Drinking Tea at the Precipice
By Mark Kennedy, Arden Professional Apprentice
Whit MacLaughlin, view director of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, used a metaphor I loved one day in rehearsal as he was working with Steve Pacek, our Mouse, on the physicality of his character.
He described leaning out over the edge of a cliff, and how in that position, your body is one hundred percent ready for anything. He said that an actor, especially in physical comedy, always has to be in that state of high-octane readiness, but also has to translate that kind of energy into simple, every-day motions, like drinking tea.
As Mouse Cookie‘s ASM, or assistant stage manager, I’ve latched onto the idea of drinking tea at the precipice. My main responsibility is tracking all the props used in our Mousey mayhem. At any moment during the rehearsal process Stephanie Cook, my stage manager, could ask me to run down to our props master Meredith McEwen to ask questions about a prop or come up with a substitute prop for rehearsal. I’ve helped transform the rehearsal hall into a green screen studio for Jorge Cousineau, our video and sound designer, to film footage.
I’ve also had to be ready to reset the stage as we go back and work moments again and again (in one rehearsal we worked one sequence 78 times in a row!), refining the light and sound cues, the way the actors interact with the set, the props, and each other. That could mean putting a mop backstage in the place where it’s easiest for Davey Raphaely, our Boy, to grab. Or it could mean taking ten minutes to clean up rice flour, stuffed animals, streamers of tape, and hula hoops, among many other things.
As an apprentice, for me cleaning is now second nature. Those of you applying to the program for next year, take note: a lot of the time you are just like the Boy, fighting with the physics of mops and trash bags and cleaning products. But, much like drinking tea, although these tasks and skills are simple, you are asked to do them consistently at the precipice.
And what does it all add up to? An hour of absolute chaos and certain hilarity. I have never laughed more, nor watched with more admiration as Steve, Davey, Whit, Stephanie, Meredith, Jorge, and everyone else work to make this Mouse as effortlessly joyful as possible.