entire 2nd half of Act II a few times, while also re-working sections over and over. It was tiring and by the end of the night we all needed a break.

We’re all off tonight – Nick and I have an interview with HERE magazine, but after that it’s a night off. We all need it. We regroup tomorrow night to do our first in a series of runs before we get to opening next week.

This past week has been my favourite part of the process, and I’m sad to see it go. It’s great to run the show though as that holds its own intrigue for me, but I just love the challenge of tweaking scenes and digging into them. It’s great how playful everyone can get.

I’ll tell ya one thing: I’m getting tired of Spinney spitting in my face in the close-up scenes! I mean, the fluid is one thing, but the bits of apple from his mid-rehearsal snacking is just too much! Geesh!


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Sept 29/2011(AM)
We got our first full run of the show in tonight – it felt good. Not great, but good. It showed me I have MUCHOS work to still do, but we’re 2 weeks away and those 2 weeks are just what I need to really own my role in the show. I was kind of all over the map, I felt, in terms of “who” ‘Hoss’ is … or was. Wow. It was hard. Not that this is a big surprise, but it was just the thing I need at this point in the process. I’m glad we were to the point where we could do a run. We were in costume to some degree and Matt was there with his guitars, Mike was watching so he can design the lights, and Nick was soaking it all in (god bless him). It was a good night all around.

And now, as is often the case when I’m writing these notes, I find it’s time to go to bed …


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Sept 28/2011(AM)
More illness/injury plagues the cast … I’ve been down for another week or so – like, laid out cold. Becky’s not been well, and Mr. Jones has been coughing and showed up last night feeling worse, and then Liz took a bad fall and got banged up.

Let’s hope we all get on the mend and everything goes well over the next couple of weeks.

This past Sunday was a big day. We did a bunch of music work with Matt and even recorded our songs, which came out pretty good. I’m using one of them on a promo video Alberto made for us. It was fun to kick out the “rock star” vibe – I’m a rock star at home all the time, but now I’ve gotta expose that to people which caused a bit of anxiety for me, but after 30min or so of working with Nick and Matt to perform the songs as ‘Hoss’ I’m feeling better about it.

We then worked the first third of Act I and it pulled in quite nicely. We continued that Act I work the past two nights, so we’ve now re-worked Act I entirely in preparation for the test run we’re doing in Memorial Hall tonight – we’ll see how Act II goes! HA! We haven’t done much on that act in the past week, so we’re meeting for at least a quick Act II line run tonight before we go into the Hall for the full show run.

It felt fantastic to work through Act I and cinch all the work we’ve done thus far – lots to still do, but the act has a great flow and for me, as ‘Hoss’, it was helpful for mapping my trajectory through from the top to intermission time. We’re all off book so it makes playing that much easier – this is my favourite part of the process. We can do no wrong at this point since everything we do is playful and aiming towards finding a scene’s true drive.

The full show run tonight will be MUCHOS fun and will also teach us much about the show as a whole.


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Sept 18/2011(AM)
I spent most of the past week memorizing, so in terms of rehearsals it’s been a little low key – I wasn’t well so we had to cancel a couple of rehearsals, but were back into the room on Thursday for the heroin scene … fun times!

Tooth of Crime

Nonetheless, it gave me time to spend swallowing down the lines more solidly, with the rehearsal work we’d done still in my mind. I feel much better now about the work we’ve done over the past couple of weeks, and as we move into working those scenes again in the coming week it’s going to be great. Some earlier worked scenes haven’t been touched in a while, and we worked scenes from Act 1 out of order a bit, and haven’t had a chance to work one of them yet (due to my being ill), so getting to start moving through the show in order while moving to being off book is going to really open up the process to the stage that is much more fun for us as actors, I think, as well as for the director – Nick will now get a better taste of what we can offer in these scenes. Mind you, the grunt work of the past couple weeks was necessary to get here, but this is where we really get to start playing. And that’s my favourite part.


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – Sept 12/2011(AM)
Well, we are a few weeks into the process and I have been busy swallowing down lines in addition to rehearsals, so I haven’t had much time to post … and I’m heading to bed now. HA!

I’ll just say that the process is moving along very well from my perspective — but I’m not the director. Nonetheless, I think the guidance Nick is giving us in the room is paying off tremendously and everyone is really playing well together.

I’m looking forward to being able to drop my script completely and really start to play.


TOOTH OF CRIME Notes – July 6th/2011(PM)
We gathered for a read-through, short one of the actors (insert sad face here), but it was nonetheless an excellent time together and was great to hear how the others approached the play.

We’ve had a few meetings about the show and once Monster is wrapped up, we’ll be jumping into this — and I can’t wait! I have loved this play for over 15 years, and this revised text just makes it all the better — it’s like the ’70s version seems like a draft to me now. (No offense Sam! Errr … Mr. Shepard.)

Anyway, we’ve got a strong cast, a stellar guitar player heading up the music, and Nick will be our fearless leader through this crazy text — I don’t envy him! HA! Well, okay, just a little …


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