I haven’t posted an entry for a while because I’ve been travelling for the better part of two weeks and been away from my computer. My iPad works fine to get email, but it really isn’t very satisfactory (to me) for doing much in the way of writing. While on the road, Bonnie and I did get a chance to catch up a bit with some family whom we haven’t seen in a while and to check up on our “old” (still unsold [sigh]) house in Sylva.
Our stay in WNC was cut a bit shorter than originally planned because of the impending cold snap and possibility of snow (which did develop into crummy travel conditions and record cold). That meant that we didn’t get to see the opening performance of Stage & Screen’s production of 42nd Street. I did sneak into the final dress, however, and I enjoyed the show considerably.
Okay, I’ll admit to being somewhat prejudiced towards Western’s program (both Theatre and MT), but, after all, it was a big part of my life for 43 years. There’s also the fact that I do know many of the current students, still, so there’s a certain bond there, which probably also clouds my judgment. Still, I did enjoy the production, even if, like all theatre people, there are things which I think I might have done a bit differently.
I will confess that I did have a good deal of trouble identifying some of the students on the stage, particularly the women, due to the period wigs (styles) and the fact that hair color for the character didn’t always match that which I associate with certain faces. Actually, I found this helpful in a way, as I was less concerned about watching my former students and more involved in simply enjoying the show as a “civilian.” I will also confess that I got some pleasure several times from suddenly identifying who THAT was when I finally recognized someone on the stage. In any case, I had a good time and was glad to see a couple of my colleagues in the house and to see some of my former students after the run and before notes. I would have stayed longer, but we did have a good deal to do before we could leave the next day, so I did have to get back to the house.
I’m not going to critique the show, but there are a couple of comments I would like to make about it. One of the great awkwardnesses of undergraduate theatre is the fact that the basic casting pool is composed of (almost exclusively) 18-22 years olds, while authors writing for the commercial stage tend to create characters from a much wider age range. While I thought that the Western students handled the “older” characters pretty well, I confess that the production would probably have been stronger with more mature actors in those roles as they would have been easier to accept as the “established, senior” characters, as opposed to the “kids” in the chorus, which were more age-appropriate for college students. I don’t wish to be misunderstood, though; I DID enjoy the production! That doesn’t eliminate the possibility that it might have been improved under different circumstances. As I said, this is an ongoing situation with undergraduate productions and the only way around accepting it as a fact of life is to open up casting to non-students, which rather defeats the purpose of providing the production experience to as many students as possible. I understand the problem as I have faced it as a director myself and I agree with the choice of desiring the broadest possible student experience, even if it does mean some sacrifice to the production in the greater scheme of things.
One thing did concern me a bit, however, and that was that I didn’t get much of a sense of excitement in doing the show from the cast. I understand that it was final dress, it was a week night, there were classes the next day, the week end had almost certainly been long and hard, everyone was tired, and the audience was very small and much of it was designers and others working the show. Still, the reason for rehearsal is to get in the habit of doing the right things in the right way. I think that includes getting “up” for the show. I’m not suggesting that the performance that evening was bad. I DON’T think it was, but it did seem a bit “uninspired.” There was something of a sense of routine about it, which I found a little disappointing. Of course, a well-rehearsed show SHOULD be acquiring a sense of routine by this point, but it’s the performer’s (cast AND crew’s) job to (somehow) make every performance special. The audience (the reason for our existence) hasn’t seen this performance before and it’s our job to imbue what we do with a sense of excitement and precision which will make it special for them. I just wish I had gotten a bit more of this from this performance. ‘Nuf said. I DID enjoy it.
I look forward to, occasionally, diverting this blog into specific comments about specific shows I have seen live or in movies, but I think that will be the exception, not the rule, so my next entry will, I expect, be about one of the more usual things which I find interesting, puzzling, confusing, or amusing.
I’ll be back….