I keep thinking I’m not going to play tapeball. We play for just five or 10 minutes at the beginning of every rehearsal. At first, I always played along with the actors and director and stage manager. It’s a metaphor. Or an analogy. It’s a paper ball wadded up and wrapped with tape.
Everyone stands in a circle. Someone swats it into the air and someone else swats it back. We count with each swat, “One…Two…Three…Oh!” It falls and someone picks it up and started again, “One…Two…” The goal being to count together and breathe together and keep it aloft as long as possible.
Yesterday they got to 32 on the first try. I heard them from my office window, where I was finishing work. Yes we rehearse in my house, okay? It’s not at a big fancy theatre with a huge rehearsal space and a union-sanctioned breakroom. It’s the basement, with a piece of carpeting from Menards and the eight-foot folding table I bought for Thanksgiving as the props table. While it’s not as glamorous as I envision, when I envision myself as “the playwright,” there’s no commute and I can let the dog out during breaks.
I always say I don’t want to join because it makes the number go down. The more people, the more bodies reaching to swat the ball, the more variables, the more half-swats because someone else will probably get it, the more fallen tapeballs. It’s an analogy, or a metaphor. For teamwork, or creating a theatrical organism where you’re all working as one, aware of each other, filling in for each other while also trusting each other to do what they’re here to do, doing whatever it takes to keep the ball – the story? the experience? the show? – aloft.
But my swat at the tapeball is done. The script is written and in their hands, so I could just as well be in Venice if I had the money. Not really, because I’m still changing a few lines, which only become obvious after sitting in rehearsal and watching the actors and talking with Patrick and trying something slightly different. There keep being one or two more things that need cutting or clarifying. Sometimes it doesn’t even mean rewriting, but simply sharing some thought that was behind a line. Patrick changes a direction to an actor, who changes their interpretation, which triggers different reactions in the other actors, who shift the world right there on the Menards carpeting.
So I guess it’s appropriate for me to join in tapeball, even if the number goes down.