Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Space Between the Bars

Today was without a doubt the single coldest night I have ever spent at the Old Opera House. The heater was not working. It literally felt no warmer to me inside than it did outside.

Despite that it was a fun rehearsal. We ran the first scene of the play, where everyone is introduced to the audience, as it were. It sets the tone, as we see this quirky cabal of tramps, duds, and would-be villains for the first time. Not to over emphasize the scene's importance, but in a show like this, I theorize that if you start out on a weak step, it could take half the show to catch up to the energy that Porter's score demands.

All that notwithstanding, I get to yell one of the most stock lines in all of theatre, "Seize him!". I had not given it much thought up until tonight, but it is rather fun that I get a chance to say that. Despite having no idea what is actually going on, the purser gets to take charge of things and cause a ruckus. That could be fun.

Something else that was fun was my position for the first company music number. The director placed me next to the Captain at the "top" of the ship. This is good for two reasons. One, it gives my character, the purser, a sense of authority, if only in a cosmetic sense. The second good thing about this position is that the Captain and I are singing the same parts of the harmony during that song, and being close to him will keep me in line. In theory anyway.

Sometimes it's the extra things, the nuances of a performance that add to both to the overall production and to specific characters. At the end of rehearsal, our director spoke about this concept. He told us that while this particular musical contains some of the finest music ever written for the stage, the book is less than inspirational. (There are some funny one liners, however.) Consequently, our director mentioned, the moments of acting between the actual lines are what is going to give the non-singing parts of the play their luster.

An old Taoist proverb came to mind when he said that. "It is the space between the bars that holds the tiger in." To be more contemporary, "It is the silence between the notes that makes the song." Either way you express it, the approach is the same; we all must find ways of providing that intangible something to the milieu of the production. Facial expressions, walks, tones of voice. All of these tools need to be given particular care, so as to not allow the production to be merely a collection of famous musical numbers, separated by a rather mediocre book.

This commission from the director to search for such nuances gave me a renewed sense of what I can work towards in this show. Despite it being a minor role, mine is not one which has to lack substance, if I choose otherwise. I look forward to carving out those fine nuances. It is after all, the nuances which can float or sink a show. (Pun semi-intended.)

And of course, if the much hoped for cool hat is a part of the mix for me, it will all be that much better.


Playmaker said...

Loved the proverb, thanks for sharing that...

What kind of hat are you hoping for?

Ty Unglebower said...

That has always been one of my favorite proverbs as well.

I am hoping for one of those round, stiff Navy hats. (as opposed to the little dinky cloth ones that you see enlisted sailors wear in pictures.) The character is not in the Navy, but is still an officer on a boat and Iwould hope be entitled to such headwear.