Director Faye Merralls gives us a peek behind the scenes on the making of Hot Dog.
Week One: Read through and first steps
The first read through of a play is a little bit like the first day at school: exciting but unpredictable. The hope is that having auditioned the cast, interviewed the designer and picked the best people for the job, that you would be able to predict the read through going just swimmingly, but you can’t avoid that element of doubt. Then the read through happens and the excitement builds throughout and blows all that doubt right out of the water. Well, that’s what happened to Hot Dog anyway; the voices you’ve imagined in your head are sounding out for real and everything just seems to fit together. It’s the excitement from the read through that then motivates the mammoth script analysis that follows. I like to pick apart the script: re-read it page by page and ask any question imaginable. So once the read was done, we kickstarted the questioning; it’s not about answering the questions yet, it’s illuminating just to realize they’re there. A lot of the initial questions that emerged could be wedged into two main categories:
Because THIS IS WHAT HOT DOG IS ALL ABOUT: Family relationships so deep set and complicated that it’s going to take a lot of time to tap into why Carol and Maryanne behave the way they do with their mother. It may be a complex mother-daughter-sister relationship but it’s automatically recognizable: all families are different but family is a universal concept, so the relationships in the play oscillate from ordinary to extraordinary constantly. Potential winner of most common phrase in rehearsal so far: “that’s exactly what it’s like with me and my mum”. Two rehearsals down and the Hot Dog cast’s ‘family bonding’ is progressing well.
A key clue to understanding the behaviour of the play’s characters lies within its setting in small town America: Butler, Pennsylvania. 3 of the 4 characters have lived in Butler their whole lives; and all the people they know live in Butler too. Locating where Maryanne and Carol will have gone to school, where Maryanne’s prom photo would have been taken, Michael’s commute to work all helps to illuminate how the characters relate to each other. Luckily, the brilliant Sarah Kosar, Hot Dog’s writer, grew up in Butler and brought maps and handy Butler facts into the rehearsal room. Her anecdotes about there are simultaneously shocking and hilarious.
Tomorrow’s rehearsal call is for Penny Lisle and Tessa Hatts only: we’ll be getting to grips with Maryanne’s relationship with her mother, The Dog. Is the Prom Queen who was voted most likely to succeed as perfect as she seems? Is it a case of like mother like daughter; the apple never falls far from the tree?!
Hot Dog is at The Last Refuge from 12-17 March. More info