Standing outside the door


The VOS Oklahoma run is over.

It was nuts like no other nutty thing before it.

The show was a ton of fun to perform in – I would be Curly again in a second if given the right opportunity.

One of the things I’ve talked about was how cool it was to enter from the back of Vic Hall and come through the box-office doors, walk through the audience and then leap triumphantly onstage to meet my daughter (she was playing Laurey’s silent little sister, a new twist).  I was only really triumphant once, and then in the dress rehearsal I tripped and fell, so I dialed it down to “climb” onstage.

The time spent standing outside that door to the hall was some of the craziest “thought-moments” I’ve ever had.  Of course, on opening night (or was it dress rehearsal, again?) I forgot my hat, so I had to run back up and down a few flights of stairs to retrieve it.  Another time I forgot my gun (a matinee, I forget?) but nobody noticed it for the crazy chaps (not pictured).  Luckily the overture is ridiculously long, so running back to the backstage area, although it is a long way, can easily be done during this time – just don’t try to sing the opening number when you’re already out-of-breath and try to leap triumphantly onto the stage.  You’ll probably trip and fall, like me.

By the way in the picture above, I am singing the word “fine”, not something else.

Before one matinee, a guy I know came up to the box office to buy tickets for the next show.  He didn’t realize that I was all prepped and ready to bust through the door into a beautiful mornin’.  In fact, he didn’t recognize me at all, I don’t think.  The production assistant (I love calling her that – you know who you are) shoved him behind the box office door and it was hilarious watching him try to escape while the opening bars were seeping out of the concert hall. 

Another time, just as the aforementioned production assistant was about to give me the opening note on my iPhone piano app (awesome!) a woman burst out the door in front of me chattering away on her cell phone.  She didn’t even see the guy dressed up like a cowboy in a huge hat, red shirt and black-and-white cowhide chaps (yes, just like these). She proceeded to sit on the stairs all through the overture and blindly blathered into her phone.  It must have been important, cause she never even blinked with the production assistant (same one, she’s busy) escorted her downstairs to the benches to talk in greater comfort.

Best advice I got for standing outside a door waiting to hit a note out of nowhere in complete silence?

“Smile, and you won’t sing it flat.”


more later – joel

Week Two

Joel Varty & Marley Budreau in Oklahoma!
You want to know who’s a lucky dude?
Me. That’s who.

I get to stand there beside fantastic actors like Beth, Jamie, Nick, Steve, Marlena, Sam, Grant, and Marley (pictured beside the silly fellow in the red shirt) and do something that some folks just never get the chance, or the gumption, to do. Being on stage isn’t a thing I can describe, it’s a thing that defines me. Theatre isn’t thing that you do, and then put away, it’s a goal that I strive towards, that we all strive towards, hopefully. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s a challenge, and sometimes it kills you inside for all the heartache and crap that comes out. But sometimes it works. And when that happens…

If this production works at all, it’s because of those people who’ve put oodles of time, effort, and tears into making it so. All the things that could go crazy went crazier than I could imagine. Things that were beyond our control went out of control.

And all I do night after night is just stand there and stare beyond the lights (at Bob, but nobody knows that) and wonder at the beauty of it all.

Kinda magical. I’m thankful for the ones who make the magic from the shadows (LC, AF, FF, HS, ES, RM, DC, others…).

Thanks for the opportunity, Anne.

See ya for the next few shows. And then…

more later – jv

Half-way there – Don’t ya wish y’d go on forever?


We completed the first five our our nine-show run for Oklahoma! on Sunday. Tomorrow we run lines, review some dances and fight scenes, then back to the stage on Thursday for the final four shows.

Don’t ya wish y’d go on forever?

In the picture above, there’s me, Beth Hunt (as Aunt Eller), and my daughter Gemma (as Aggie, Laurey’s little sister). It’s pretty delightful being onstage with a family member, but to be honest, being onstage in any VOS show is like something out of a dream (the good kind). Folks are supportive of each other, crew are helpful and cheerful, the techies mingle with the cast and the mutual respect is like this tactile thing that you can feel in the air. It’s just awesome. Heck, even Betty, who does makeup for the fellas, brought in her own liquid eye liner for me! I guess I’m sensitive, or something.

I’ll tell you something, though, this show is not easy, not by a long shot. In more traditional productions, the dream ballet (which is a pretty long sequence) is performed by dancers, not the actors. Well, not this time. All the actors are also the dancers – personally I think it makes for a more seamless production. During rehearsals about a week ago I bit my tongue (literally, not figuratively) and a tore a little chunk out of it near the back (gross, I know). Makes it a little harder to smile that easy country smile, I can tell you. Also, we’ve rehearsed the fight scenes so many times I have perma-bruises where the knaps are. I love every minute of it – and I wouldn’t trade that time on stage for anything.

We’ve got four more kicks at the can this weekend, and I plan on making the most of it.

Hope to see y’all there.


Don’t Forget the Knaps


My friend and VOS photographer Ken Hurford took the above photo from an Oklahoma! rehearsal last week. This is from the smokehouse scene, and while Jud is in costume, I, Curly, am not (except for the gun and the neckerchief), and neither on of us is wearing stage makeup. I think it’s a great low-light photo, from a pretty powerful scene.

Steve Shortt (who plays Jud) has a much different job as an actor in this show than anyone else – his character is dark, brooding, and Steve preps for it pretty seriously. It’s pretty intense to share the stage with a guy who has that much focused energy.  And yet, it’s somehow a positive energy that you can easily play off of an react to. That to me speaks volumes to how Steve’s approach to character is tempered by his own personality and under control.

For my prep before a show (although we’ve only done rehearsals so far, I treat them the same as a show, why not, right?) I like to spend oodles of time thinking about all of the things that I don’t want to have to think about during the show itself. One of these things is lifts – and I have several throughout the show, with a few different actors, one of them over my head, with an inverted flip to get out of it. Look for that one near the beginning of Act 2, for those of you keeping track… but the hardest is during the ballet.  Hopefully it ends up being the lift that looks the easiest.

Another thing I spend time on is first notes – the first note of every song tends to be one that either sets the song up for awesomeness, or puts you in a hole that you have to dig yourself out of. If it’s effortless and on key, the audience will be on your side for the rest of the piece, I figure.

Which leads me to diction. I never EVER think about diction during a scene – it should be automatic, shouldn’t it? Maybe, but having read a ton of theatre reviews in the past 18 months, not being able to hear or understand lines is the number one thing I’ve picked out. Practice it before – get your lips off your teeth, open your mouth, think about where your sound is going, bounce it off a flat surface instead of letting it get absorbed into the wings or a traveller.

And, lastly, I practice knaps.

A “knap” is something you do to make a sound during a stage fight. Sometimes you do your own knaps (when you are throwing a punch or a kick), and at other times you do a knap when you are the one getting punched, kicked, slapped whatever. The thing is, when you are in the moment of stage combat, doing the knap is kinda secondary to making sure you don’t actually punch the other person in the face.  Our stage combat specialist, Daniel Levinson, spent quite a bit of time with us working through the mechanics of our fights and the techniques involved with keeping it safe – this is a lot to keep in your head in the heat of the moment on-stage. Obviously, someone with a ton of stage combat experience has an easier time keeping all the pieces of the choreography top of mind all at once, but this is all pretty new to me. So I like to practice knaps by myself and as part of a warm-up before a show. It’s kinda funny, I think, to see some guy standing backstage slapping himself loudly in the chest (pectorals, come on!) or the rear-end, trying to get a decent sound.

But if you hear the decent smack sound as a fist appears to make contact onstage, you know something went right.

More later – joel

Keeping Count

Since Saturday:

14 hours dancing.
3 hours stretching.
2 hours singing.
9 eggs.
Nearly 10 litres of water (forgot to keep track, so this is a guess).
10,000 mg Vitamin C.
2,000 mg Ibuprofen.
1,000 units Vitamin E.
1 large bottle Listerine.
53 show related emails.

Minutes until my train gets in: 35.

Can’t wait.

Are you coming next week?

Dreams and Things

One of the things about the Oklahoma story is how people dream so much about having the things that they can’t have. It’s something that permeates the plot line and get even a little uncomfortable at times when we learn that Will has been promised Ado Annie’s hand for fifty dollars.

It’s everywhere we look – Laurey wants nice clothes, buckles, a buggy. I wonder if she wants to escape the far where she is stranded and lonesome at night. Jud wants her so bad, but is it like a piece of livestock, or is he really capable of love? Ado Annie is so taken with Peddler with his fancy wares and his exotic words. I think the hotel at Claremore might actually fell like paradise compared to the haystack outside her pa’s barn.

Nobody seems averse to giving all they have away, either. We have Will, giving up all his winnings on presents for his girl, with no thought to the notion that he actually needs to buys this girls’s hand from her father. Isn’t she worth more than a possession? I also wonder how she sees the peddler when he comes back in act 2 with his own bride.

Jud certainly has no qualms over handing over his cash either, not quite as much as Will, but still a veritable fortune. Probably close to two months pay, for those of you keeping track.

And Curly, what will he give up? His livelihood? He already spent everything he had on his plan for the party, and that didn’t go so well. Now what? What does he think when he hears Ike talk about the territory becoming a state, becoming something more than what it is? Where does he place himself in that future?

Until we are ready to give up everything we thought we needed, everything that used to define us, that ties us and binds us to our possessions, we don’t know what that would be like. Only when we’ve gone to that place where we’ve got nothing left but who we are can we know what Curly knows.