Riverona – A Rehearsal Journey

Erin Weir (Tybalt) and Megan Baldrey (Juliet) in the cafeteria scene during Riverona Ep 1: Two Households
A very collaborative Director’s Relationship During Riverona Ep 1… (maybe don’t slap your hand over your co-director’s mouth?)

Y’all! I feel like this will be a bit of a unique series over on A Flimsy Plan, but it’s also very appropriate. This blog has always been about fun things that I do in Calgary, with a strong arts lean. It’s also always been super fun when I talk about the behind the scenes of the theatre industry. Finally, as the co-artistic director of a theatre collective in town, I’ve started hosting the Full Circle Theatre website as a sub-site on my blog. (Look, life is expensive now, let’s share web hosting costs.)

So, all that to say… it seems super reasonable that I should document the process of Riverona Episode 2: Yonder Window Breaks, from rehearsal to performance, on my blog. This gives everyone involved in the situation what they want – and also helps me get back into the habit of writing on this blog. You can expect a post sometime after every Sunday rehearsal and sometime after every Wednesday rehearsal.

Girl, What Is Riverona?

Fair question. Riverona is a unique theatre experience, by which we mean it’s a TV show, but on stage. Inspired by the unbridled chaos of Riverdale and the over-the-top drama of The OC and One Tree Hill, mixed up with Red Hot American Summer because basically every actor is 30+. Each show converts one act of the classic Romeo & Juliet into an episode of teen drama television.

(You’re right, there are five acts in Romeo & Juliet, but Act IV is boring and we demand excitement!)

Our collective creation group has been writing Riverona since Winter 2022. We first performed Episode 1 at the Common Ground Festival in June 2023. We immediately remounted that production, due to the popularity. And we are now producing Episode 2 at the Common Ground Festival this November.

Cool! Catch me up right now!

You got it! Most of the characters in this episode also appeared in Episode 1 this summer, so we mined our very talented summer cast for actors who could come back for Episode 2. We are treating the festival as a workshop – an opportunity to test out an amazing cast and script in front of an audience to see what we might need to change for the full production. 

Jokes that are funny in our heads are not always funny in front of an audience. 

As a writing team, it is so easy for us to fill in blanks because we know what we want to happen plot-wise in our own heads.

In September 2023, we held auditions for the brand new role of Larry, the Deep Friar. (aka Friar Lawrence). We were so lucky that a wonderful actor who I literally did one show with and then became a parasocial internet friend of mine, Mike Sorenberger, auditioned and fit in immediately. We were so thrilled to add him to our team.

And then in October 2023, we started rehearsals. This is a workshop production, so our rehearsal period is short and tight. But our cast is talented, hardworking, and intuitive, so it’s been going amazingly. 

What have you been doing between October and now?

I mean… not coming up with this blog series, I guess? You guys, I’m busy! I have a full time job while also acting in/directing/costume designing/publicizing/producing this show.

But also, I understand your interest. This is what we’ve done so far:

October 25, 6-10pm. This was (almost) the first time we had the full cast in one room. Our Lady Capulet, Ginette Simonot, was on a pre-booked trip and we had no problem working around that. We did introductions, explained expectations for the collaborative process, and then read through the one-act script. We followed that up by working our opening credits (a live song!) and then blocking a few full cast scenes. A fun night!

October 29, 1-5pm. Our show mostly evenly divides into two separate plots. 1) the “Romeo and Juliet” storyline (aka the scenes that take place on Juliet’s balcony). 2) the “Deep Fryer” storyline (aka the scenes that take place at our inexplicable teen hangout. aAfood truck called the Deep Fryer). On this day, we blocked the Deep Fryer scenes and dug a little bit into deeper “acting” notes because our cast was ready for it!

November 1, 6-10pm. You can probably guess how this rehearsal was designed. Last rehearsal, we blocked and played with the “acting” in the Deep Fryer storyline. This rehearsal we did the same with the “Romeo and Juliet” storyline. We are super lucky that, despite the fact that we have actor-directors, neither of them appear on stage together in this episode. This means we always have the opportunity for an outside eye. 

November 5, 1-5pm. At this point, all of the scenes were blocked, so we got to focus on making the blocking motivated, coming up with fun bits, and digging deep into the character motivations. We were also lucky enough to be in our performance venue, so we got to explore exactly what the set layout/spacing would be in order to give our actors an opportunity to know what to expect once we started tech rehearsals and performances.

So, what now? How does this blog fit into the Riverona journey?

We have two weeks to go until our first Common Ground performance. I intend to use this space to debrief what we do during each rehearsal while also celebrating the hard work that each of our talented actors is putting into the process.

Honestly, I think the rehearsal portion of every show is a bit of a black hole. I hope I can shed some light as to what exactly is happening in the hall. Of course, this is only our rehearsal process. We are blessed with an outrageously talented cast and value a very collaborative rehearsal process that will allow us to explore this brand new script. What we do each day will absolutely not reflect what every actor should expect in every rehearsal hall. 

But, hey. The point of this blog is to share my life with you. And Riverona very much a part of my life! Please, hit me up in the comments – let me know what you hope to see in this Behind the Scenes series!

Oh, and if you want to see Riverona Episode 2: Yonder Window Breaks, it will be performed on Nov 22 and 25 at the Pumphouse Theatres. You can buy tickets here.

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