It's not something that I've said, not once, during the rehearsal process, but last night, with only three weeks left to go, I felt that it was a necessary option.
After finishing up publicity shots and dealing with costume and prop issues, I started to feel a bit irritable around eight o'clock, when one of my actors, who is featured in the second act, came on stage with only a vague notion regarding what his lines were, and an even vaguer notion regarding what his blocking was. This forced me to spend a great deal of time stopping and fixing, and extending his one scene far longer than I was hoping to allot to it.
I then moved into the following scene, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Although my gangsters were doing a great job, the ensemble was getting a bit restless in the auditorium. Not that they hadn't been kept busy--my choreographers spent quite some time working with them in the lobby on several of the group numbers. But now, they were back, and despite the fact that we had had several conversations about keeping quiet and respecting the work of other performers, and several requests to keep quiet, things were still quite distracting. Tony, my musical director, stood next to me, in front of his music stand, a parallel to my stand, which held my script. We exchanged glances.
And I lost it. I turned around, glared at the cast, and, at the top of my lungs, and screamed out, "SHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!"
The auditorium immediately became silent. Everyone looked away from me.
We moved into the Act Two finale. Once again, the ensemble, although we had gone through the scene on several occasions, couldn't get the simple choreography right. I looked over and noticed Tony, rubbing his forehead. I knew that he was going to blow.
And he did. His rant was longer than mine, not as loyd, but just as irritated.
By the time we were done with the scene, it was 9:50, and it sounded and looked great. However, we had no time to go back to Act One, as I had hoped. I moved onto the stage and tried to stifle a grin.
"Well, look, we have only ten minutes left tonight, so we really can't go into another scene." I looked at them, innocently. "So...Tony and I have decided to spend the rest of the time we have together yelling at you."
It was meant as a joke, and it did break the mood. What I've decided is that I'm going to reposition my ensemble into a back hallway that connects with the stage, and have them called on as their scenes come on. I've also enlisted a guy to help my deputy stage manager get the scene changes to move faster, as we move into full run through mode. Hopefully, with these changes in place, we can avoid more "Shut Up" moments.