Sunday, January 24, 2010

Confessions of an Amateur Stage Actor

"So, what'd it get ya?"
"Meh, another' three months"

If you have no idea where that's from, don't be surprised. most people wouldn't.

It's lines from two characters in the Disney movie "Newsies". When the main character, Jack Kelly, is in jail one of his friends, Crutchy, who's in jail with him, steals some food from the warden and he knows he's going to get extra time in jail for it. So what does this have to do with being an amateur actor? Good question. Let's dive into the twisted area that is my mind, shall we?

This is a long story so skip to the moral of the story part (or whatever you want to call it) so see the "confessions part.

Last school year, I went to go see Loveland High School's annual musical play. It was called "Urinetown". It was a hilarious show, and at the end of the show my friend, Caleb, and I looked over at each other and said, "That's going to be us next year, ok?"

So this year rolled around and come September I look on the school's theater wall and said that they were having auditions for the musical. Weird thing is that the school doesn't normally do the musical until March or something like that, but whatever. The show was to be "Moby Dick! The Musical!"

So Caleb and I set about memorizing a song and a monologue for auditions. The day of auditions came and Caleb and I made callbacks, then we managed to make it through callbacks and got parts. Caleb was a fire-and-brimstone pastor and a whaler, and I ended up being a crazy one-armed prophet for the first act and a whaler for the second act of the show. Woo hoo!

For three months straight I'd stay after school and learn vocals and blocking for Moby Dick. Along the way I got to know people in the cast. The show had a cast of only 16 people, and, and as you can guess, we got pretty close. We did great every night even if we had some hiccups along the way. but it was one of the most fun things I've ever done.

While Moby Dick was going on another show was doing auditions. It was the LHS student directed show. This year it was going to be a stage adaptation of, "NEWSIES!" SO Moby Dick finished and suddenly all the endorphins from the shows we did and just the fun that our cast had together were gone. It was a sad week. Luckily, Newsies was starting just that next week. Ironically enough, I'd gotten the role of Crutchy.

I'd just gotten myself "another three months". We started rehearsing every day. We did blocking, we learned a lot of dances for songs and did vocals. The whole time we worked on the play we were told we would have the school's auditorium to perform and put our set on. However, two weeks before our play was to be performed we were basically shoved out by another play which was to perform a week after ours who's set was set up before we could even get to the stage and couldn't be moved. So it was do or die time for Newsies.

But we weren't going to just take what the gave us. We started looking for another venue for our show and luckily LHS's excellent drama teacher, "Coach" Caikowski (I think I just butchered that name) managed to get us the stage of one of the local middle schools. So a week before our show we built our entire set and got it on the stage. We ran all the way through the show twice, and then we did a revue at our director's church for free publicity. Our first show was Friday the 22nd of January. And it went as well as any opening night can. That night we had a cast party at a restaurant that one of our cast member's family owns and we had a blast there until 0'dark-thirty. The next day we had a 2pm matinee that was "meh", and then our last show at 7pm that night.

For the last show, we let out all the stops and had plain old fun. It was by far out best performance and we just came together as a cast that night. We had something to prove and a story to tell. We gave everything we had to tell the story of the struggles of the newsboys in 1899, and our own cast. The young newsies in 1899 had the last of the money basically pulled out of their pockets. We'd never been able to practice at the school and at almost the last minute we'd had the stage pulled out from under our feet. Neither of us just sat and too what we were given though. The newsies could have just bought a few less papes and tried to scrape by. We could have just said "screw it, we don't have a stage, we can't do the show" and let all of our work come to nothing. But we didn't. Both of our stories turned into a "fight 'till damn doomsday" to get what we deserved.

Wow. What an experience it was. This year's little intro into acting has taught me a lot. So here's that "moral of the story" part of the blog I was talking about.

1. "There's no people, like show people". I always had the kids that did theater tagged as the crazy people who sat around and wrote plays in their spare time... or something like that. Little did I know, that theater people come from everywhere. While, yes, a lot of the people had been in shows before I got into them, a lot of people (especially in Moby Dick) just came out of the woodwork. Me and Caleb being the least of them. We all became "show people". It was so much fun having all these inside jokes and starting to know all the secrets of the theater (if there are such things, I dunno).

2. You become friends with everybody after spending 2 hours every day with them for 3 months. Seriously, when you spend that much time with somebody, the idea of social class (as in the high school social system) goes away, age goes away, intelligence level goes away. When you have a good cast it turns into more than just a cast, it becomes a family (albeit an extremely dysfunctional one from time to time). The directors quickly turn into parents and it usually ends up with everybody else being a bunch of brothers and sisters. The seniors start to be the older brothers and sisters and just take the younger kids (mainly the freshmen) and watch out for them, but it's fun to see everybody turn into a huge family and have fun doing what they love.

3. I do plays for the same reason I do airsoft. Adrenaline. The lights go down for the show to start and you instantly have this chill run down your spine that just tells you, "LET'S ROLL!" I told my dad that during tech week I live for that hour and a half of sheer terror and fun. When you play airsoft you wait for the "GO" call and your veins (wait, shouldn't it be arteries? Or maybe neuromuscular junctions? Whatever...) flood with adrenaline and the only thing you can think of is playing the game. It's the same way with a show. You're terrified of screwing up your lines or a dance or a song or whatever, but you just start going and sometimes things work, sometimes they don't. But it's just so much fun to feel that feeling like "Holy crap! What's next? What in the world is going on around me?!?!" Oh, I love it. I love it, I love it, I love it.

4. Prayer works. Every night before a show we all would come together as a cast and do vocal warm-ups, do a game to get our energy up, and pray. We'd gather around in a circle and just pray to our heavenly father that everything would go alright and that we wouldn't have any injuries or anything that that we'd be able to give a show that would make our audience happy. And every night, nobody got hurt, I felt like we were able to make people happy, and we didn't have too many things go awry on us. Just another little thing to show us that He's watching out for us.

5. Closing night is always the best. For both Moby Dick and Newsies, our last night was amazing! My guess is that the cast realizes that this is the last chance to ever perform the show and we want to go out with a bang. Every closing night we let loose everything we have left. I guess that's all on that.

6. Real men wear suspenders. Nuff said.

7. Everything's funny at 2:30 in the morning. Cast parties are crazy.

I wonder if I'll ever "get another 3 months"? Who knows?

Until next time folks, Crutchy out