Theater and Post-production

Yesterday, I was watching the RSC’s latest performance of Hamlet on PBS for the second time (because it was amazingly good) and was pondering how I miss being a part of theater. Earlier this year I was thinking about volunteering in a production as a stage hand, though I didn’t get around to it for a variety of reasons. (Perhaps after baseball season, as I’ve picked up a second job at Victory Field.) I was in a lot of plays from kindergarten through high school – a lot. Once I got to 6th grade and was able to join the drama club, I did 2 plays a year until I graduated. Unfortunately, since I developed early (you know what I mean) and was taller than everyone else, I was regularly typecast as the mother/grandmother/old lady characters. I haven’t acted in a play since graduating from high school (though I did end up having to play a character in a ridiculous short film we did).

The things I enjoyed the most about theater were the camaraderie between the cast and crew and the energy and volatile nature of a play in progress. My mind was wandering a bit on this thought and I began to compare it to what I love about post-production. I realized that performing in a theatrical production and editing a film are so completely different with the same end.

What I like about post is the ability to think things through. I can undo, switch things up, redo entire sequences, and trash things that suck if I want. In theater, once something has happened, you have to deal with it and improvise if necessary to make it work. You don’t have a few hours to mull over the best way to go about a scene – once you’re in the moment, that’s it.

The interesting thing about this, however, is that I’m not the kind of editor to take my time mulling things over.  I’ve always had a keen ability to look through my footage quickly an efficiently, and instinctively know when to cut things out. I have no qualms ruthlessly going through a timeline, chopping chunks here and there. I rarely dwell on sequences. I just go with my instinct, give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, I do it again with minor changes. I enjoy thinking things through even though I don’t work like that.

I wonder how much of this editing sense has been enhanced or changed by my think-on-your-feet experiences in theater? In a play, the actors play a big part in the pacing of the play, like the editor controls the pacing of a show. A play does have edits, just like a show – passing of time, flashbacks, dissolves, vignettes, it’s all the same, but instant.

Basically, I find it really interesting that the thing I loved most about theater is exactly the opposite of what I love about video post-production.

It’s interesting how things that are almost completely irrelevant to nonlinear editing can have a profound effect on it. Another thing? Music. I’m positive spending three years playing the clarinet and sight reading sheet music has enhanced my pacing and rhythm.

I wonder what else there is?

By the way, my favorite role was as Alice’s mom in Go Ask Alice, because it was the only play we ever performed with any real emotion to it. I like to think I played it well, though nobody ever gave me any feedback on my performance so I guess I’ll never know. The scariest role was the villain in a strange adaptation of Robin Hood.  The original person dropped out right before the play, and me, one of the reject extras that wasn’t to be trusted with any real lines, was promoted to her part. I got the privilege of learning 110 lines in 2 weeks in 8th grade. The same day I was required to recite O Captain my Captain for English class, and the Gettysburg Address for history. And that night was the school lock in and I stayed up all night after that day. How on Earth did I ever manage to live like this? Oh, to be 14 again..