Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Broken Chairs & Broken Platforms

Hell week. Day three. Dress rehearsal on top of another tech practice. Complete bedlam backstage and in the dressing rooms.

"Where's my corset?"

"Do I wear this on our head?"

"Five minutes to places, everybody. Five minutes."

"Five minutes? I don't even have my underwear on yet!"

"Do these pants make me look fat?"

"No, but you sure got a bad case of camel toe happening there, dude!"

As you can see, the real entertainment happens backstage, people. You pay for the magic onstage, but the best seats are backstage where all the drama really happens.

Tonight our rotating platform slipped its chain. Imagine a bicycle with a 24 foot diameter gear shifter. Imagine a chain that is inches thick wrapped around the gear powered by an electronic motor with at least 1/10th horsepower. With such unbridled power under our feet we spin at a sprinting speed, sometimes clockwise, sometimes counter-clockwise. We never know. It's always a surprise. Well, maybe not as fast as a sprint, but at least a bear crawl speed. Anyway, during a clockwise spin the platform chain slipped. Total breakdown. This needed to happen. You see, since it happened during tech we can reasonably be assured that it won't happen opening night. But hey, you poor suckers who purchased opening night tics for this Friday may be in for a treat!

Also, will someone please tell the greenhorn that YOU DON'T SIT ON THE BREAKAWAY CHAIR! Especially after it's been placed onstage for the next scene. I must admit, that was one of the funniest foul-ups I ever did witness onstage. Thanks, Brian, for the good laugh.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Don't Touch My Heine

Four hours of tech. Four more hours of orchestra sitzprobe. Add on another two hours spent at church rehearsing and cantoring. I'm one pooped singer! Usually we singers prefer to only rehearse or perform no more than three -- maybe four -- hours tops per day. We're such delicate creatures. And we must preserve the voce so that we are able to access only the prime vocal quality at all times for our ever-adoring public.

Yeah. Though the previous statements are based in truth, they certainly are far from reality. The exertion and energy expended today is tough on a singer, but it is something we must endure. And though we do prefer to be able to access our "top voice", the only time we hit the prime vocal quality is usually a moment in the shower or automobile or some other totally inaccessible location where no one hears us. The other 99% of the time we are struggling to sing through some sort of vocal malfunction. Samples of said vocal malfunctions can be caused by any of the following:

1. Waking up. Any singer who tries to vocalize right after their alarm clock shatters their slumber will find that portraying a sick frog is more likely be the only role available. I prefer not to even hum a note before noon. Mostly I'd rather not sing at all until after 3 pm. Ok, let's say I'd just as well sing around midnight. That's when the voice is probably warmed up best.

2. Alcohol. Sure, we singers like to drink the beers after a rehearsal or performance. But we pay dearly the next day when the post-alcohol dehydrated vocal chords go on strike. But again, when are we ever at peak performance anyway? Let's drink up -- and don't touch my Heine!

3. Breathing. Yes, simply breathing can knock the voice onto the disabled list. Dry air, moist air, dust, pollens, errant gnats that get sucked down one's throat. All these are detrimental. As I said, our poor voices are delicate instruments.

4. Having relations. You've heard that "sex weakens the knees!" But we don't need our knees! However, after an enjoyable lusty romp in the sack I find that my vocal range drops about an octave. Great for if I need to sing something out of the Russian basso-profondo repertoire, but usually I'm hired to sing something on or above the bass clef.

So there it is. I'm pooped and ready for a full day off tomorrow for rest and rejuvenation. In that case, pass me that Heine!


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Here Upon These Tiles We Will Build Our Barricade

Les Miserable opens in nine days. Yesterday we were warned that rehearsal may be extended since we had yet to block some of the smaller, yet very important scenes. The warning was blatant, but when we were requested to provide our own pillows and sleeping bags we knew they meant business. So we all trudged to the theater before rush hour was officially over and began setting up the scenes.

One important scene is the opening of Act 2 where Enjolras informs his loyal followers that "here upon these stones we will build our barricade!" Dutifully, his loyal subjects run offstage and are supposed to return with a stack of books, or a box, or a marble - anything to add to the barricade. But as we did not have our set props to work with we practiced building our barricade using the only sacrificial objects we had - ourselves! Yes, actors can be so creative at times. At the end of the short scene, however, we remove the boxes and marbles and take them away as if to say, "ya know, let's build it down the street a spell."

Using our one day off on Monday, the set builders successfully raised the stage with the turntable. This uses the same technology as the actual Broadway & tour shows. So after we became weary of piling onto a human pyramid in the rehearsal room, we moved onto the stage to practice some ballroom dancing on the rotating platform. Now I have danced in shows before. I have even waltzed and jitterbugged. But never have I done any movement while the stage rotates. Imagine yourself in a beautiful Viennese ballroom twirling and waltzing around the room in a race with 20 other couples. Then imagine the floor spinning to add double the speed. It's a bit nauseating and I'm sure during at least one performance the audience will enjoy a barf-fest during the wedding scene.

And true to their warning, the director and stage management kept us late, threatening to thwap us with clipboards should we try to escape. So now I write this on my laptop on stage, snuggled in my sleeping bag using Wi-Fi to post to the blogosphere in hopes of hailing help from some local source in Portland. "Help! We're just poor actors being held captive in the theater until we 'get it right'! We need food! Substinance! Please bring donuts!"

Maybe we'll 'get it right' Wednesday and will be allowed to go home to our own beds and loved ones. Pray for us...

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Baby's A First Grader

Today my oldest child, my firstborn, my baby, the Goon, is officially graduated into 1st grade. How can this happen? It seems like only yesterday my baby was 4 and visiting Disneyland for the first time. And only the day before she was 2 and on an Alaskan cruise. A year of Kindergarten has passed like the wind blowing the snow on Mt. Hood as I speak.

(WAIT! -- did he say snow? In June!?!)

Yes, I said snow.

Record cold temps in Portland and low snow levels have extended the skiing season in to the summer. WTF!?! I split from Montana 13 years ago to get away from cold, freezing temps and snow. Now I'm smack in the middle of winter in JUNE! So all you freaks in the northeast having a heatwave, just bite me!

And you know who else can bite me? The geniuses proclaiming the "Global Warming" effect. Yup, that's right...bite me with those cold, chattering teeth!

Ok, ok, you might be figuring that I'm a little grumpy right now due to the weather. That may be so, but my grumpiness is offset by the joy of rehearsing Les Miserable. After six days of rehearsal we're nearly finished blocking the show. We open in 17 days so you can bet we'll be getting bi'dness done here this week. Our Jean Valjean is a veteran of the Les Mis stage, having previously toured the show. He sounds awesome! I'll disclose more about him later. Maybe tomorrow I'll show y'all my new 19th Century French student revolutionary sideburns.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

At The End Of The Day

Joe Theissen, Wade Willis, and some of my other fellow cast members prepare for rehearsing, At The End Of The Day for Les Mis. Very busy first few days, and all we've got to show for it is the first 10 minutes of the show ready to go.

I think I gushed a little in yesterday's post about how excited I am to be a part of this show. I remember seeing Les Mis for the first time in '92. It was a tour production performing at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. I was on tour myself doing a children's theatre show and my tour partner had a college friend singing Cosette in the show. She graciously came & talked to our kids, giving them a thrill at talking to a "real actress!" We saw the show that evening and afterward she gave us a backstage tour. I was only 22 and in awe of the size of the stage and set pieces. She proudly displayed her wedding dress costume for the final scene, revealing that it cost in the neighborhood of $10,000.

We were also invited to the opening night gala with the cast of Les Mis in a nice lakeside restaurant in Seattle. I met the young Jean Valjean who I remember told me he was 25 or something close to that age. He was a fabulous Valjean and sounded great. I couldn't believe he was so young!

I also met the Eponine (ooh la la!) who I think had a crush on me after a few drinks, but I never got her number. (Gah! I hate being shy!)

I also remember Chuck Wagner, who played Inspector Javert. He was outstanding and remembered I wanted to meet this great baritone. However, he wasn't at the party. I did finally meet him after a performance of Jekyll & Hyde in Portland about six years ago. Still one of my favorite Broadway actors.

Ok, so enough gushing already! Let's get to work and do this thing! Tomorrow we get to work on being poor beggars -- well, it's not just a clever title!

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Do You Hear The People Sing?

After a few days of intense music rehearsal the cast of Les Miserable got on its feet tonight for the first staging rehearsal. This was such a wondrous occasion and personally exciting as I have loved this hit musical for over 20 years. It's been one of those "actor dreams" to be cast in this show in a professional theater so well managed and produced by Broadway Rose Theatre Co.

At the helm of this production is Robert Hunt, who has been performing in Les Mis for years, and most recently as the principal character, Javert, on Broadway. Rob was here in Portland four years ago to perform the title role in Jekyll & Hyde, and it's great to have such a talented and experienced actor directing this show. I was privileged to be stabbed by the Jek on a nightly basis when we ran. (Isn't it every actor/actress's dream to be killed and die on stage?)

By the way, if you look on his personal web site on the Photos page you will see photographs poasted of him rehearsing Jekyll here in Portland. The photographer? Yours truly. :-) It's an honor to have my creative work help promote Rob.

The rights for Les Mis were released for regional theater for this year (2008) only, and only 24 contracts were issued for performance. Our Broadway Rose certainly displays its merit for being one of the few to obtain this precious permission. And almost 250 actors & singers came out of the Northwest woodworks to audition for this crowd fav. 31 were cast. Whoa! Dont' I feel lucky? (nods)

So, my faithful readers, and those who happened upon my blog by strage and disgusting searches, I'll be blogging about this show for the next few weeks as we prepare for a four week run. Hope to see you at the show!

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