Sunday, October 29, 2006

Well Thank You Very Much

Sometimes it is the smaller roles I really dig. In particular roles that are small but are highly memorable. My favorite example of this from my own career was playing Elvis in Jeffery Hatcher's Miss Nelson is Missing.

To be clear, I did not play Elvis Presley. But in all likelihood, it will be the closest I will ever come to doing so.

The play, based on the popular children's book, tales the story of a bunch of 3rd graders who show little to no respect for there total push over of a teacher, Miss Nelson. When an "evil" sub is brought is to replace Miss Nelson, who disappeared, the kids decide they had better straighten up, and find Miss Nelson in the process.

"Elvis" was a kid who idolized the real Elvis. Hence his talk, walk, and lines (though there were not many of them) were all very Elvis like.

I never believe in assuming you have the role in the bag before you show up for an audition. It's arrogant, and as often as not, is incorrect. Yet I confess I was very close to feeling that for this audition. You see, I had won Elvis impersonation contests in both high school, and college. I had performed Elvis at campus parties, and made frequent use of my impression on the college radio station. I was (and AM) quite the reflection of the king himself.

Add to the fact that the director was a friend of mine who more than once witnessed my Elivisations, and I felt fairly confident.

Of course, I got the role, or there would be little point in blogging about it.

I always work hard on my performances, but my hard work has rarely felt more like play for the entire run of a production. Busting moves, curling my lip, wearing a leather jacket, greasing my hair back. Singing sometimes. Even lip syncing to the king himself as the final black out ended the show. If not a dream role, it was certainly what I call a "DAYdream role".

Plus, this Elvis was a little kid, so I got to explore the inner child a bit. This was actually more of a worthwhile exercise than you might imagine. Everyone from teachers to my mother can confirm that I did not act very much like a 3rd grader, even when I was in the third grade. And in fact, the only real consistent note I got from my director was to "work on being more like a kid." So by watching kids, and most importantly, just letting lose and totally losing myself in the straight up super fun of the role, I hit the balance between Elvis, and child.

I am also proud to say, that after we performed the show for several grade school audiences, I was the recipient of the second largest amount of fan mail out of the cast. (We were allowed to write back to the kids, via their school, which I did for every one of them.)

Not a profound experience overall, this stint as Elvis. But to this day, despite all the fun I have had in theatre, it remains the one part that had the highest amount of pure hammy fun, coupled with the lowest amount of backstage drama and extra work (zero) of any role I have ever had, before or since.

And on a more sentimental note, it was the very last role I had as a college student at Marietta College.

And my last line during my last appearance as a college student ever?

"I did it my way".

Doesn't get much better than that.


Susan Abraham said...

Every role's taught you something, hasn't it, Ty. Every role's brought on an ocean of possiblities & philosophies about how characters work the way they do.
Somehow, the class teacher often comes off the worst!

Anonymous said...

Can't have a cooler last line than that.