Aw yeah! It’s the return of Theatre Thursday and against all odds, with the state of the world, I have a professional theatre thing to write about. Introducing Vertigo Theatre’s “The Voice on the Wire“.
(Note: I am following absolutely no style guide rules when it comes to my italicization. Or my citations, really. Look, I get APA’ed out at school, don’t come for me, readability rules!)
Ugh. Really? That’s the title I’m picking for this post? “I’m Back, BAY-BEE”? I mean, I am back, this is a wildly accurate statement, but yikes on bikes! (Yikes on Bikes is also not a great thing for me to write… this is all starting to make me sound like I’m a mom who is not at all cool but thinks they are cool. Sorry, non-existent children.)
On this day, this day just following one of the most reflective and challenging Yin yoga classes I’ve ever taken, and the last day of 2018, indulge me in a little bit of reflection. Let’s talk about how this year has gone by so quickly, as years seem to the older I get, but also how this single year feels like it has taken ten years to pass. Last January feels like eons ago.
(“Two Gentlemen of Verona” Poster Image, as always, lovingly stolen from Theatre Calgary. Their site is always adding more incredible, informative material about their shows, please take the time to explore it.)
First off: I probably should have written about this show a month again. Actually, if I were really good at my job, I would have seen the show early in it’s run and written an actual review to actually encourage my readers to go see it. But long-time readers know that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for ruminating on things for far too long and then vomiting my thoughts about important theatre onto this blog. And today? The #importanttheatre that I’m talking about is #ShakesBow‘s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.
I feel like sometimes when I write about theatre topics (especially some of the more serious ones like fear in theatre or auditioning for shows), the most important thing about why we do theatre doesn’t come across. Creating something is fun. It’s scary and exhausting and hard work, but it’s also fun. I find theatre especially remarkable because it is a collaborative creative experience, when so much creation is very solitary. Recently, someone commented to me they enjoyed doing musicals more than straight plays because they found that the cast bonded better during musicals.
First Theatre Thursday of 2018, ya’ll, and I’m treading onto some probably already well tread ground… fear. And Theatre.
You Mean Stage Fright?
Now, I don’t mean stage fright – I think most peoples’ minds immediately pop to stage fright when they think of acting, but it’s a totally different fear. “Oh my gosh, I could never do that, I’m so afraid to talk in front of groups!” you say. I hear it all the time.
Like a jerk (or like most actors), I’ve never suffered from that fear, though. At my day job, I take literally any opportunity to talk to the class… you need someone to give exam instructions? I’m your girl. And I’ll probably think I’m hilarious while doing it. That being said, I’m not going to pretend that I’m not nervous before I go on stage. Of course I am, even when I feel confident – I want to do a good job and I think when you stop feeling a little bit nervous about a big project, that’s when you stop caring about what you do.
Acting In a Play Isn’t Like Delivering an Exam Spiel Though, Is It?
You’re right, it’s not. I free-style my exam instructions like crazy, when I’m in a play we spent approximately 1-2 hours rehearsing for every minute that takes place on stage. Combine that with a lack of fear of public speaking, and you get nerves, but not fear… because all the big risks happened during rehearsal!
For instance, I’m in a show right now. (When am I ever not in a show, am I right?) Tonight was the first night that I put my script down and delivered my lines completely from memory. My script is my security blanket, I will hold it until the last possible second even if I’m not actually reading from the book in my hand. It’s a real crutch.
So, tonight I put the book down. And it was terrifying. I was anxious all day. Even though there was a support system – our stage manager had the script in front of her and I could say the word “Line” at any time, at which time she would tell me what line I had forgotten – I still didn’t want to do poorly. I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of my well prepared colleagues who didn’t make the mistakes I made.
Obviously, I love to overthink things.
But I took the risk, I swallowed the fear and I did it. And it was fine.
So, What DO You Mean By Fear?
I may have tipped my hand by talking about taking risks in the previous section… but the fear in theatre is wrapped up in the vulnerability actors need to experience to be successful in theatre.
When you see an actor sobbing, screaming or laughing on stage, they truly go somewhere inside themselves that allows them to experience that emotion.
When you see a ridiculous piece of physical humour, the actor had to test out that physicality in rehearsal. They had to try something out, make a big offer and know that maybe this huge thing they were trying wouldn’t work. The thought might have crossed their mind that if it didn’t work, they would be embarrassed – or something deeper – in front of their colleagues.
No wonder actors drink right? J/k, j/k. (Maybe not j/k…)
In a good rehearsal hall, you take the risk. You make the big offer and if it doesn’t work, you make another big offer and keep trying until something works. It doesn’t matter because you know your colleagues are right there with you – you will just all keep working together to make the show amazing.
I’ve been lucky enough to always be in good rehearsal halls.
(As always, poster image stolen directly from the Vertigo website. The volunteer ushers were super engaged last night and warning people about using their cameras in the theatre. And then I knocked my program onto the floor and it was almost gone forever – like, literally, a man almost stole it from the floor until my mom swiftly said “oohhh, thank you so much for picking that up, she knocked it on the floor!” so he stole someone else’s instead – and that was just way too much program-ness.)
Guys, I’m having all the anxiety about not blogging. The problem is, lately I haven’t really been doing anything new and fun. I pretty much exclusively go to Cibo or Earls during Happy Hour if I’m going to read a book and drink wine. I go to barre or yoga classes (I’m actually doing a challenge at Junction 9 right now and it’s taking up a lot of my time). I write a play with my friends. It’s a busy and fun life that I have, but it’s pretty repetitive.
So, I’ll work on changing that up for you, dear readers. And in the mean time? I have a play review!
Last night, I hit up the Opening Night of Vertigo Theatre’s Wait Until Dark. Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I can be a bit bratty when it comes to dealing with bozos, so you can probably guess that I love opening nights. Minimal bozos, just lots of members of the theatre community and theatre enthusiasts! (Also, there is usually food after the show. Last night I got to eat a soft pretzel and a shooter glass of Village Ice Cream’s Salted Caramel ice cream. It was awesome.)
I’ll start by being honest and admitting that I always get I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, Wait Until Dark and Gaslight confused. Which is actually kind of nice, because even though I’ve seen all these plays before, I never remember which plot elements belong to which show and it’s always like seeing a whole new show. Woo hoo! For the record, Wait Until Dark was adapted into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and involves a blind girl and the criminals who try to take advantage of her after luring her husband out of their shared apartment.
I feel like my description of the show is super creepy – and the show is super creepy, in an environment-setting, suspense-building, slow burn kind of way. The play was written fifty years ago but it really does feel like a modern thriller. So, I think I’ve alluded to the fact that this play is produced fairly often and that begs the question – why see this production?
1) This is a new adaptation! So cool! I actually didn’t realize this until I was reading the program last night – because my reading comprehension is good, I guess? And I didn’t notice the words “adapted by” in anything I read earlier? Anyway, Jeffrey Hatcher wrote this adaptation, transferring the era from the 60s to 1944 and adding a few other twists and turns along the way. Pretty cool for any viewers who feel like they aren’t interested in seeing a story they’ve already seen – and the era change absolutely works. Admittedly, I get this plot confused with other plays so I may not be representative of a truly educated viewer, but for myself, at least, I wouldn’t have thought that the show didn’t originally take place in the 40s if I hadn’t read it.
2) This is the most Calgary show that ever Calgaried and it makes me so happy. Simon Mallet did his MFA at U of C right around the time that I did my BFA and he has put together a team of Calgary-based talent – people I know and love, including one of my former campers from the Pumphouse DDC in her professional theatre debut! I’m just so proud of this entire team and it warms my heart. (Yes, I’m even proud of the people I only know because I’ve seen them in lots of shows. Shut up. I feel like I know them. It counts.)
… I’m sorry I told you to shut up.
3) Anna Cummer is so wonderful as Susan. She really has to carry the show and she’s so sassy and spunky and wonderful. I spent the entire show rooting for her and knowing she could put it together and save herself… even when she wasn’t quite there yet. I can see how there might be a tendency to play this role as overly weak or tragic but it doesn’t go there at all. She is such a wonderful heroine.
It’s a strong showing from Vertigo Theatre. The show runs until February 19th and tickets can be purchased by visiting their website or calling (403) 221 3708. Do it, yo!
(Note: This image comes directly from the Theatre Calgary website, as a girl can only take so many pictures in the semi-darkness of her wine and program in her theatre box before it gets weird and her readers get tired of looking at it.)
Much like Theatre Calgary’s first offering of the season, BOOM crazy surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I did a little reading on the TC website, as well as a little exploration of Rick Miller’s Official Boom website prior to seeing the show and I just felt like I couldn’t get a grasp on the show. The description made me think of a theme park variety show and, to my mind, did not do it justice.
Of course, I was wrong. Why do I even try to read about shows beforehand? The reason I love theatre is because it hits you in a visceral way, touching something inside you, that is hard to put into words so why do I expect copy written for a website to communicate that?
BOOM is a tapestry, not a variety show. It is a mixture of the sweeping world history between 1945 to 1969 and the personal stories of important baby boomers in the playwright/actor’s life. It is a collection of music, stories, imitations, news clips, advertisements, cultural touchstones. I personally don’t truly have a baby boomer in my life – my mom was born in 1961 so she didn’t remember any of the events referenced in the show, but my grandparents were already well grownup and established by 1945 – but I do love history and I was able to give myself over to the three characters that were growing up over the twenty years the show covers.
I don’t know that I can truly put into words what seeing BOOM is like any better than the Theatre Calgary website can – the show is running until October 29th, though, and tickets are available on at Theatre Calgary. I highly recommend seeing this one for yourself, I can guarantee it is like no other show you’ll see at Theatre Calgary this year. When picking your seats, I would pick ones in the centre section of the theatre (even in balconies) rather than any of the side boxes – though I loved being away from the riff-raff, I felt like I missed the full experience of some of BOOM’s projections from my angle.
Disclaimer: I know it sounds like I love every show I see. This is not the case… I just prefer to write about the shows that I love so that I can get other people to see them which thus gives me someone to talk to about them. I’m really terrifically selfish in that way.
Today, I really feel like a super grown-up. My house was built in 1990, which is not old at all though it is older than my roommate for the summer, but the fixtures in the bathroom are original and the water is super hard in Calgary. So there’s a lot of calcium build up in the tub. So as I type this blog post up, I’m doing a CLR soak in the tub, on the shower head and on the faucet. Not a thrilling thing at all, but apparently I am one of those annoying people who wants backpats any time I do anything remotely grownup. (But, guys? CLR works SO WELL. Like, so well. Like my stuff almost looks brand new. I’m impressed.)
Anyway, while my really thrilling cleaning progresses upstairs, it’s time to dash out another Theatre Thursday post on another incredibly common question – “Well, how do you even get into plays?” This question, I think, is usually followed either secretly or actually outloud by “Because I think I would like to do plays!” The follow up comment is super easy to respond to – yes, you would like to do plays, they are real fun and we always want more people involved – so we’ll focus on the original question.
Auditions Generally speaking, you get cast in plays by auditioning for them. Think of an audition as a job interview – you have to make the people in charge of making the decisions (usually the director, sometimes there is a producer or artistic director of a theatre company involved) want to work with you and show them that you can do what they need. Yes, even big stars have to audition to prove that they are the right person for a role… especially if they want to play something that is outside of their usual types of roles.
Auditions are all about making a good impression and standing out. There is an old, possibly apocryphal, story that floats around the theatre community about a young, unknown Barbra Streisand coming in for an audition while chewing a huge wad of gum. As the story goes, she came into the studio, stuck the gum under her chair and proceeded to nail the song… and when the director got up to remove the gum from the chair, there was no gum there. It was acting all along!
What Happens at Auditions? Auditions fall into two basic types – a general audition and a show specific audition.
Theatre companies may choose to hold what they call “general” auditions which allows actors to audition for an entire season’s worth of shows at one time. General auditions usually take place in the spring, just after a company has released their upcoming season, and are attended by a company’s Artistic Director so they may make recommendations to the individual directors of each show moving forward. Sometimes an actor might be cast directly from a general but most often, they will be asked to come to a second audition (a “callback”) for a specific show and character. At a general audition, an actor wants to show off both their best work and a range of emotions – they may do two contrasting monologues, a monologue and a song or just one killer monologue depending on what the company requests. This is often how professional companies run their auditions.
Individual directors may also choose to hold independent auditions for their specific show – many indie/community theatre companies exclusively work with this model of auditions since their directors are like contractors who are not directly affiliated with the company. Show specific auditions can take a range of different forms.
The director may ask the actors to prepare a monologue or two, just like for a general audition, though they may request that the monologues reflect the feeling of the show. Actors also may choose their monologues very specifically to reflect a specific character and subconsciously – or very consciously – put themselves in the director’s mind for that role.
Alternatively, a director might ask their actors to prepare short scenes from the actual show, known as “sides”, so they can actually see them in the world of the play. The actor may be given the sides ahead of time, or they may be handed the side in the audition in what is known as a “cold read”. The actor may read a scene with the director/stage manager/someone behind the audition table or they may read the scene with another actor who is onstage with them and also auditioning for the play. They may just read the scene once or the director may give them something else to keep in mind when reading the scene again or they may even read the same scene a bunch of different times with a bunch of different actors reading opposite them.
An audition may even look like a combo of all of the above, where an actor does an initial audition with a monologue and then comes back for a callback to read sides for the character(s) that the director saw them as after the first audition!
My CLR needs to be rinsed off and I realize that I could talk about auditions for pages and pages so I think I will leave it there for today… And save more rambles for more Theatre Thursdays.