Recent Posts

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Parting Question

What do you do when you've (finally) fulfilled your dream?

Playing Quixote was a dream of mine.

Now what?

And, finally.....

The show is now closed.

Where my emotions are at now is this:

I believe the show, technically, was wonderful. I designed and built a hell of a set, and the musicians were terrific. The lighting design was fluid and well-thought out, and added to each scene.

I believe the cast was, if not uniformly wonderful, as close to uniformly wonderful as any amateur cast with which I've ever been associated. There were an amazing number of strong voices, and the camaraderie and energy and dedication to the overall quality of the show were remarkable.

I know that the most key roles (other than myself) -- The Governor, The Padre, Dr. Carrasco, and (especially!) Sancho and Aldonza -- were terrific. I'm proud (to my very core) of all of 'em; and I'm proud of the production. We did ourselves and our community proud. I will post some pictures of the production and the set, so forth, as soon as I get the good ones back from the photographer.

As for my own part in it, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a little diminished by the review and the disappointment of the last two shows. I still think I was good, but I can't make myself feel I was anything special (even though I had felt that earlier). It's a sadness, that, but there seems to be nothing I can do about that. Still, I know that the production itself was top-notch.

I'm sorry it's over.

So Much to say, Part IV

Saturday, I looked forward to regaining some of my confidence, and being able again to work with Kim at full-throttle. We had achieved some real chemistry and connection in our scenes together, and as the show was rolling on, we each continued to refine our moments and to add to them. That kind of performing is really fun -- knowing that the things you feel when a show is running will be reflected in your performance, and that your counterpart will pick up on, react to, and enhance them. It's the biggest joy of performance.

I arrived at the theatre feeling reasonably confident again, feeling reasonably capable of doing it.

Where I was met by Kim, who couldn't even croak. On Friday, her singing voice had been gone. By Saturday, she couldn't make a sound. No music, no lines. No nothin'.

I was startin' to feel pretty lost and beleagured by that point.

Show must go on, they say....but jeeze.

So. We took an actress (a different actress than the one who sang the songs on Friday (which was inexplicable to me, but wasn't my call)), and gave her 6 hours to learn this monumental and difficult part. The potential upside -- in theory -- was that, in rehearsing for so many weeks, most of us had (pretty much) learned everyone else's part. Certainly, at the very least, we all knew how the arc of the show went, how the arcs of the specific scenes went; so we should have, one way or another, been able to take each scene from some sort of beginning to some sort of ending.

That was the theory.

Where theory t-boned reality was here: the one actress that the director placed in the role did not understand the show or the character or the arc of the show itself, much less each individual scene. I will grant you, the task we asked her to do was virtually impossible, but she made a train wreck of it, and it shouldn't have gone that way. I could (oh, believe me, I could) go on and on and, um, on about her and her kiss-flinging princessiosity and her scene-stealing mugging and and and....suffice it to say, impossible task or not, I find what she did to the show overall was unforgiveable, and I resent her for it. I also resent the director for utilizing her in the role. The Saturday performance was truly not "Man of La Mancha" at all.

Sunday was a little better -- perhaps a lot better -- but still was not "Man of La Mancha", and her unfettered ego didn't come close to being checked. In fact, during curtain call (after really having gutted the two most crucial scenes in the play with her raw incompetence and ego), she stepped in front of me while I was taking my bow -- while the Man of La Mancha was bowing after performing "Man of La Mancha" -- so she could throw one last kiss to the audience.

I know I am kvetching like a fishwife, but the disappointment in the final two performances was (and very much still is) palpable. Like a constantly picked scab.

So Much to say, Part III

I laid down for a while, and (pretty much) tried to reconcile myself with the review. Tried to embrace the audience's (very!) positive reactions to the show (and to me), and to simply let the review go. I had a little -- a very little -- success in doing that before I got to the theatre, but I had no idea how I was supposed to go out and perform again.

Yet, while not being able to be objective about my own performance, I knew how wrong he was about the other performers. The lady who played my leading lady was absolutely brilliant, with a glorious voice. Sancho was playing a part he may have been born to play.

Knowing it in your head and knowing it in your soul, though, are worlds apart. So with barely mitigated trepidation I went to the theatre.....

....where I was met by Kim, the leading lady, who croaked out a couple of sentences to the effect that her voice was g.o.n.e.; that she could (probably) get her lines out, but not be able to sing a note....not be able to sing a note in one of the most musically spectacular and difficult roles ever written for theatre.

Suddenly, my little "poor poor Ted" world became secondary.

Well, the show always does go on -- it always opens, it always runs, the stage is always filled -- one way or another.

We took one of the actresses (a good friend of mine with a really lovely voice) and asked her to sing the songs from off-stage while Kim lip-synced them onstage. Kim delivered her own lines, of course -- she simply got help with the music. We told the audience we would be doing that -- no sense in trying to fool them. It went, all in all, pretty well. Not perfect, but not that far from it, either. The singer did a great job with the music, and Kim managed her way through her part with her usual brilliance.

After the performance, I was still blue and unconfident, although having again heard some "bravo"s after I sang and when I took my bow helped a little. I know, it should have helped a lot, but Neurotic R Me. Still, despite my neurosis and blueness; and despite dealing with the logistics of Kim's vocal issues, we presented a good show that was well-received.

And that helped me feel better (and at least slightly more confident) in my own work.

That was Friday.

So Much to say, Part II

Then the review came out.

Now, I've been around a while. There's not as much spring in my chicken as once there was, and I know better than to hang my emotions on something as ephemeral and full of sound and fury as a review. Reviewers have their own baggage and opinions (I know, since I also work as a theatre reviewer); and they often have their own agendas, as well (something I truly try not to have when I write a review). The only measure a performer should embrace should be audience.

But. But......For this one, I found myself really anticipating the review. I even wrote some of it in my head, extolling the virtues of this marvelous cast in general and of Ted in particular; and calling attention to the fact that, in doing this role and managing the technical design of the show, Ted had achieved herculean levels of dedication and excellence. I couldn't wait to get the review -- I planned on framing it, so my children could have it as a keepsake and remembrance of their father's moment.

Then the review came out.

The review said the cast lacked "oomph"; mentioned some technical issues (of which, by the way, there really were none) that he hoped would be resolved as the show went on; complimented the actor playing Sancho while mentioning that he was a weak singer (which juuuuust might have been because he was using a character voice (the actor playing Sancho is actually quite an accomplished singer (and frankly, if Sancho came out singing like one of the 'three tenors', it would be disengaging at best, if not downright disconcerting))). He did not mention the set or any of the technical design at all.

And the only comments he made about me (the titular lead of the show) were that I had a strong voice but performed it as a caricature. He did say I got a little better as the performance went on. That's it.

Oh, and he spent an entire paragraph mentioning that I sang the most well-known song from the show ("The Impossible Dream"), and that Jack Jones had had a hit with it in 1965. He spent another whole paragraph mentioning that I had big shoes to fill in this role, the role having been played on Broadway by the likes of Richard Kiley, Jose Ferrer, Brian Stokes, and others. His implication, of course, being that I didn't actually fill said shoes.

What Jack Jones, Brian Stokes, et al had to do with the performance of "Man of La Mancha" in Strongsville, Ohio eludes me still.

But questionable comments (and ethics) in the review aside, I couldn't make myself not take it to heart. You can hear all the nice comments in the world from your friends, but by definition, they're your friends. This was going to be the only (theoretically) objective review I was gonna get...and I was found WAY lacking. It hurt. It hurt a lot.

A lot.

It, at first, stole all of the joy from the performance from me. My confidence in the performance went from 99 to 0. I felt that I had only been kidding myself; that I really wasn't any good in the role and that my technical design was so pedestrian as not to deserve mention.

And I had to go out on stage and do it again in 3 hours.

So MUCH to say....Part I

Well. After the investment of my soul into "Man of La Mancha", it's hard to recap the incredible emotional roller-coaster of the show. I'm still exhausted (and certain tendrils of emotion will probably keep tickling my inner diva for a long time).

Let me start with the show itself. As reported earlier, opening weekend was a huge success -- I thought it was -- and by the (relatively) objective measure of audience response, life was good.

From a more personal standpoint, I knew the set was good (if not outright excellent). Ego ego, I know -- but I've been in and designed for enough shows to have, I think, a pretty good idea of what constitutes competence and acceptability, and when a technical design raises that bar. The set we put on that stage was simply above-and-beyond what anyone (I firmly believe this) could or would or should expect from amateur theatre.

So, coupling that with what I thought was a sparklingly good performance from the rest of the cast -- sparklingly good! -- I was crazy proud of this show. I can't, of course, be objective about my own performance, but given the audience response, I felt pretty confident that, at the very least, I hadn't utterly screwed it up.

And then (yet more ego (yeah, sometimes even I can't stand me)) I felt that the COMBINATION of designing and building a damn good set while acting and singing one of the most difficult and iconic roles in American Theatre deserved some kind of special plaudit. I haven't come across many (or, frankly, any) designers who could have performed it, or actors who could have designed and built it.

That's how I felt going into last Friday.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

And on it goes....

Well, phew.

The show is still going really well. You know, as I was rehearsing and building the set and doing the program and marketing and and and.....most of it wasn't fun. It wasn't awful, or anything like that...but it wasn't fun, either.

But in the last week or so, as we put it all together and lurched toward opening (and had some people in the seats each night during final rehearsals), it was great. The last week (and all three performances this weekend (four, if you include our preview night on Thursday)) were all I'd ever hoped for from this role. I have no idea how good I was (and I suspect I was at least okay), but I know that I was as good as I could be. At the end of the show, many members of the audience were in tears -- a good thing -- and on Saturday night, even I myself, on stage, was covered with goosebumps, and my own eyes welled with tears that I had to blink back. I worked way way too hard for this show, but it is already on the very top of my most precious theatre (or most any other kind, for that matter) memories....and I'm satisfied to my bones.

Oh, and during Saturday's curtain call, I got more than a couple of "bravo"s when I took my bow...and Sunday, I even got a "bravo" right after singing "The Impossible Dream". Was really really nice.

Hard work is, so they say, it's own reward.....I don't know if I buy that; but I do believe that doing good work is its own reward. The applause and such are nice -- they're great, in fact -- but it's knowing that we did quality work of which we can be proud that most floats my boat.

And yes, I do know that the last several posts have fallen into the "ain't I just the greatest?" mode. Sue me. I'm feeling good.

Friday, May 05, 2006

We opened!

's funny how doing a show can consume you -- not only the immense number of hours rehearsing, but the hours spent outside of rehearsals just learning lines (and given the kabillion that I have, that was a challenge all by itself)....factor in the emotional investment you make....and you just get owned by a show.

Then add in the hours spent designing and building the set, as I did for this show (a tack I heartily do NOT recommend), and you can end up pretty near the frayed end of exhausted.

Frayed and exhausted R me.

But, no matter how tired, no matter how spent, the show does open when it opens. No puttin' it off, or turning back the clock. Last night we opened to an actual live audience.


I'm really not an egoist, I don't think. I'm generally pretty humble about my performances, I think -- and it's because I have a pretty good awareness of the size of my axe and the sharpness of my chops. I am not so falsely humble as to say I'm not any good; but generally I'm not very invested in the image of myself as particularly beyond the pale, either.


Um. Last night -- I felt completely in control of the material; I felt that my energy was redlined and that I had the audience with me always.....and, during curtain call (which, generally, I dislike (because it just feels so selfish to stand there and say "applaud me!")), there was at least one shout of "Bravo"...and yeah, that was pretty doggoned nice.