Sweet Charity

Time: July 09, 2009
Place: Ohlone College
Role: Vittoria Vidal
Director: Tom Blank
My Reflections

Two years ago, I was out at Ohlone College for their production of Miss Saigon.  I wanted to audition last year for their show, but I was already in another show and could not do both. So earlier this year, when I found out they were doing Sweet Charity, I knew I had to audition.

Luckily, I was familiar with the show, for I had seen it at CCMT quite a few years ago.  In fact, I certainly remembered Big Spender because I got in trouble with the girl I was dating for staring at the gals on stage. But heck, I was supposed to stare. I mean, that was what the number was for! Or so I thought. Anyway, fast forward and I needed a refresher.  I knew there was a geeky guy in the show, but I wanted to see what other characters were involved.  Thus, I contacted Ken, a director friend, and ask if he had a copy of the script.  He did!  So I dropped by the college and read it one Friday afternoon.  Okay, I had found two roles that I wanted to audition for.  They were both good roles that were vastly different: one was a movie star and a romantic lead type, while the other was a geeky loser (for lack of a better word).

The auditions came at a busy time.  Another company was doing Joseph and asked me to partake in their production.  WellI did have fun doing Joseph years back; however, it was not a show that I particularly wanted to repeat.  That said, they were offering a nice stipend which was tempting.  Another company was doing The Producers, which was a show I also wanted to do.  The auditions overlapped.  I attended The Producers audition and a callback on the same date as the Sweet Charity auditions.  However, I let The Producers people know that Sweet Charity was my first choice.  If I got one of the roles I wanted, I would forgo any other roles offered.  I just liked working outdoors and with that theater group in the summer.  Plus it was a shorter drive.

The Producers callback went well, but they did have a guy that was really funny.  He had the audition crew busting up laughing there was no way to top that.  No matter. I next went over to the Sweet Charity auditions and partook in the usual madness.  The audition song went fine, but then came the dance section.  Those are never easy.  It wasn’t that the steps were particularly hard; it was just that they were hard to remember.  Everything was taught fast, but remembered slowly.  It wasn’t a pleasant sight, but I managed to avoid hurting anyone, so I guess you could call it a success.

Callbacks were the next day (Sunday), and I showed up for some readings.  That went well, so the only thing to do was wait.  It took them several days to get back to me, but, finally, they did and offered the role of Vidal, the Italian movie star.  Rehearsals would begin a few weeks later.

The rehearsal process was fairly run-of-the-mill.  We rehearsed the music, learned the dances, and blocked the scenes.  There were many new faces for me, too.  I think I only knew about four people in the cast.  But as time went on, people became more and more familiar.  Still it’s tough to get close to people in that short amount of time.  Bonding experience is bound to happen faster when the crisis level is elevated.  Putting on a show can be intimidating for some, but it certainly doesn’t compare to surviving an avalanche with fellow hikers.  So you do what you can during the rehearsals and the performances, and you see what happens.  Aside from that and no unforeseen avalanches, there’s not much else except to pray for heavy snow.

Overall, there wasn’t much drama in the show, offstage I mean. I thought there was none, but towards the end, I detected a little.  It’s rare when you have absolutely no drama – I mean we’re all actors for Pete’s sake.  Everyone’s bound to be little crazy.

We rehearsed indoors for a while and finally took it all outside when the stage was ready for us.  The weather was fantastic for most of the time, although it did get chilly a few nights. I started bringing a coat and a blanket in case anyone next to me froze.

My role mainly took place in Act One.  After that my character was done with the show.  I mean I would not be back until the curtain call.  They’d asked me to be a few other scenes and do a few dances.  It’s hard to say no.  Sure, it means a few extra rehearsals, but if you want to get to know new people, you really need to show up at rehearsals. Plus, it can get awfully boring being off stage for an entire act of a show. Mainly, for me, I have some of my most fun doing those types of numbers.  Similar to Saigon, it offers a chance to be creative and inventive.  It also gives you a chance to push the envelope a little until they finally detect what you are doing and say, “Now cut that out!  It’s stealing focus!”

My character, Vidal, was an Italian movie star.  This would be the second Italian I was playing in consecutive shows.  It’s funny that some think I look Italian-or maybe I do. I don’t know. What does Italian look like?  My character also had one song.  It was sort of an odd one since it didn’t really fits the style of the show, but they let me keep it, which was nice since a lot of my lines had been hacked to keep the show from being too long.  I guess that’s the downside of having a society with a shorter attention span.  Something’s got to give. I didn’t mind (aside from the normal two weeks of crying myself to sleep, shouting, “Why? Why? Why?!?”  I think it went all right, but I certainly would have liked more time to work on it and improve things.  However, the music director was gone for a while, so that didn’t help.  Oh well, you do your best and leave it at that. In the end…wellit’s just a show.

The character was also quite different. Normally, I’m playing characters that are energetic and fast paced.  With this guy, he’s suave and easygoing.  It was a tough transition to make, especially in a comedy.  But I like challenges and enjoyed the change of style. I believe my instinctive spin after practicing the slap for the first time was followed by a simple note: “This isn’t clown college.” No, sir. It was not.

The performances came upon us fast.  The house sizes varied, though none was at the size of Saigon.  Some nights went more smoothly than others, but overall everything went fine.  We did have a number of illnesses in the show.  Seems like about half the cast was sick at one point.  But they were troopers and performed accordingly. One supposition I had was that many people were probably not eating enough. Fact it, people were going to be exposed to the virus; there’s almost no way to avoid that. The ones with strong immune systems had a better shot of avoiding the actual illness. I spoke to more than one gal who said she had not eaten anything all night and would not before bed. Heck, how can anyone’s immune system stay strong when she’s not eating anything all night?!? Okay, before calling this kettle black, for the record, I do eat decently (not great, but let’s be real) during show runs. It’s one period where I hate to take chances. Food helps.

One of the things that I like about performing there is the sun setting at the beginning of the show.  It makes for a beautiful effect.  On several nights, I just wanted to run for my camera and take photos until the sun disappeared over the horizon. But of course going onstage with a big camera in one’s pocket is odd.

During the second Saturday performance, I think we finally hit the mark.  Things were just clicking. We were firing on all cylinders (enough metaphors for ya?) I guess that’s the one big drawback about having a short run: by the time you finally get everything worked out in the show, it closes.

We did have one great cast party.  It was after the final performance.  A lot of the cast made it and some of the crew.  It was a good time and reminded me how much I miss hot tubs and how loud karaoke can be.

All in all, it was a great time and an excellent way to spend the summer.

Random notes:

         Humility is an underrated character trait in theatre.  It can easily undermine everything you do.  I was happy to see that everyone seemed to keep things in check.  No one came across as a spoiled diva.  Heck, I didn’t even know what divo meant (ironically said humbly).

         Rhythm of Life was indeed as fun to perform in as it looked.

         Spitting out only a tiny bit of water is downright impossible. I tried. I really did.

         If you want headshots, you have to bring your own.

         The ending is weird, I know. We even polished it up a little, but the creator just made odd decisions. Still, it’s about the journey, not the destination (There! That should serve as a tolerable excuse until you eventually decide it’s not good enough.)

         I honestly want to know what people thought of the stomp section. I loved the idea, but

         Brass Band got much easier during the show.  It was hard to believe that it was the same exact number that caused ulcers during auditions.  I’m not saying I perfected it or anything, but at least I remembered it.

         I think I love disguises.

         From off stage left, I would sometimes comment, “That was a gift, you jerks!” when the ladies would throw Vidal’s hat across the stage.  I mean it was a gift from Vidal.  How could Charity just toss it like garbage? Doesn’t make sense!

         In Act Two, Oscar finally says, “Sweet Charity.” Those in the know responded with, “Hey! He said it!” (Family Guy allusion).

         Favorite quote from Tom: “Hannah, you don’t hold those things like cigarettes.”

         Memorable quote: “Enjoy this now. It will be over before you know it.”

         Applicable quote from Ross on Friends: “Women talk!”

Next: What mainly disappeared was my stage time.