As I have so often allowed when I am tired and busy, I left a whole weekend of a show unwritten about. So, I will now have to provide you with accounts of all three nights of "It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play", that I didn't share with you before. I will break it down into days.
A mostly solid night, but with some noticeable sound mistakes, and line fumbling on various fronts. No crash and burn moments, but it was rough there for a while. Not as good as the Thursday night benefit audience, and not as large. Our singing of "Auld Lang Syne" at the end was pretty much botched. There is no other way to put that, honestly.
Yet odd as it is, I actually hit a bit of a stride that night. Not just the position of where to stand at the mike, or how to hold my script, either. That was the night when the cadence and feel of the entire radio play structure just came together for me. Not that I had major problems before, but it seemed as though I wasn't quite getting the click I needed for this style of performance. Friday night, it finally did. The reason, if I had to guess, was that was when began to treat the whole thing like a radio broadcast, as opposed to a play about a radio broadcast.
Sounds like the same thing to many of you, I am sure. But consider that with the former approach, I was trying to be a character who just happened to have all of his lines delivered while being "On-Air" within the context of the story. But with the latter approach to the show, I tried to see the entire thing as a bunch of people who really were in a radio station, and I adjusted my performance accordingly.
That means I didn't play to the live audience as much as an actor normally does for a stage show. I didn't orient as much of my energies directly towards how I looked, or how I would be perceived. I directed my performances to the mike itself, in a way. I stopped trying to interact directly with the other actors as much as I had been. Instead, I treated it as something that was being done, to which a few people were invited. Oh, i was still very much aware of them, and knew when they were enjoying themselves or not. I even got a little nervous in front of them a few times. But I was at last able to stop trying to make it a play, and just let it be "radio". That seems to have been the key to hitting the stride I was talking about. If I do it next year, I will keep that in mind from the start. But that approach on Friday continued into...
Our best night. No question. With very few exceptions, both sound and lines were spot on for most of the night. Word of mouth and an article in the local paper pushed out previously weak numbers for Saturday up to a near full house. And it was one of those crowds whose electricity you could feel even before the show started. You knew they were going to be responsive just be listening to them.
And they were. They laughed a lot. (Again at some things I didn't think were supposed to be funny.) They really got into the commercials, (especially my Duks Toilet Guy, if I may say so myself.) And the ovation at the end was sustained and enthusiastic. We didn't do a curtain call for this production, but we could easily hear everyone from backstage. And, unlike all the other local theatres that i have been involved in, the WLT encourages actors to go mingle with the crowd. Something I had not felt totally free to do since college. I am not a mingler, but I do like to hear how we did. And I received several compliments.
The best compliment, in fact, was a lady who told me I had done a great job at differentiating my voices. That is high praise indeed, because the success of something like this show rests very much on such a skill. I was very gratified to learn my hard work on that aspect of my performance really paid off.
I slipped on one word during one of my Toilet Cake lines. A mistake I oddly repeated the next day. But as I said, they loved it, and I loved what we all were able to do that night. It was not only the show's best night, but I feel it was my best night as well. Particularly for the Peter Bailey scene at the beginning.
Our director mentioned earlier in the week that it was one of the voice roles that wouldn't really allow alot of caricature , or funny voice tricks. I hadn't given that much thought before, but he was right. Peter has to be played deep, and straight forward. It has to be the performance, m ore than any voice, that sells him. And indeed, I used 90% my own voice for Peter, and I am happy to know what I did with him had the desired effect.
My mom and sister were in this audience. So were 25 local Boy Scouts, as part of a full house. (A fact which really bothered a lot of us actors when we heard about it, but which turned out to be not so bad. They were surprisingly well behaved, if not that entertained by the show.)
The best thing to say about Sunday is that my mom and sister said they didn't think it went too badly from the audience perspective. Which is good, because there wasn't an actor in the show who didn't think act one on Sunday was something between pathetic and disappointing.
It did not go well for us. Not as many line flubs and mistakes as Friday night, but some of the mistakes that were made with both sound and lines left rather large holes in scenes. (Especially when the ice did NOT break at first, to let Harry Baily fall into. A key plot point that, when missed at first, required Harry to yell "yippeee!" for what seems like 3 minutes, until the situation was rectified.
Yet, as I mentioned, the audience didn't seem to notice most of those sort of things. Again, a very responsive group. Not as much as the night6 before, (Though they still loved Dux Toilet Cake, despite me flubbing a word AGAIN), they nonetheless enjoyed the show a great deal, and said so to us with their generous applause.
Act 2 went far better than act one did, and by the end, most of us felt better about the note we would be closing the show on.
Now the best moments of each night will be spliced together, it seems, and sent to WINC AM to be played twice on Christmas Day. Which is exciting in a way that of course other shows can't be.
I am glad I took part in this unique experience. I am willing to try again next year if I am not in anything else. It was a great cast, and I finally feel I have established a memorable presence at the Winchester Little Theatre. I made some new friends, and took part in something I had never done before, on various levels. Now that I have my feet wet with it, I will keep my eyes open for other chances to do radio oriented plays.
There is talk of trying to do War of the World for Halloween at the WLT. Perhaps I'll look into that as well. But in the mean time, despite some unavoidable difficulties, and a sadly short rehearsal/bonding time for this show, (two weeks, basically), I got more out of being in this show then some shows I have been in, and consider the small pains in the neck worth the out come.
I hope what Clarence said is in fact true;
"No man is a failure who has friends." I now have some more of them, so, that is an inspiring notion.