110 in the Shade (2)
Time: December 07, 2013Place: Douglas Morrisson Role: JimmyDirector: Nancy Engle
Well, now, would you look at that? After so many years, another theatre company was finally doing this show. And it was about time. Heck, if they can do OKLAHOMA, Music Man, and Sound of Music ad na usium, then I believe they can fit in this show once in a while. Seriously, playhouses do the same tired lot of shows way too often. New generations may not care to see Peter Pan eleven times. I got bored after three.
So pointless ranting aside, I made sure to audition. 110 has some great roles. Let’s spin the wheel.
On second thought, let’s not spin anything. Let’s decide what roles we are going to audition for.
Now, let’s drop the “we,” since it’s just me up there baring my soul. It’s not the royal “we,” it’s the peasant “I,” the nervous, hope-I-get-it “I.”
I was ready for the auditions. I even had a song prepared. I sang it and exited gracefully. That was it for the audition. I was in and out in five minutes. Even at “In and Out,” five minutes is tough to do. Wait..on exiting, I was asked if I had a monologue to recite. Er, nope. Didn’t know they wanted one. Guess I missed that side note. I offered to improv one (still know most of the Henry V war speech and the opening to “Woman in Black”), but was told it wasn’t necessary. Still, I need to get those speeches back.
And so I waited. Days later, I got the email (I miss phone calls) for the callback. I was called back for Jimmy, Starbuck, and File. Very well. Jimmy wasn’t my first choice, but I left it at that, as I did want to do the show and hated to be too limiting.
Callbacks were another Saturday afternoon. I was ready for all three roles, but I had the Starbuck scene memorized and it had a nice little monologue that I really felt I had down well. The other sides were much easier to read. But shoot for the stars first…
We each had our moment singing and reading. There were about seven Starbuck/Files called back and about maybe nine Lizzies. I was glad I wasn’t part of the HC group since it had some fierce competition. Each one read remarkably well. I don’t envy that matchup. I’ll never know what tilted the dial since all did so great.
But the Starbucks were good too. There were great singers and good actors and some had nailed both. Afterwards, I waited a few days and was offered…
Okay, it wasn’t my first choice, but it is a fun role, and what else was I going to do for the next few months. Very well. I’ll take it.
The usual song and dance. Some parts were new to me, as I hadn’t ever seen them the first time, being off stage at different moments then. As always, it was nice to rehearse in the eventual performance space, though one thing lacking there is a mirror, so it’s hard to evaluate and fix errors.
Somehow, my scene partner and I engaged in a tape war, or so that’s what it was called. I suppose it started with her putting a sticker on my back before one of my scenes. I removed it in time. And after that the code of war was established–that nothing should ever affect a scene, meaning no altering props or costumes. In short, the show must not be altered.
That being taken care of, there weren’t many rules left.
Some would say I lost the war, but I also didn’t press the advantage when the opportunity came. I should win for sportsmanship.
For the first time in about 10 years, I caught a cold that took out the voice. The last time it happened, I was doing dinner theatre and called to say I couldn’t do the show. I was told that the understudy was not available and that I would in fact need to do the show–miming it if need be. Very well. I showed up and growled my way through it with what little voice I could scrounge up. It wasn’t fun, but I did survive and the show went on. It’s probably the only thing that unnecessarily worries me during a run. Colds are bad.
It reinforces the age-old adage about getting enough sleep and eating properly. I believe there’s no foolproof way to avoid exposure outside of staying in bed all day, but each performance with others even wrecks that idea. A strong immune system is a must.
And I tried that myths and cures. None worked. They rarely do, but I give in a eat berries, or soup, or garlic, or zinc, or whatever. If a true solution existed, it would be marketed well. But it’s hard to market “Keep your immune system strong.”
There weren’t many cast parties, but we did have about two of them. The first was in Alameda, and was at a really cool home. That fact that it was Christmas time made it even neater. A lot of the cast was there and it even ended outside around a fire, just chatting and sharing life. Good times.
The second party was the closing night one out in Hayward. Another fun event with a great deal of good food. Doing shows around Christmas time certainly seems to enhance the food quality. Most stayed for quite a while and it was sad to see it all come to an end, but such is theatre life. The show must go on, and the show must finally close.
My first regular musical was “Forum,” and I remember being frighteningly nervous just to play a Protean. Just sticking my head out of the curtain to say, “Something peculiar” had my heart racing like, well, a racehorse racing (or singing “comedy tonight”). With all the shows over the years, the nerves die down a great deal, though there are flare-ups. Dancing numbers will always cause a little anxiety. It’s harder to improvise when something is forgotten. High speed songs are also a little nerve-wracking as there is little time to think ahead. Focus and preparation are the only solutions for that.
I try not to get hurt. My insurance deductible is just too high for that. Not that this fact holds me back at all. I still do bunch of crazy things on stage. But during the Friday night show on the second weekend, I guess something did happen. Not to me, but to someone else. The other dancer in the “Everything Beautiful” number got hurt. I didn’t know it was wrong until, a bit later in the number when we were doing some turns and I turned accordingly, where I usually check my timing with the other dancers. I noticed he wasn’t in the group and that his partner was dancing without him. Turns out he hurt his knee during the dance. Although he finished the tap number, he took himself out of the dance after that. Actually, he was out of the show the rest of the weekend. The next day we re-choreographed the number without him, which was a bummer since it also meant taking out the tap dance section, a part we all enjoyed performing–at least I did.
Luckily, he was healthy enough the next weekend to continue. Tap dance back in. Huzzah.
What was interesting about “110” was that many of the principals had their own particular style of acting. One was very intense in all the scenes. Another liked to keep it as real as possible. Another liked to consider all the different options.
That said, they were all professional and were consistent and dependable–probably two of the most important qualities when working with others in theatre. Sure, there were many rehearsals of varying opinions on what someone should be doing during a particular part, but once it was decided, the actor stuck with it.
And I don’t have a problem with any of the different styles. I concur that we should all grow in every show and try to find the best method possible to bring a script to life. But as well, I also always keep in mind that at the end of the day, it’s just a show. It’s entertainment and a great art; however, people should never take it too seriously and place it over matters that matter more in life.
During rehearsals, there were flubs. I would forget my cigar, my drum, my blanket, my necklace, and those were the only props I had. But after opening, I was able to remember them each time, though I think I forgot my hat once. I also forgot to take OFF my hat a lot. It’s just something one doesn’t think about. If a hat is on a person’s head, it stays there until…well, until bed I guess.
Oh, wait. I did forget to bring my jeans to one rehearsal and it was photo night. I had a black pair, which sort of worked, but I kept an extra pair there henceforth.
I also dropped a lyric during one show. Just totally drew a blank when the time came. Again, fast songs need fast thinking. And sometimes the mind wanders. Sometimes the mind is in left field looking for dandelions when the runner is rounding third. Seems to happen a lot more for photographers. Nature is neat.
My biggest concern was catching the money every night. Yet, all my days of high school football (you know, practicing on the side lines during the games and all) paid off. Not one dropped pass.
We did have a funny moment when the falling handkerchief landed on a cast member’s head instead of on the ground. That was a pretty “hard to not break” moment for several of us. We also had one night where the Act II places call was missed and half the cast was racing on stage in the blackout. Now that’s always amusing (when I’m not one of those people at least).
During the first 110 years ago, the stage was massive, so the dance numbers were as well. I was ensemble then and therefore in a lot of dance numbers–though I rarely volunteer for that much. It was also the first time of the closing night curse, where I would invariably forget something during the final show. This happened for a string of several shows, which was infuriating, but kind of fun.
This time around, the stage was much smaller and quainter, so we needed more intimate dance numbers. At this theatre, once the sets are built, you get to quickly adapt to your new limited surroundings. We also had an incline to dance up and then back down on. Yeah, how about that.
The waltzes were fun and fairly easy to remember. I never dropped my partner either. Not even once.
Since the music allowed for it, we added a tap dance section. The other dancer was quite a seasoned tapper so he did most of the work, whereas I mainly did more acrobatic moves. I didn’t mind. Whatever the show needed. I’m just as happy sitting and watching too. Less to remember that way. I think the audience liked it. A few people from work came and kept asking me to give a demonstration at work. No, that wasn’t going to happen. I’m too accustomed to the safety of a theatre. Maybe it’s the lights. Who knows.
Other Notable Facts
Our cast was very nice, although there wasn’t as much close bonding as in other shows. Mainly, it was due to busy schedules and separated rehearsals. Don’t get me wrong; they’re all very good people. The comradery just wasn’t super strong with all cast members.
I also got to give a curtain speech. I’m sort of addicted to those now. If they offer the chance, I take it. This time I tried out the “This is your captain speaking” version, which I didn’t get to do during “HAIR.” I only had five minutes to prepare my speech, so I know I could come up with a better version next time around.
It was nice to be back in the blistering days of summer once again, and with a different role. While I hate to repeat shows too much, I would do the show once again, but this time only as Starbuck.
However, I also don’t see that opportunity coming anytime soon.
I had a dream last night where things were going most splendidly. (Granted, things go well in real life too, so to be even better was fantastic.) Still, I kept thinking, “This can’t be really happening. I have to be dreaming.” However, being immersed in the dream, I couldn’t reach that top level of cognizance. I even pinched my arm (in my dream) to try and see if it were real. And I felt pain, so I figured it was real. Yay! Of course, a little while later, I woke up and found it was not real. A bit of a letdown.
I like the dreams where I know I’m dreaming and have some, albeit limited, control. But dreamers can’t be choosers.
Next: A new venue? Really?