By Anne Washburn.
Directed by Jeremy Wechsler.
At Theater Wit, Chicago.
A technical dense inside look at a tech rehearsal is an ode to the art of theatre.
10 out of 12 by Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns, a post-electric play) is an updated version of her play filled with accurate references to Chicago theatre history, companies and personalities. Upon entering the space at Theater Wit, we see the crew cleaning and setting up the sets, the lighting and doing sound cues. We are asked to put on a headset since we are being allowed to witness a tech rehearsal of a world premiere play. The venue has 98 headsets for the audience.
Once seated, we continue to watch the crew organizing the set for the play. Only when we hear voices on the headset announcing the start of the tech rehearsal do we realize that the show we came to see is actually starting. We hear constant chatter over our headsets that is idle chatter with techies desiring snacks, gossiping and telling stories to pass the time while the slow process of getting the set located, the props in place plus lighting and sound cues organized. There are many lag-time delays while the details get are polished and corrections made. Once the actors do some scenes, they need to become familiar with the blocking. That can be difficult since actor’s foibles and even script disagreements surface complicate things.
We see that the director (by theatrical tradition) is not allowed to listen in on a headset, there are comments about actors, the playwright and him. At 2 hours and 35 minutes, 10 out of 12 can be come a tad tedious since part of the experience of a real tech rehearsal is the boredom of the long empty waiting that occurs while something is fixed. 10 out of 12 is an alternately funny, terrifying and touching drama about a high-pressure workplace. We vividly see how difficult it can be to bring a new play to life. So audience patience is needed here. But the entire work has many pay-offs. once you see the complexity both technical and personal, you’ll appreciate the craft of live stage shows.
While listening to the tech chatter and the trivial comments, you may recognize the pre-recorded voices of Martha Lavey, John Mahoney, Peter Sagal and Barbara Robertson as techies. These voices are blended with live voices to enhance the rehearsal experience.
But the live, on-stage, scene rehearsals with Shawn Kenyon, as the theoretical philosophizing director who listens to the concerns of the actors as he tries to cement the play for its opening. We see the wacky actor Paul (Stephen Walker) object and desire to rewrite the script as he over thinks his scenes trying for some philosophical meaning only seen by him. There are more little quibbles like the placement of props, how doors open/close and blocking spots. This is a meta look at why tech rehearsals can run 10 -12 hours.
Kudos to Theater Wit for successfully mounting the most technically extravagant piece of design work seen on a Chicago storefront stage ever. You’ll experience simultaneously exactingly real-to-life and riotously funny play that makes the tech rehearsal experience come to life. Director Jeremy Wechsler told me that they actually had only four weeks of rehearsal. Amazing! 10 out of 12 is, indeed, a love song to eccentricities and craftsmanship needed to produce the art of theatre. Serous theatre patrons and those wanting to get involved with theatre need to see this near-perfect recreation of a tech rehearsal.
Date Reviewed: March 14, 2017.
For more info checkout the 10 out of 12 page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W.Belmont, Chicago. IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $12 – $70, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, Running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission, through April 23, 2017.