Run Through

We started running the show start-to-finish last night. It was a little strange being in a different location (and different again tonight…) but next week we won’t have to worry about that.

I think the flow was pretty good for the most part – there are only a couple scene changes, so there aren’t any spots to stop and think, just keep on tricking. I did pull up short in one of the fight scenes. I though Will had hurt himself, and it turns out he did – poor bugger fell on his keys! Tonight we will nail it and lock it in place even better

Move-in to the hall is coming up in a few days, too, so the energy for that is mounting. Like coming home…

Just read the director’s copious notes from last night, too. Always cool to see my daughter in there with a compliment in the first line. That kid is gonna shine under the lights, and I’m so lucky to be able to see it, just like you will.

I just gotta get these lines tweaked so I don’t mix em up, sing the right notes in the right key in the right time, dance the right steps, enter, exit, fall down, get up, punch, get thrown, shoot straight, get choked, and lift some girls here and there. I might even have time to smile at a little brown maverick… 😉

More later – joel

Coming Home

I think of home when it’s hard to remember why I strive for something that is so far away, so out of reach it’s damn near impossible to visualize. But I know, if I can only get home, it will be there waiting for me.

I have dragged my friends kicking and screaming towards the future that is uncertain. But I know we will be ok, because we are coming home, and we are almost there.

I remember a night last November, at the end of a show. The one second moment when the lights went down seemed to last an eternity. A kind of a glow lit up at the back of the hall. A smiling face on a well dressed, yet doughty lady, friendly looking.

“Who was that standing behind you in the booth?”

“We don’t let anyone up there. Nobody came up.”

We move back in soon, perhaps to a new stage.

I will stand up there. I will try to fid my light and bounce my voice off the walls.

And I wonder if she will be watching, still.

Feels like a kind of home to me.


Colt 45

There really isn’t anything very subtle about a Colt 45.

It’s a hell of a weapon, and it has a single purpose; to think about it any differently would be foolish, at best.

It’s a weapon that demands respect.

In the hands of Jud Fry, it ought to put the fear of God into a man.

But is Curly afraid of it? Does he flinch when Jud flashes that six shooter across his face? Does he cower like a dog when Jud fires that thing off? Maybe. He might even show it, a little, if you watch him real close. But are you watching Curly then? Or are you fixated on the face of the man who’s battling all his nerve just to keep it together with his nemesis in his house?

Isn’t it just a couple of fellas making noises to satisfy their oversized egos? Or are they daring each other to do what the other one hasn’t done yet?

As you might have guessed we rehearsed the smokehouse scene last night. Possibly the strangest scene I have ever encountered in any story. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. Steve and I had already been throwing punches at each other in the afternoon (more on that next week…) and we were set for a bit of a standoff, so to speak. We said our piece to each other, and then the guns came out. All I can say, is that it’s a good thing Steve and I are such good friends, cause he’s a hell of an enemy on stage.

Why is it that the American persona has been so obsessed with the wild west for the past hundred years? Can it possibly be that we’ve never been able to get past that little bit of madness, that dark, pre-historic instinct to over-power something with brute force? We might veil it in rhetoric, or hide behind our civilized mannerisms, but is it ever really gone?

And when we turn to that darkness, can you tell when it happened? Was it when the fear gave way to anger? Can you tell when we came back from the edge? Or when we leapt from it with no abandon?

As Curly, I ask, what else would have me do? But I wonder if you’ll be able to answer.

‘Cause you’ll just be staring at the gun, wide-eyed, wondering if it’ll be the end of one of those men.

It demands respect, but it never earns it.

Only with great and subtle power can the force of that weapon be leashed and held in check.

Where will you be watching?

Act 2, Scene 1

The thing about Oklahoma is the scenes are ridiculously long, and are actually comprised, usually, of several scenes. So Act 2, Scene 1, is actually between 3 and 5 scenes, depending on how you split it up. The fact that we pretty much got through this in it’s entirety yesterday is pretty good. There’s a ton of dancin’, spinnin’, chuggin’, and fightin’ going on, as well as some wheelin’ and dealin’ in the auction.
Steve and I had a chance to do a stare-down during the bidding as Jud and Curly and I think it’ll be tense as all get out when everything settles down a bit. There was certainly a lot of energy hurtling around the room. I think most of us had spinny eyes by the time we were finished.
It brings to mind a few thoughts that I’d like to have out there in the wide world – some stuff that I’ve been thinking about that I find useful when thinking about my own behaviour onstage and off.

Kill the ego

If you think you haven’t got an ego problem, look at all the people who you think do have a problem, and think about how better much than them you are, because you don’t have an ego. Good. Now you’ve got an ego problem, just like me and everyone else. Give yourself a kick in the rumplestiltskin and get back to work.

Get outta’ yer comfort zone

If it’s easy, if you don’t even have to try, than how can you ever grow? You put in what you get out, and killing your ego and getting out of the comfort zone is the first steps, I think, on the path.

Don’t forgit which direction yer looking from

This is my worst bad habit. You think you have a better view than the director? You think you have the right to tell another actor how to do their job? Do you have the capability of being in 2 places at once? Nope. I didn’t think so. Learn your lines and your steps and get your entrances and exits, and sing the right notes in the right rhythm, and you’re almost getting starting on taking care of yourself. It’s a big step from their to make it into a performance, a work of art, you know? And that’s just you, looking after yourself. Leave it at that, and I figure you’ll be a lot happier about the effort everyone is putting in.

The truth is the truth

Until you’ve heard and understood a truth that wasn’t the version of the truth that you wanted to hear, you don’t know what truth is. And if you think you know that, maybe you don’t. Maybe the truth is part of that whole journey versus destination thing? Isn’t it more fun when you’re going somewhere, than being at a dead-end? Even if you’re where you wanted to be, it’s a dead end if you don’t have anywhere else to go.

I’ve got a few more, but the train’s just about at the station, and I’ve got to see a man about a horse.
More later – joel

A Thought on Accents

We did some work on accents over the weekend, and if you’ve ever read the script for Oklahoma!, you’ll understand why this is a hot issue for this show. A good portion of the script is written phonetically – forcing the actor to literally sound out the words to get the desired effect.  Think womern instead of woman or women; cain’t instead of can’t; heared instead of heard – many of us still miss this one even after having had it pointed out.


Being forced to twist one’s mouth around strange sounding versions of words we are familiar with makes it easy to slip into a drawl and start chewing up the dialogue something awful. At least that’s my take on what happens when an actor, while reading his or her lines, becomes more enveloped by their own deepening accent the more they read. I’ve heard this done even moreso with folks trying to put on an English accent – especially a London cockney – and everyone ended up sounding like they’re the same character from a Dickens novel.

The thing is, an accent is meant to serve the audience, not the actor. The whole point of talking with a particular accent is to take the audience further into the world of the character. A put-upon accent is really just a distraction, and if an actor persists with it – or worse, tries to be funny with how they are talking – he or she is doing so on behalf of themselves, not the character. As a previous director would insist, in these cases an actor is simply “commenting” on their character as opposed to portraying their character.

In my mind, less is more when it comes to accents, and at the very least, consistency is key.

I have heard people talk about authenticity where it comes to this stuff, but in my mind, especially with live theatre in front of a rather tight demographic – the perception of the audience is even more important. Why speak in a thick Scottish accent when much of that dialogue will be missed by those who don’t understand it?

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to feedback from the work on the weekend, and, eventually, from our audiences.

Who is Curly McLain?

bootsCurly is one of the principle characters in Oklahoma, in case you didn’t know.  I’ve been cast to play him in the VOS production opening this April. So, I figured I post my thoughts about him here, just for fun.

According to some folks, he’s about as deep as a dried up mud puddle, but I don’t believe that. It seems to me that there’s a lot going on with Curly, and he’s come from a place of contemplation and thought to get to where he is at the beginning of Act 1, Scene 1.

You see, all cowboys sit in the saddle for hours on end, just thinking, contemplating. And what’s Curly got on his mind? One thing: the future. Part of that future is Laurey, a big part, and he’s willing to give up anything and everything to win her over. Another part of it for Curly is the changing land itself: fences going up, crops coming up, folks staking out their place in world. While Jud hides away from the reality of the changing landscape, holed up in the smokehouse, Curly sees a challenge, something to take on.

In a way, that’s one of his major flaws, thinking that his future can be won over, and that Laurey is part of his conquest, but that’s the way he is, that’s what he knows. It’s how he deals with the world. Aunt Eller, seeing the strength in Curly, and his stubborn determination to succeed, is drawn to him . She can see that he’ll be around when the dust settles and all the others have disappeared.

All characters have choices, too. There are a couple of points where things could go either way if Curly doesn’t make the right move. For one thing, what is he thinking when he confronts Jud in the smokehouse? Does he think Jud can be scared off? Is he thinking that he might have to kill him? I’m not sure Curly himself has this figured out. He just knows he has to go deal with a problem. Conquest.

And there’s a point where Curly goes all the way, throws in everything he’s got, to win over Laurey. Does he do it because he doesn’t want Jud to “get her”? Does he just want to win? Or does he see his future, all the things that he’s dreamed about, sitting on his horse, enjoying the sunshine and the crops and the open spaces, all about to disappear?

Curly reminds me a bit like one of Louis L’Amour’s Sackett family. Like Tell Sackett, maybe. He’s kind of a loner who’s good at breaking horses and roping cattle and shooting his pistol, but brighter than his station, and whiles away the hours doing the repetitive saddle-work whilst contemplating a different life, settling down and raising boys. The hardest thing to secure for that future, and an absolutely essential element? A good woman. I know, I know – this kind of thinking totally objectifies women and reduces them to a piece of property, but that’s the x-factor here. Women of this time are coming into their own and don’t want to be someone’s property or conquested or whatever. That’s where the sparks begin to fly between Curly and Laurey.

There’s lot more to think about than just the few ideas I’ve started with, but it’s a start…

more later – joel

Most Important Acting Lesson of 2011

From the director of Vimy, Bea Quarrie.

She said this over and over, so many times that it’s impossible to quote her properly, but almost enough times for it to sink in.

It’s not the emotion that you throw into audience’s lap that moves them. It’s not the tears that you pour out on demand. It’s not the joy that you scream and shout about. No. It’s the emotion that you keep bottled up, the tears that you are holding back, the joy that is hidden.

That’s what keeps them wanting more.

Thanks Bea. 😉

More later – joel

Seven Part Harmony

Seven parts of harmony on the title number for Oklahoma! (I love that the exclamation point is part of the show’s name – it makes everything so exciting…).  We had a really good rehearsal and this piece is sounding just brilliant.

Anyways, seven parts.  That’s just gold.  We have no weak sections (well, maybe my section, 2nd tenor, cause there’s only a couple of us, and I have a solo on TOP of the seven harmonies at one point)… but honestly, the sound mix is really, really good.  The ladies are singing 3 parts and all ranges are really audible within each other.  In the men, the parts are simple enough so that the “cool” accidental notes can really be sung with confidence.

In general the, the music for this show, while not being simple, is in my opinion, meant to be sung in a very straightforward style.  In fact, that kind of is the style – straightforward.  That way, when something strays from the straightforward, (like a cowboy selling his saddle, horse and gun) really stands out.

This is gonna be fun…

Turning the Page

It’s the first of December, 2011. I think I am finally ready to turn the page from all the things that happened in November and move onto new stuff.

Part of that is just Christmas, but my next project is the VOS production of Oklahoma! in April. Got lots of music to learn, lines to memorize, and most importantly, a character to figure out.

So. This is me turning the page and moving onward. See you on the other side.

More later – joel

McLean McLain

Just realized this.

I just finished as Laurie McLean in Vimy.

I am just starting as Curly McLain in Oklahoma. Who marries Laurey Williams, becoming Laurey McLain.

How crazy is that?