I think I’ll always remember working on Money in the Bank. It was the first show I worked on without knowing anyone else prior. Robbie Maher, the writer and director, sort of met me at an audition for a festival where the room was full of directors looking for people to be in their shows. He happened to be in the room when I auditioned, then he added me on Facebook the next day. To quote him exactly, “networking – like a boss!”
It was two and a half months later when rehearsals for Money in the Bank started, and when I met the rest of the people I’d be working with. Lachlan Davis and Joshua Godfrey played Harold in the show (not Harolds. Just Harold). These two guys bounced ideas and jokes off of each other like they were the same person. They played the one character, so that was a good thing. Annikki Chand played my character’s mother. It was very interesting to find out that at the time of the show we were both nineteen years of age... It somehow worked, and we had a lot of fun rehearsing our scene together. Lestat Dubrinsky, who I’d actually met about a month earlier, was the designer for the show. She did some amazing work with character costumes, especially showing the light and dark sides of Harold through what Lachlan and Joshua wore. Brooklyn Pace was the stage manager. She did a lot of quiet work on the computer during rehearsals, but occasionally it’d just be her and I in the space and she’d help me out with my monologue. And finally, Patrick McGreevy was the producer. He was the dude who sat in the corner wearing a cool jacket, talking about his recent trip to Fiji. It was really cool working with these wonderful people, but it was even better getting to know them. They’re all really fun!
Robbie had written the script with three scenes: the first being an argument between mother and son about how lazy the son is, the second was Harold having a moral debate with himself about being a con-artist, and the final scene was the son, Drew, delivering a monologue about getting a job. The narrative was unique in that it was explained without relying on interactions between characters. Instead, the characters would, in their scenes, reveal information for the audience to piece together. Due to this, in rehearsals Annikki and I would go to another room and work on our scene while Joshua and Lachlan would work on theirs. Generally, Robbie would give two of us a goal to work towards for half-an-hour to an hour while he worked with the other two. It gave us quite a lot of creative freedom to discuss what we were doing in the scene and then actually play it out without the worry of “are we doing this right?” Robbie would then come back, we’d show him what we worked on, and then he’d give us his notes of things to work on. For example, in one rehearsal he said to me “you’re moving too much. You’re reacting to everything Annikki is saying.” We then worked around that and the scene was much better for it.
In some rehearsals I’d spend the entire time working on my monologue for scene three. That was a very interesting experience. Why? Very early on in the process Robbie asked if I’d learned the monologue. I said I’d only learned up to a certain point, and he asked if I knew the rough idea of it. I told him I did, so he told me to just do it. I didn’t know if that was his way of getting me to learn the monologue. I remembered back to when I was told by another director that writers like their lines spoken word-for-word, so when Robbie asked me to perform his monologue when I didn’t know all the lines, I was a little scared. I started performing it, but I messed up a line, stopped, and apologised. Robbie stopped me and told me not to apologise. He spent about five minutes telling me that he didn’t care if I got the words wrong because he wanted to see something real, not rehearsed. It all clicked into place for me, so I “just did it”. Of course it needed a bit of polishing, but it worked out pretty well, and of course, Robbie sat there with a smile on his face. “Keep going, I’ll be back in half an hour.”
That wasn’t the last of Robbie’s interesting methods. It was the second last rehearsal before our show, and he and Brooklyn were looking for music for the transitions between scenes. I was in the room with them, listening to the music they were finding, giving them my input when they asked. When they found a tune I found pretty catchy I started dancing. I’d never really trained in any kind of dancing before; this was one of those moments where you dance like no one is watching. Well as it happened, Robbie wasn’t looking at the computer searching for music. He was watching me dance. When I realised he was watching I stopped. He just pointed at me and said “that’s going in the show.” So for the next ten minutes he played the song over and over again, thinking of where he could put me dancing. It ended up working its way into the opening of the third scene just after the transition from the second scene. Robbie said to me “I don’t want you to rehearse it at all. I want you to improvise it.” Safe to say, I spent about an hour in front of the mirror that night practicing...
When the show eventually rolled around and the moment for me to dance came up, I walked out onto the stage feeling a bit nervous. The music started playing, I started moving, and people started clapping. I really started getting into it. I decided to improvise a bit more and did a cartwheel. I don’t know how it looked for the audience, but I felt a muscle in my left arm move abruptly out of place. “Bad move,” I thought, having to continue with the pain like it didn’t exist. Once I got over the pain, something else happened. I thought my nose started running, so I casually rubbed it. I glanced down at my hand and saw blood. “Really bad move,” I thought, trying to think of how to get around it. Then it occurred to me that it wasn’t me with the blood nose. It was my character! So I said “aww, my nose is bleeding.” Then I wiped it on my shoulder and continued, just trying to ignore it. After the show when we met Robbie backstage I apologised. He laughed, gave me a hug, and said that what’s done is done. It was a good show, and it didn’t look rehearsed.
So it all ended well. It was a very interesting process to get the show up, but it was never bad. In fact, it was pretty good. Generally, in rehearsals and workshops you’re asked by the facilitator to leave your comfort zone and test your boundaries, but you’re not asked to completely break them. In rehearsals for Money in the Bank, Robbie had a way of getting you to go up to your own personal boundaries and start poking them, and when you’d turn around to go back to your comfort zone he’d be standing in your way, warmly smiling and saying “what you’re doing is great. Keep going.” It wasn’t just those processes that made the experience great, though. I met some really wonderful people, and we all worked well together to make a great show. I don’t think it’s an experience I’ll forget.