acting

Once the Audience Enters the Theater

By Heather Beasley, dramaturg

DSC_5739f2

Stephen Weitz as Cyrano, photo by Michael Ensminger

After the work-packed exhaustion of tech week comes the thrill of opening night, and Cyrano‘s first time before a live audience. The many hours of rehearsal, choral practices, fight calls, set-building, light-hanging, drop-painting, music recording…they all boil down to the chance to tell this glorious, swashbuckling tale to the people who come through the Lone Tree Arts Center doors.

But long before anyone bought a ticket for our show, a few unsung heroes of nonprofit theatre already thought about how to get you to join our audience. The marketing team came up with graphics that caught your eye, and story capsules that captured the essence of a play in just a few sentences. They made sure the word about Cyrano spread high and low–from print ads, to postcards in your mailbox, to your Facebook feed, to preview stories in your local newspaper.  At the most basic level, it only takes two things to create theatre, really–an actor and an audience–and we couldn’t draw an audience without the help of our marketing team.

Once they’ve attracted your attention, the box office staff has the front-line customer service job of making you glad you’ve decided to buy a ticket to see our show. The concessions staff and ushers may help you toward your seat, with a tasty beverage in hand, as you find your spot and wait for the show to begin.

Meanwhile, backstage, the stage manager is counting down:  “Half-hour!”  “Ten minutes to curtain.”  “Places, please.”  Set pieces are placed, volume levels verified, comestible props prepared, and stage weapons checked for safety. Some last-minute emergency always creates a bit of heightened drama: a shoe heel breaks, a button pops, a prop light breaks…there’s always one more problem to solve. But ready or not, the time does inevitably come, and the overture begins.

Once that magical opening night performance gets rolling, our focus turns back to you, the audience.  We wonder: Will you laugh? Will you cry?  Will you be touched by this sweet, brashly romantic, heroic comedy?  The production team members lucky enough to sit in the house on opening night often watch the audience members–friends, family members, theatre critics, strangers. Our satisfaction comes from watching you experience our work and get caught up in the story. For a few hours, you can leave your real-world cares behind and enjoy a story that’s larger than life.

The Understudy’s Journey

By Kevin Lowry, understudy for all male roles except Cyrano

A typically unnoticed, behind-the-scenes role of the theatrical process is the understudy. For this production of Cyrano, I have the privilege of being the understudy for the roles of Christian, Le Bret, De Guiche, Ragueneau, De Valvert, Ligniere and Desiree. (Basically, all of the male roles except for the lead.) A mammoth task by any measure, to not only memorize all the lines, the blocking, a song, and swordplay, but also to be able to bring each character to life in its own unique way.

I began this assignment by reading the play over and over, to try and get a handle on each character track and how they fit into the overall story of Cyrano.  Then I started working on the lines: a job I can equate to drinking from a fire hose.  Pacing myself and focusing on one character at a time was the only way I could manage it. I spent hours recording the lines and cues to be able to hear them aloud and help me get them into my head. I consider myself a very kinesthetic person, so walking through the blocking with the lines really helps solidify them for me and helps me get the character into my body.

Learning the sword-fighting choreography has been a challenge. Working fight choreography by oneself is difficult.  The dance of a sword fight is different with each partner, and since I’m playing multiple fighting roles, I can’t practice swinging a sword against myself! The lack of a combat partner to practice with makes it a unique test of my skills.

I have had the opportunity to “walk” a few characters through the course of the rehearsal process, and that has helped immensely with learning those scenes.

All in all, I am excited to be climbing this mountain of an acting challenge, and I will be ready to jump in should the opportunity present itself. That being said, I ask the cast to stay healthy, take your B12 and vitamin C, and get plenty of rest.