"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dickens Diary 4....Being Uriah Heep

It's getting close to Dickens Festival time, just two days I guess, and I'm finding myself nervous. I'm not worried about anything to do with the Fezziwig's Ball part, though it's much more important to many more people. We had another vocal rehearsal Sunday and I left more confused than I arrived, but that doesn't bother me. These are a very talented group of people and it'll come together and sound good once we get there and moving along. For my part, I feel fine singing along with the group now and there are plenty of people there who DO know what they are doing so I don't feel any personal pressure. The dance part will be great, I'm certain. This isn't a recital, either vocal or dance, it's an attempt to portray a workplace Christmas party in Victorian times. We aren't supposed to look like professional dancers or even Victorian-era socialites who dance every weekend.  We are Mr. Fezziwig's employees and employees' families. We are bookkeepers and salesman and stay at home moms and bratty little kids. We are people who may at most do this kind of dance maybe once a year, at Old Man Fezziwig's party. We are out for the night having fun with our friends and blowing off a little steam. We've all probably had a little too much punch, even the kids. So if we miss steps or turn the wrong way in the dance, it isn't a bad thing, it's part of the show. The songs are more important to get right because they are going to lead to a judgement of Brunswick Little Theatre in the eyes of many visitors (oops, "dance guests"), but I'm not worried. We'll sound fine. And our last song is Oom Pah Pah (watch a video here so you can learn the chorus before you come, it's easy) and will certainly be a crowd pleaser and have everyone leaving singing. I am sure of that one. The logistics of putting this thing together have been frustrating and the rules of the game have been annoyingly fluid, but it's nothing we can't deal with and have a show that works and everyone enjoys. No worries from me about Fezziwig's Ball.

Uriah from the movie I watched. Yep, cheated :)
Love this guy's expression. I need to practice a good sneer
I am finding myself getting very nervous about portraying Uriah Heep as a wandering character actor. I've said I love a costume and they tend to lend me confidence; I've said it'll be like a murder mystery party; I've said I'm anxious to open new doors and try my hand at something new. All these things are true, but they only go so far towards allaying my fear of leaving my comfort zone. They call it a comfort zone for a reason; outside of it may be rewarding in the end, but it's by definition uncomfortable getting there. From what I understand the other actors are actually practicing actors, even if amateur. The guy playing  Marley's ghost turned in a performance as Uncle Henry in Wizard of Oz last summer that was simply fabulous. Even the children will largely have done this sort of thing before, I think. I get that this isn't a contest, but I don't want to embarrass myself in comparison to these other people.

I won't have nearly as much red hair as this Uriah, if I go that route :)
I don't know how you learn how to act. I know there are acting classes, and lots of them, but I haven't a clue what might go on there. I'm thinking it's pretty much pretending to be someone else well enough that what's in your own imagination transfers to the audience. Costuming is a tool to help with that, and I guess a really important one for the amateur like me. I'm fortunate to have a really good looking outfit, complete with top hat (I love hats). I just bought black shoes and socks today, so I think I'm complete. I learned how to tie the neck cloth correctly, too. It's funny, but this costume has been torturing me. I'm having a hard time knowing it's in the closet and not wearing it around. I'm weird that way, but rest assured since I got the shoes and the whole ensemble is together now, I'll be putting it on tonight. I am seriously thinking I'm going to try to dye my hair red as well. Uriah has red hair as a sort of trademark. I don't have the complexion for red hair, too dark, but Uriah is supposed to be ugly, so maybe that will work in my favor. I'm also going to sport a fine set of mutton chops. I've been growing a beard for a month now and it's satisfyingly thick, so I'm thinking the chops will be a nice addition. Funny thing, today, after a month, was only the second time a person (other than Lisa) mentioned my new beard to me. I wasn't expecting compliments, I don't get those on my looks, but I was sort of expecting at least some ribbing about it from friends and co-workers. Nuthin'. Odd, that.

I think that this being Victorian England, I should have some sort of accent. The problem with that is I fear an accent done horribly bad may be worse than none at all. On the other hand, Dick Van Dyke's in Mary Poppins is hilariously bad and it works just fine. This is one area where my inexperience will show. I think "doing" accents just takes practice. I've been listening to podcasts of the BBC RadioOne morning show and hoping that an accent will sort of accrue to me through some sort of audio osmosis. Hey, stranger things have happened. Worst comes to worst, I just drop all my H's :)

It would help to pretend believably to be someone else if you understand who that person is. There's a term for trying to "be" another person when you act, but I don't remember it. This will be an exercise in improvisation, I'm thinking, more than anything else. The "script" I have isn't so much lines to memorize as a rough outline of what makes Uriah tick written in the first person. I think I understand Uriah. He's a caricature, which makes things easier. Uriah, to me, is the Victorian equivalent of the Occupy Wall Street crowd in modern times. He had a rough time growing up and so he feels perfectly entitled to the fruits of other people's labor. He doesn't see what he does by way of embezzling or blackmail as morally wrong because he is simply taking what should be his in what he deems "fairness." His chosen weapon to help steal his way to what is his rightful station is insincere humility backed by extreme nastiness when he is confronted. He is created to be over the top with his humility and over the top with his venom when backed into a corner. He hates those better off than himself and really resents David Copperfield for becoming what he wishes to be and doing it within the rules of society and morality. I don't think you can over-act either his insincerity or his hate, which makes things easy on me. I'm not ready to act subtlety. Hell, I can't handle that  in real life.

So wish me luck in this new adventure. Give me the benefit of the doubt and a little extra help from your own imagination if you run across me this weekend. I'm hoping last night was the last anxiety dream I have about this, but I'm not counting on it ;)

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