Miss Saigon

Time: July 16, 2007
Place: Ohlone College
Role: Ensemble
Director: Tom Blank
My Reflections

Around March of 2007, my life changed considerably. Details aside, let’s just say I found myself on Path B instead of Path A. Very well, being flexible, I adjusted, changed plans and settled into a different direction than expected. Path A had been full of plans, but Path B was pretty empty. Therefore, I needed to make some plans for the year.

I chatted with my friend Robert, who said he was doing Miss Saigon at Ohlone Collage for the summer. “Cool,” I said. When are the auditions? “Last month,” he returned. Hmm. Well, I never let technicalities like that interfere with having fun. But still, I was already auditioning for another show.

Robert was also auditioning for the same other show (Wonderful Town). The two shows had a considerable overlap, but he said he was putting about 3 weeks of conflicts down on the audition form. Very well. “Me, too!!!” I cried out. Okay, it was internal and not quite as animated, but you get the idea.

As luck would have it, I was cast in Wonderful Town, despite the conflicts, so all that was left was to finalize Miss Saigon. Robert had inquired as whether or not Saigon needed any more male singer/dancers. A shocking surprise! They did. Okay, I haven’t run into too many shows over the years that say, “Oh no. We’ve got way too many male singer/dancers, but thanks for asking.” Anyway, they had already started rehearsing, but let me join. I did a quick audition just to assure the music director that I hadn’t paid my way into all my past shows. I’m pretty sure she bought it. Excellent!

My first rehearsal almost went without incident; however, I was given a small bit in the opening number as Winner #66. Yea, for me. Only, I soon found out that Winner #66 has a strong line (Yea for a solo?). The line features some pretty strong profanity and while I was okay doing a show with high profanity, I did have to draw the line somewhere and the line stopped right before me blurting out, “What the F@#$ is this S#$!?!” I asked if the line could be changed. Turns out it was easier to change the person saying it. Okay. No big deal. It turned out just fine and I had preferred it that way. I don’t judge others for what language they use, and I would expect others not to judge me as well. It’s just a personal choice.

I hate missing any rehearsal, but a few conflicts were unavoidable because of school. Master’s classes only meet once a week and, in a quarter system, they simply cannot be missed. But I was able to catch up and figure out what I missed each week. Or at least I acted “in the know.”

Time (and the dancers) marched on and I only had a few rehearsals before we moved outside and onto the main stage. The nights were varied, but often cold. Think what you will about California summers, but it still gets chilly at night during the summer for the most part. I learned quickly to bring warm clothes. I should add that it does sometimes gets very hot too. I learned to bring light clothes and sunscreen as well.

The cast was friendly and receptive. Quite a few interesting personalities were in the show. The humor was definitely over the top and completely insane which made for many good laughs. Overall, it was fun to see the vast differences between characters and the actors playing them. I saw very little drama or problems between people. If there was any animosity or hate, it was done silently and with very little bloodshed.

Our performances went very well. One night, the crowd was so loud during curtain calls, my previously hurt ear acted up a little bit. Hard to believe that one would even have to ponder wearing an ear-plug for curtain calls.

I must say how nice and relaxing it is to do ensemble work. Several scenes were immensely fun and I could have spent much longer periods of time in them if they didn’t end and people weren’t dragging me offstage (e.g., Bangkok). For anyone watching closely, Bangkok for me became a little game of seeing how much money I could spend on the cage dancers. You see, my “wife” was pretty ardent about taking my money away (no money = no cage girl action), so I just kept bringing out more and more wads of money. By closing, I had money in 2 shirt pockets, 4 coat pockets, 4 pants pockets and 4 places in my socks. She didn’t get all of it that night, but came pretty darn close.

Another fun scene was the Nightmare scene (for those not in the know, it’s the Helicopter scene). The funny thing about it is that the citizens are all crying and distressed while the guards are all stressed and desperately trying to maintain control. Some, as in my case, are even angry and abusive. Be that as it may, most came away having the best time in that scene, thoroughly enjoying the acting and craziness going on. I kept hearing wild stories of what went on over on the other side. It was tempting not to defect over and join the party. The most challenging part was simply trying to stay in character while ripping off the refugees, inspecting pieces of paper with things like “lost dog” or goofy pictures on them, or even avoiding the dangerous grip of a certain young lady who would try and pull you through the chain link fence. I never got caught in her grip again after that! Soldier beware! She doesn’t let go!!!

The Heat Is On in Saigon was also a blast, but I probably don’t have to explain why on that one.

I decided to do a cast collage for the show. I’m glad I did. It certainly cost me some time and sleep but people really seemed to like the end result. (Or at least they claimed they did, but that works just fine for me.) I originally wasn’t going to charge or provide prints since it’s just not cost effective, but then when someone offered to pay to help provide them for others, it just hit me. It’s that random kindness thing, I guess. I decided that night not to even have that one person pay but to just provide as many prints as I could. The website business was going well; why not make a few gifts for others? The next day I found myself at Fry’s buying over 0 worth of ink and paper. I was pretty excited about the whole thing until I got home late after the show to find my brand new printer stopped working after only printing about 12 prints. Not good. Not good at all. I handed out what I could, but could do no more. Alas, alas. I was bummed about that one.

I suppose no big flubs or bloopers happened. I guess it was just too easy. There was nothing major that really even could have gone wrong (for me at least). I guess I could have accidentally marched the wrong way during Morning of the Dragon and taken out a handful of pole dancers and flag twirlers, but I managed to remember which direction to go every time. Too bad, with a mask on, I may have even gone undetected.

Reflecting, I’m really proud of the cast. Each member contributed greatly and I found myself rooting for every actor during his or her moment on stage. That said, I knew the world wouldn’t end if someone missed a note or dropped a prop, but still, I hoped things went smoothly each time. Not that I have secret desires of the roof caving in during other shows, it’s just that this one really was a combined team effort. Miss Saigon isn’t an easy show to do and people who’ve seen it have high expectations. I will add that sometimes people see shows in New York or San Francisco and somehow expect the same exact budget and special effects on a smaller stage. To those, I simply say, “Stay home and watch reruns of The Cosby Show.” Obviously, people don’t have 10 million dollars to spend on a community theatre show. If you can come and enjoy it, great, if not, then I’m sure someone else will.

I hope people in the audience did enjoy it and had at least half as much fun as I did dancing with beautiful ladies in Heat Is On, acting crazy in Bangkok and silently yelling my head off in Nightmare.

I’ll miss this cast. I for one am really proud of what was performed during two summer weekends in 2007.

Next: It’s Wonderful…