Time: July 10, 2004Place: Pleasanton PlayhouseRole: Billy BigelowDirector: John Baiocchi
To quote a lyric from another R&H show, "Let’s start a the very beginning." Well, let us start before that. Let’s start at the past. You say the past is still the beginning? Look, I don’t have time to get philosophical. Let’s just start several years ago.
My first time doing “Carousel” can be read elsewhere on my website. But to sum it up, I got called in to dance in that show. So…I danced; nearly went crazy with anxiety, but I survived. My Carousel days were done. Er, so I thought.
Time passed and years later, Pleasanton Playhouse decided to produce Carousel. Seems they couldn’t get the rights to "The King and I." This was a good thing. Oh yes, was a very good thing.
I auditioned. Sure, I had just finished my last show and probably could have used a break. But breaks are for the weak. Breaks are for people with brains. And as we all learned in Wizard of Oz, yadda yadda yadda. The audition went smoothly and I was happy to receive a callback.
Ah, the make-or-break evening. I was really hoping for the role, but I’ve learned to accept things however they may be. If I got it: great. If not: oh well — more books to read. The evening went well, although I would have been better off if I had been more prepared and studied the music a little better. However, I just sort of made like a chicken and winged my way through it. (Yikes — that is bad. Remind me to erase that last part).
They called the next day. I got the part. I was happy. Yeah, I was pretty darn happy.
The rehearsing began right away. That was okay with me. There would be a lot to do. I was late for the first rehearsal and I happened to cause a few others to be late as well. It wasn’t my fault. Well, it was sort of not my fault. I thought the call was 7:30 because on one form it said 7:30pm. Yet, on a more recent handout, the call was 7:00pm. I hadn’t read that one. Reading updated material is sometimes too much extra work. I was already tired that day. Who needed more words?
They were a good lot. No fisticuffs. No stranglings. Yeah, there were some tiny disagreements and differences, but overall, I think everyone would be willing to throw anyone a life preserver should they fall overboard halfway to Tahiti.
I don’t do as much in the area of costumes. I provide my own shoes. That’s about it. They provided me with everything else. The gray tank top wasn’t even my idea. I guess they wanted Billy to more resemble Stanley Kowalski. Fine by me. JULLLLIIIIIIIIIEEE!!!
I volunteer to help build sets in almost every show now. I do it to help out and do my part. Sure whatever. I mainly do it to help ensure I’ve done as much as possible for us to have a great set. I like great sets. Great sets are so underrated. We just can’t have theatre where we begin every scene by saying, "Imagine if you will…"
In each show, I like to take on a special project that I can do at home. In "Crazy For You," that project was the cuckoo clock (oh, and taking care of the blank-firing gun). In Oz, it was the tree stump (I’m very proud of that stump!). And in this show, it was the heavenly stars (and the gun once again.) My last experience in "Carousel" involved little plastic glow-in-the-dark stars. It wasn’t pretty. Folks around there don’t like to talk about that much.
Building the stars took some creativity. Fortunately, Leslie (my co-star) was around to help out. I suggested little bright LED lights. She suggested little plastic translucent balls. Well, just like the famous Recees peanut butter cup coupling incident, our invention worked well too. I made about four glowing stars. I wanted to make more. I just loved those stars. I pondered opening a heavenly star outlet. At that moment, Leslie smacked me across my head with a skillet and I returned to my senses. Still, it would be neat. OUCH!
We set aside a special afternoon to take photos. It was fairly haphazard in execution, but we did manage to somehow get the photos taken. Afterwards, I got them edited and sent off. All the newspaper publicity and reviews used my photographs. Though, I don’t think I got any credits for that. I need to ask for credit. Not sure what I’ll do with the credit. Maybe I’ll open a shop…OUCH! Enough with the skillet!
I did make a flyer. I liked it a lot. You probably never saw it. You see, it turns out a flyer was already made. Rats. I really liked my flyer. I did market a few black market flyers, but they never quite got going as I had hoped.
Another Openin’ of Another Show! Hmmm…I can’t think of a cornier way to begin a musical. Fortunately, that number comes from Kiss Me Kate (BLANK ME KATE!) and not from our show. We had a big carousel number. It was quite festive.
Folks had three weekends to see the show. That was it. Yeah, sometimes it’s a real shame to rehearsal for over two months and build those wonderful sets and then have to be limited to such a short run, but that’s life. Plus, we may have gotten tired of each other after a longer run. I would hate to see, "If I Loved You," turn into "I Can’t Stand You!"
My new keyboard made its debut appearance with Pleasanton Playhouse. I brought in my Yamaha to allow the music director to have another instrument in the orchestra–the harp. Aside from having to lug the thing around, it was nice to be able to contribute something else to the show.
There weren’t many. I don’t think there were any errors that really made audiences members go, "OOPS! Would you look at that Helen. He forgot his pants!"
I guess the big screw up that needs explaining was my own — um, "mostly" my own. I don’t take full credit because there were others involved. But I dropped a line which cued another to enter the scene. I never said the line, so the other never entered the scene. Well, she did eventually, but after several lines of improv.
So I should have said my line. But for the life of me, I had no idea the line was dropped. This was because everything seemed normal to me. The scene was moving along and just stopped. After a long analysis afterwards (and me mistakenly thinking it was another’s fault), we determined I dropped the line.
But why was the line dropped?
I wonder that because it was the only big dropped line for me, and I usually remember 100% of my lines. Turns out, another actress made a cross early. Well, this cross was what I reacted to when Julie (the other) enters the scene. When the cross happened, I did what I was accustomed to doing, I turned to wait for Julie. But of course, since the line hadn’t come–no Julie appeared.
But what of all this? Hmmm…I don’t really take all the blame since I like to be able to act freely (up to a point) and not fret over the next line all the time. It’s more natural that way. I don’t blame the other on stage because blocking should never be so rigid that some amount of spontaneity isn’t present. I don’t blame Julie. She simply waited for her line. Nope. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. That’s okay with me. It keeps things alive. It gives us stories to talk about later.
We all love good publicity. It’s always nerve-wracking though. No one likes negative thing said about them. But that’s the risk actors take. And if someone does not like something, then that is just one person’s opinion and is worth that same amount.
Although, if a reviewer likes something, then their opinion is worth hundreds and we make copies and post them on the refrigerator for the visiting neighbors to see and comment, "You do theatre?"
I attended every party. It’s nice to be able to say that. I just hate not being a part of the post show festivities. I don’t think I drank anything during the run. Then again, maybe I drank so much that I don’t remember for that reason. No. I think it’s the first reason, since I don’t remember spending any mornings bonding with the white cold commode. I try to avoid alcohol during a run if the part is large. For one thing, I would hate to perform with a hangover, but I also had so many lines to remember, I didn’t want to chance have only half a mind to perform with.
I also avoid cigars during shows where I sing. I probably don’t need to explain that one. I only mention it because some friends returned from Mexico with a Cuban cigar for me. Ugh. I would have to wait several weeks before enjoying. C’est la vie (though they probably don’t say that in Cuba).
Ah, the first big relief after opening weekend. It is so much nicer when you don’t have to stress about getting sick. But alas, this show had a lot of singing for me, so I wasn’t able to not stress about getting sick. Sure enough, I had a sore throat after opening weekend. I spent my days off worrying about being sick and trying not to get sicker. I guess I didn’t really get sick, but I never really felt 100% either until the last weekend. Still, I didn’t ever sneeze during a solo. That’s good. Yeah, that’s really good.
Ah. That was the best part! The dancing for me! You say I didn’t dance? EXACTLY! Don’t get me wrong, I sort of like dancing. Maybe just a little. But if I can do a large role in a musical and not have to dance, then it’s better than owning a multi-million dollar home on Lupine Court! Yeah, not dancing is COOL! I hate to sound dismal about dancing, but the last time I did Carousel, I was nearly traumatized from difficult dances. This time, I was able to watch. Er, I tried to watch. It kept bringing back shocking memories.
Okay, I did do the sailor dance, but that was pretty much just choreography to music. I’m not sure it counted for me.
All good things must end. I’m not sure who said that, but for the sake of time, let’s just pretend it was me. So, the show finally ended. The experience was amazing. New friendships were formed that will probably last a lifetime. I felt like I grew with the role and finally got a chance to do some heavy dramatic acting. Even vocally, I felt as if I gained something. I probably didn’t grow much as a dancer. I guess you have to actually dance to do that. Aw! Rules, rules, rules!
There were moments during the performances that really reminded me of why I do this stuff as a volunteer. Moments that gave me such outright joy and excitement. I would finish Act I and just be filled with energy and happiness. The really cool part is that the joy of theatre isn’t limited just to the performances. I had a great time during most of the rehearsals. I remember the fun I had screwing together the piers or raising the Carousel top for the first time. A really bittersweet moment was watching the Carnival Ballet for the first time. Okay, I admit it. I did sort of miss doing the ballet…a little! Nevertheless, if both options were weighed, then the role of Billy Bigelow would break the scale.
Part of me wishes more friends could have seen the show. But the bottom line creed has to always remain: we should only entertain for those who want to be entertained. Otherwise, it’s not entertainment–it’s punishment. Though, some unexpected attendees did make the show. That was nice to see.
The last episode went well and I was pleased with everything. The strike took a long time, but I had watched the Playhouse staff already do enough work without proper support so I wasn’t going to leave early. Besides I still had a check to collect. We tore things down and slowly, the theatre became just that again–a bare theatre. Our little town in New England was gone.
It simply washed out with the tide.
Next: Murder in the moonlight!