How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Time: July 28, 2016
Place: Las Positas College
Director: Ken Ross
My Reflections

Great cast. Great crew. Great show.

But one I should not have done.

It was just another production where there weren’t many ways for me to contribute in doing ensemble. Sometimes it’s rewarding if the vocal parts need support or even the dances, but in this case, the ensemble was already very strong, so my presence wasn’t as much a factor. This isn’t humility; it’s just how the situation was.

So why did I do it?

Well, I only auditioned for the lead role. Often, it’s hard to know in advance how casting will go. The past few years have suggested the roles and shows as LPC are primarily for the younger students. And this is okay. Their time there is short (well, ideally) and if a student is desiring to enhance his or her theatrical skills, then landing strong roles is important. On the flip side, the taxpayers do pay for a great deal of the community college’s overhead, so sometimes Joe (or James) Taxpayer is hoping to perform there as well. Fair enough also.

For this production, it was open to all, and I was called back. But so were six other strong candidates for the lead. Everyone was solid, but in the end, it went to another actor, a quite talented one I worked with a year prior. I was offered the choice of some smaller bit roles, but I too felt that they should go to students wanting experience. I declined the offer to do ensemble as another audition was coming up soon…“Ragtime.”

With “Ragtime,” I did the audition and callback. I had only written down a few choice roles. The casting day came and went. I heard nothing until the night before rehearsals actually started. The director called and offered “Harry Houdini.” Oh, I see. I had already played the role years before. It’s not a bad role, but again, been there, done that. The director was a savvy lady though and said all the right things. She knew how to play the game. It was tempting. Though still, when you’re in the game long enough, you know that if a whole week of casting goes by without a call, then it’s safe to say others were offered the same role first. Just how it goes. It’s rarely personal.

But no, I really just couldn’t do the drive and time for the same role. I passed on that and emailed the director of H2$ and accepted ensemble. Might be fun.

I knew that the cast was mostly students, but there was another lady I worked with before who was cast, so that helped. There’s of course nothing wrong with all post-high school students. It’s just that I have not been one for many years, so there’s quite a gap there. I no longer go and put soap into city fountains (Not that anyone there did, but many years ago … well, I didn’t go along that night. I’ll leave it at that.)

During first read, the lady I knew wasn’t there. She decided not to do the show. Argh! That wasn’t fun to discover. I continued though, but did have a strong desire to exit, theatre left.

The next few weeks were spent with music, dance, and blocking. The talent was impressive with many students covering the adult characters with ease and style. Some may have promising acting careers ahead.

One thing I did agree to do was become the dramaturge for the show. This meant a good deal of background research, which included buying and reading the book the show was based upon. It was fun to read and gave insight into the foundation behind the stories and jokes. I then got to prepare a presentation which went well, and certainly made me miss teaching. It was hard to return to the daily tech job after that night.

Soon, we moved outside (the show was in the amphitheater) and experienced both hot nights and cold nights of rehearsing. We were also trapped behind the set, which mattered more this summer since I was back there for most of the night. And it was quite crowded.

The set itself was impressive with two turntables (and many microphones) which served well to keep set change times low.

Since we had a lead get a minor foot injury, the director opted to have the leads understudied just in case. This had never been the routine at the college for the most part. I guess if a principal couldn’t perform then the show didn’t go on. But it seemed wise to do in this now. I got offered the lead role for understudy, which was great, though it was only two nights until opening. It would have been script-in-hand for sure at that point. Happily, all leads were healthy for the full run — one weekend.

Yeah, one weekend was the run again this summer. For “Forum,” it seemed too short (for me at least), but for “H2$,” well, that was fine with me. Again, it just wasn’t an experience that was a good fit for me.

I did like all the people involved though. Everyone was doing his or her best to put on a fine show, and it was a good production. Of course, with such a large cast, it was easy to see a bit of drama occurring in different sects of cast members. Theatre can just be like that at times. There’s a lot of competition and sometimes frustration when others are chosen first. It takes time and effort to learn how to handle those types of feelings. Most end up adapting. For others, it’s unfortunate.

In the end, I was happy to fulfill my commitment to the production. Certainly, I would have been fine if I had opted out during the first week. That would have been the most prudent time to say, “Thanks, but this just isn’t a good match for me this time around.” After that, well, it’s a bit rude to drop once the dances and scenes are blocked with me in them.

The summer passed and we closed on July 31. I hadn’t intended to stay for the whole strike since I was flying to Europe the next day, but while I often don’t intend to stay, I always do since I don’t like leaving the rest of the group shorthanded. It took quite some time, but the set was taken down and the equipment returned to its resting place.

I then bid farewell to all and headed home to rest.

Next: Each of us has two natures …