I was hired to choreograph the dance sequences in the play Romeo and Juliet. It was a great opportunity for me – and a prestigious one – the theatre company was a large and established organization. I was pretty happy about it! I also figured it would be a pretty easy job – all I had to do was put together a couple of period dance pieces for the ballroom scene and one other movement sequence for a street scene.
Sometimes you know you’ve taken the wrong job within minutes of starting. The problem, however, is that you’ve already committed yourself to the project and/or contracts have been signed and there’s simply no graceful way to exit – at least not without blood or legal action. I knew I was in trouble on the first day of Romeo and Juliet during first rehearsal of the ballroom scene – when Romeo asked the Director “What is my motivation to come into the room?” I quietly snorted to myself – What an idiot! – what’s your motivation? How about you want to follow the girl you have the hots for? – or you want to crash a party? – pick a reason! I looked towards the Director, waiting for her to come down on this loser for wasting valuable rehearsal time. Guess what? That didn’t happen. She actually answered his question. In fact – they had a twenty-minute discussion on his motivation for coming into the ballroom……Wow – Did not see that one coming. And wow again – I was sooo in the wrong job.
The Director wanted a circle dance in the ballroom. No problem – I gave it to her. She wanted Romeo and Juliet to finish in the front at the end of the dance. Again – no problem – I gave it to her. She wanted the circle dance to happen during Lord Capulet and Tybalt’s dialogue AND for the circle dance to end (with Romeo and Juliet in the front) at the exact moment that Lord Capulet and Tybalt finished their last line. OK – now that was a problem. While I could control the music and the number of steps that the cast took in the dance – I could not control the speed of Lord Capulet and Tybalt’s dialogue – which changed every time that they did it. I figured the Director’s request was an oversight. Everybody has their stupid moments – those times when you haven’t really thought things through. Nope – was wrong on that one too. The Director truly wanted everything to finish exactly at the same moment. I tried to explain that I couldn’t control the actors’ dialogue speed – I tried to explain that the circling actors wouldn’t know where to end the dance (with Romeo and Juliet in the front) if they didn’t have a specific number of steps or at least some leeway as far as timing went – like finish up the last circle on a specific word cue. The Director huffed at me as if I was the one being difficult.
Our working relationship took a dive. She wanted her way – I couldn’t deliver – She reiterated her demands – I tried to reason with her – she shut me down. It made for a very frustrating couple of rehearsal weeks. It wasn’t until the technical rehearsal that I finally came up with a solution. We were working the ballroom scene and at the end of Lord Capulet’s and Tybalt’s dialogue – the Director gave a big sigh. “The dance and the speech aren’t finishing together.” I looked over at her and an idea popped into my head. “Don’t worry – I’ll fix it,” I said as I walked down to the stage. I walked over to the actors doing the circle dance. They gathered around me. “So,” I said, “How’s it going? Anything I can do for you? I love this performing space – don’t you?” Waving my hands around a bit more than normal (for long distance effect) – I chatted with the actors for a few minutes about inconsequential stuff. I then turned around, marched back to the director sitting in the theatre, threw myself back into my seat and announced, “Fixed.” We ran the scene again. As luck would have it – although it was far from perfect – the circle dance/dialogue section finished a bit closer. The Director beamed and clapped her hands. “Perfect,” she said.