Tuesday, 1 February 2011

the magic of live theatre

we use the phrase "the magic of live theatre" often to explain those odd, unexpected moments we have on stage sometimes. today, however, was not an odd, unexpected moment; it was an odd, unexpected show.

with Theatre Three's touring company, we go from school to school offering shows about bullying, safe driving, and the Holocaust. today we went to Southold Jr/Sr High School to do our bullying show, CLASS DISMISSED: THE BULLYING PROJECT, in which i play a bevy of characters: tom's dad, victor's dad, mr marivell (english teacher), game show host, sports announcer, referee, mr wheelwright (bus driver), 3 reporters, tv safari guide, mr bytwiller (computer teacher), a neutral character, and a cartoon character. it's somewhat exhausting sometimes, but well worth it because (1) i'm acting and (2) the kids respond to our show.

today, however, things were a bit different. a while ago, when we had a massive rainstorm and there was some flooding, we made a contingency plan in case one of our members (a woman who, like me, plays 12 or 13 roles in the show) couldn't get to the show. today we had to remember what that plan was and use it because, for one reason or another, she couldn't get to the show. luckily, no one panicked (at least to my knowledge), and we were able to perform the show to the best of our ability, the stage manager reading some sections from the sound console, some sections being turned into one-sided phone conversations, and some parts (gulp) being covered by yours truly. and besides my being called MRS lamb once, it all went rather smoothly.

by the end of it my stomach was in a complete knot. trying to remember to do my own things while trying to search my mind to see if i remembered someone else's was complicated. i had segments of script for the one character i had to cover, the guidance counselor MR lamb (who i played as a very mild-mannered, somewhat absent-minded social worker), hidden neatly in a folder, and i had the principal's speech on a clipboard which mr marivell read. (i thought it worked rather well, actually; he was a little nervous to be addressing his co-workers, but he got through it fine and made his point: "see it, say it, stop it.") mr lamb also got to sing the solo at the end; the portrayor of MRS lamb has a wonderful alto voice with a very real quality, while this MR lamb had a trained high tenor. so i sang it in her octave and it came out very... gospel-y. (by the way, for those familiar with the show, the kids fidgeted when i sang it, too, so it's not the actor's fault. just the way the show is.) at the end, when we hold hands and sing the final chorus of "get a voice" out to the audience, the girl next to me squeezed my hand a few times, equal to a pat on the back, i believe. i needed it; the whole show was a blur, and it was nice to know what i did worked. the train was running and there was no way to turn back. one kid after the show, during the Q&A, asked how many roles i played. i laughed and had to explain the situation, but all in all we combined 25 roles (and i mean "we," including the help of our stage manager) into one person.

the thing is, one person can't do it unless the others around them are ready to support. (thanks, guys!) and in this case, i provided all the supporting characters for the lead actors. i don't want to have to do it again (although now i know what i'm doing if it does happen again), but i'm glad to have had the experience, to be able to say i did it, and that it all went as smoothly as possible. and i can't help but think that great director in the sky has something to do with it.

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