Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I need a t-shirt that says I survived...

...the opening weekend of Guys and Dolls!  My double and I switched Friday and Saturday evenings, so I got to do both shows on Saturday. My choreography wasn't perfect, but it was close,  the best I've ever done it.  

Perhaps because this has been so much of a challenge that I've managed to conquer, this is shaping up to be one of my favorite roles, even though I have no real lines. The other Hot Boxers are a joy to work with, and I'm really having fun with this!  That feeling of triumph when I come off stage after having held my own during the dance numbers is quite nice!

Thought I'd share a few photos. The first two are courtesy my friend Michael Durington, who plays an amazing Benny Southstreet in this production. The third was taken by Hannah with my phone. (Have you noticed that the quality of phone camera pics gets steadily worse and worse the longer you have your phone?)

Me and Rachel Hunt, the two oldest Hot Boxers (she's older than me!). She, however, owns a dance studio, so can really shake it like she means it!

Rehearsing Bushel and a Peck. The original script calls us Farmerettes. Our version calls us Chickies. Thank goodness we're not called Peckers :)

The Hot Box Chickies, Friday PM and Saturday Matinee cast.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moxiepants activate!

I love doing multiple shows with the same actors, because I have the opportunity to build a rapport with some really wonderful people. I'm amazed by how many theatre folks tend to be on the shy side. It seems counter-intuitive, I know. After the second or third show, you get to see some of the humor and silliness that lurks in these quieter actors. I love that!

I also love being able to work with new people.  By and large, theatre folks are just wonderfully kind, caring, humble people, and one can never have too many of those around.  There are about a dozen actors in Guys and Dolls with whom I've never before worked or shared the stage, so it's been very cool to rehearse with these folks, and I look forward to back stage time with most of them.  Two in particular stand out in my mind, though, for different reasons.

One seems to be disparaged by many other cast members, but I've found this person to be encouraging and helpful. Yes, sometimes a little annoying, but not overly so.

Another is beloved by most other cast members, but I've found this person to be... well... kind of a poop.  At last night's rehearsal, my respect for this person dropped significantly.

Regardless, I'm very excited for opening weekend!  My double is graduating on Saturday, so we switched Friday and Saturday nights, so I'm not playing opening night. But I'm okay with that.

Today is our last audience-less rehearsal, and my stress about stealing focus or losing my balance officially gets kicked to the curb. I've mastered enough of the choreography to not look totally inept, so today I embrace a dorky, saucy and sassy Hot Box Girl.

Moxiepants activate! (*grin*)

Monday, May 07, 2012

I think it's Emma's fault

Not sure what exactly sparked this epiphany. Perhaps it was my use in Real Life a hand movement I created for the character of Yente.  She didn't use a cane, but needed another identifiable 'tick' that the girls could mimic in 'Matchmaker.'

Fact: I honestly had no trouble with the choreography at Dolls callbacks in March.
Fact: I can't nail the choreography for my life now, in May, and it's SO frustrating!!
Question: What happened in the intervening weeks?
Answer: Emma.

At the time of my auditions, Fiddler had been over for more than a week, and The Happiest Millionaire had rehearsed just twice. There had not yet been any character development. I'd not even really begun to find Emma, to figure out how she fit into the family, what character traits she needed in order to stay reasonably sane in the Biddle household dealing with prize fighters and alligators and teenagers on a daily basis.  So it was ME at auditions, with minuscule blips of Yente.

Weeks later, after I'd gotten a good handle on Emma, I remember telling Taffy, our director, that it took me a long time after each rehearsal to unwind from being Emma. She's very high-strung, quite excitable, and even more dorky than I am.  I'm single cast, so now Emma MUST be 'on' for nearly half of my week. I don't truly unwind from weekend to weekend.

Dolls rehearsals are also held in the theatre, on the Millionaire set. On that stage, essentially in the Biddle living room, Emma leaks profusely into my Hot Box Girl (minus the British accent). So my Hot Box Girl has been high-strung, excitable, and even more dorky than I am.

Characters leak. Tragic example: Heath Ledger, very talented actor, couldn't shake the Joker, and died likely as an indirect result. He was filming Dr. Parnassus at the time, months after The Dark Knight had wrapped, but the Joker hung on.

I'm still practicing choreography relentlessly, but will also take time to figure out who my Hot Box Girl is inside, what character traits she needs to be a burlesque dancer in 1949 NYC, friends with Miss Adelaide.

Let's hope some combination of these tactics provides some graceful results...

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Old dog, new tricks

True story: I was 15 years old when I tried out for Raiderettes, the dance squad that performed at football halftime shows and pep rallies. I was 5'6" of long flailing limbs, but I wanted so much to be that dancer, to have that graceful control over my body. I lacked any sort of refined gross motor skills, so not surprisingly, I didn't make the team. I was disappointed, but focused my attention on other things where I wouldn't make a fool of myself. Like art, newspaper, and drama.

Over the next 20+ years, that lack of refined gross motor skills never posed any sort of hurdle for me. I could  keep a beat and dance when out with friends, I could gradually move away from the very back of the class in step or zumba classes. In the real world, most adults don't need the grace and coordination of a dancer.

Unless they want to do musical theatre.

When they discover that their brains are even less capable now of piloting those long flailing limbs than they were at age 15.

Which is utterly ridiculous and unfair, when I think about it. When I was 15, I'd had only two or three years' experience being 5'6". It makes sense that I might not have mastered the skills needed for finer movement. I did grow another two inches some time over the next 15 years, but for heaven sake, I've been this tall for a long time, stayed fit and mostly trim, and I can do the electric slide and the macarena!

But rather than time-earned mastery of physical movement, I honestly feel like I have some sort of learning disability. Equating dance steps to spoken words, I can get the little words, like 'and' and 'go' and 'the', and with practice, words like 'bank', 'truck', and perhaps even 'recliner.' But as much as I desperately want it to, my brain just cannot form sentences with them because when they occur a bunch at a time, they make no sense to me: Go the and truck recliner to the and bank bank go the recliner bank refrigerato-shoot and the the cat tree go the the. I get the 'words' switched around or stumble over them completely.  And the more I stumble, the more flustered I get.

Last night I decided that I'm a Hot Box Girl because my daddy owns the club.  But even if a cutesy dork dancer is funny and would garner laughs, Adelaide is the focus of the Hot Box numbers. And I feel that drawing attention away from her is a disservice to both that actress and the authors of the show.

So today I'm going to see if I can't use that dance-step vs. word correlation analogy to find words that will assemble into meaningful sentences. At the very least, I want to get the words in the right order. The occasional 'trunk' in place of 'truck' is a little easier to cover than 'go' in place of 'refrigerator.'

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Snagged an Ethel, and other stuff

Yay! This almost makes up for missing out on Adelaide!  I found out last night that I get to be one of the Ethel McCormacks (Ren's mom) in Plaza's summer production of Footloose! My Sunshine (and possibly my Norseman) will be in the ensemble, so we'll actually get to share the stage for the first time! I'm very excited! This is also the first production where I'll get to sing almost-solo. Wooty woot woot!

Through the Footloose audition process, I discovered something interesting. Give me a woman with an accent and a history far removed from me--I got it, no problem. Give me a woman who is essentially ME, and I'm a wreck.  It surprised me how frazzled I was. Even at callbacks, which have been, heretofore, my stronger performance, I was a shaky mess. But it was SO worth it!

In other theatre news, The Happiest Millionaire is going really REALLY well! It's been selling out, which I think is surprising everyone. Sunshine is a fabulous dresser (helps with quick costume changes), and Norseman wrangles the alligator. We got a very nice review from The Column, which gave rare praise for a strong ensemble. Emma is such a small part, comparatively, but I get wonderful comments from patrons.  The best so far: "Great job! You should have had a bigger role."  Also signed an autograph this past weekend. I am so blessed to be involved with this show. I love love love this cast. Eight more shows over the next two weekends, and then it's on to...

Guys and Dolls. Wow. This one has been a blow to my poise-related self esteem. I'm a huge dork; I know; I don't deny it. But the effort involved with making these dork limbs behave in a way that resembles the choreographed dance is... pathetic. My very patient castmates are, at this point, rolling their eyes and (rightly) thinking to themselves (and undoubtedly whispering to each other), "Good Lord, how has she managed to get this far with so little coordination?" And I know they're afraid I won't get it in time for opening night. But I will. The process is a little rough and unrefined, though. Practice, practice, practice. I'll get it, and I'll be better for it. Forging new synapses in my brain that will hopefully stick around until the next time I have to dance in a prescribed routine.

And I'm doing all this as an essentially single mom. D has moved to Oklahoma to take over an old friend's plumbing company--a terrific opportunity for him, too good to pass up. The kids and I are staying here. Norseman has a year left of high school, and Sunshine at this point has no desire whatsoever to move to Oklahoma.  We get together as a family every other weekend, and it's working quite well.

Probably ought to go wash the car. It's currently sporting two states worth of bird poo and bug guts...