"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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stiteses In The Swamp, Part 3: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

That was my mantra for this show. From being asked to participate as an actor/singer/dancer on top of stage managing to losing our tech director to heart troubles during tech week, from watching the list of costumes grow to seeing the size of our set pieces. At every turn, there seemed to be another.....challenge. And go wrong things did. But that's live theatre, ya know? That's what makes this fun and challenging and interesting and worthwhile. The show was great. The audience loved it, every night. The cast had a ball. The crew had fun. All the newbies want to do it again. The actors new to BLT are anxious to be or already are back involved in other shows with us. The whole sha-bang is something for everyone involved to be very proud of. But holy cow was it a wild ride!

I'll be the first to admit I bit off more than I could chew. I said it before in my blog about Lisa and I'll say it again---without her I'd have not survived this with my sanity intact, and the show would not have been nearly as good. She was a port in the storm, and not just for me either. Director Cal pulled her right into his circle and kept her close during rehearsals and after. She was a Godsend. But there were things she couldn't help with. Like the singing and dancing.

I'm not sure I can express this correctly, so I'll start with the simplest statement: I had no idea how HARD performing musical theatre was. I don't want to give the impression I thought it was easy by any means. It was just one of those things I knew I'd never do so I was just content to really admire those I saw doing it and that was that. Until I tried to learn to sing and dance at the same time. It doesn't help that I have no experience or talent in either one. But even so, I was completely blown away by how difficult it is to make one's brain do two things at once. It requires concentration like I've not needed in I don't know how long. I just don't challenge myself that way, which is sad, I guess.

The concentration thing got me. I could "get it" if I was thinking about what I was doing and only what I was doing. My friend Adrian told me in the very beginning that would be the case, at least it was for him. It was what he enjoyed about the exercise; it was a way for him to force himself not to think about his law practice. Everything he said turned out to be true. It was an escape. Rehearsals were so far from what turned out to be a really stressful summer at work that I grew to really look forward to them. Work troubles completely faded away while I tried to remember which foot was supposed to be stepping forward first. It was great.

My problem, and the reason I think I bit off too much, was that I couldn't do the same thing with show concerns. I couldn't force them from my mind during rehearsals....or shows. I guess it's because the two were too close. It's easy to forget routing of a delivery truck when you're in a kick line, but less so to not wonder if the kid a few people down will return to rehearsals in time to learn the choreography. I was too involved in things outside of performance to get the full enjoyment out of singing and dancing away. Cal called me his producer, which I don't like as it connotes some financial oversight, and I neither had nor wanted any of that. But he did include me in about all the decisions during production, from casting to staging to sets and costumes and tech. I love all that stuff, but I wish now I'd have either done that or performed, not both.

I'm sure there are those who could do it all, but I kept getting "Squirrel-ed!!". Even during shows. I remember during our closing number one night, a really fun combo of a bunch of 60s dances, I turned around (as we were supposed to) and happened to see a backdrop that had been giving us trouble and thinking to myself "Hmmmm, now why is that thing getting caught on the way down?". Then totally forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. That happened a lot. I'd be bopping along all fine and dandy then my stupid brain would step in and wonder why the costume chick was walking by ranting just before we went on stage. Or try to look to see if the stagehands needed for the next set change were at the ready (one tended to wander off). Or try to count heads in the audience and do some math to see if ticket sales would pay for this extravaganza. I just could not FOCUS sometimes.

Now, sometimes I could and did and those were the most fun parts of the show for me. When I could just play my little part and know I was doing it right and that it fit in with everyone else and together we were making magic for the audience, that was magic for ME. I just wish, both for my sake and the show's, that I could have done that all the time.

But all in all, Shrek was my favorite theatre experience so far. Having my family so deeply involved in production, having them as fellow parts of a wonderful creative team, made this one truly special. And as exhausted as I felt, and kind of still feel, with the show over, I'm jumping in again. Already. Cal has a plan and I'm back riding shotgun and bringing the family along.

Stay tuned :-)

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