Time: March 07, 2014Place: Role Players EnsembleRole: Richard DauntlessDirector: Eric Hayes
I didn’t audition. I didn’t even know the show was going on. I didn’t even know what “Ruddigore” was. Turns out there’s a lot I don’t know. I should get on that.
But I got an email from the music director asking me to audition or attend a callback and sure, why not? In fact it was on the way home from a murder mystery show I was doing in Oroville. It was a chance for a new adventure. And it was an opportunity to be in another work by…
Shoot. I had no idea who wrote it or anything. It was all a mystery. But the Internet has solutions for mysteries and I soon learned it was a Gilbert and Sullivan show, which they created after “The Mikado,” and it was interesting that Role Players Ensemble was doing it as a follow up to their own “Mikado” production. Isn’t that exciting?
Well, okay maybe not, but I only said it was interesting.
In either case, it’s not ironic.
This was a private one just for the music director and the director. I even showed up very early since the three-hour drive home from the casino went by fast. In fact, the theater was empty. Almost empty. Turns out a children’s show was taking place there. Ah, okay then, the audition was in the building next door. And that made sense. Hated to stop a full production of kids singing “The Hills Are Alive” for me to sing “On the Streets Where You Live.”
Actually, they may have been doing “Grease,” or “Seussical.” I didn’t go in.
In time, the staff showed up and I did my thing: an audition song and then a sight-reading. The next day, I received a call offering me the role of Richard Dauntless, and I accepted heartily. (There is a lot of “heart” dictation in “Ruddigore.”)
Our cast was small. We had 12 people, which was fine, though I do like large casts since there are more members to mingle with. That said, a small cast meant a much larger paycheck. And since I usually perform for free (well, in stage theatre), any amount is more than no amount. Show me the money!
For the most part, we rehearsed at the Town Hall Meeting Center or Hap Magee Ranch. They were a ways apart so if you got the location wrong, you were late for sure. The ranch was peaceful and scenic, though a quagmire when it rained hard. With a small living room room area with couches, actors could sit and relax when not rehearsing–something I used often.
Both places were pretty nice and worked well, although no mirrors. For this particular show, it wasn’t necessary. Most of the time, we were singing, and I don’t need to actually see myself sing. I guess there was a bit of dancing, but the mirrors wouldn’t have helped. There were a few moves I was simply never going to get right. It is just so hard to do extra practice when you work 9 to 5 and then rehearse 6 to 10. I am not a huge fan of sleep, but I’ve come to appreciate its benefits to some extent.
I think we ran for four weekends. That’s a lot, but there was pay involved. It’s a fairly simply show to perform, and my role was a “slotted” one. I didn’t enter until 20 minutes into Act I, but then remained onstage for 20 minutes while others came and went. Then a break. Then 20 minutes which led up until the end of Act I. And while I had a small part near the start of Act II, that was essentially it for the show. Was tough to figure out for a while, but it worked for me.
Sing enough lyrics and it’s bound to happen. Actually, for most of the principals, I think there was at least one time where some randomness came out from their lips. For me, it was just a couple of times. I would draw a blank right before a lyric, and when you realize it at that point, you just have to accept that some “different” words are going to be sung. And yeah, with a show featuring fast, patter songs, it’s just a matter of time. I found myself uttering near nonsense in the words to “Happily Coupled Are We” one night, and that would have been fine and okay, if not for the fact that my scene partner was grinning from ear to ear and trying not to laugh. Of course seeing her almost bust up made it more difficult for me to keep a straight face. We managed–for the most part, but it was a little rough–and very memorable.
On other nights, the speaker monitor bore witness to others on stage going off in their own unintended directions. Mind you, this was not frequent, but it did happen (every actually seen all the words and tempo settings of “It Doesn’t Matter”?) and if you’re not onstage when it does, all you can do is cringe a bit and think, “Whew! Glad it’s not me this time!”
The Theatre and Set
The performance space there is very nice. It’s clean and has a nice quaint feeling to it. The entrances all worked well with the backstage, although the “green room” isn’t really there. There’s just a small area outside the dressing rooms, where you mainly just stand around and deface the callboard.
Since my first entrance was from the house, I got to hang out there and look at the art displays each night. I’d then stretch a bit, hum a few lyrics, listen to ensure I didn’t miss my cue, and start all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Etc., Etc., Etc.
But yeah, overall, a nice place to perform. Parking is sometimes tough, but a little extra walking never hurt anyone. And if you have extra time, Danville has some fine boutique stores. Overpriced, I’m sure, but nice.
Alas, my character was a sailor boy. Actually, if the pants had been short, then it would have completely resembled one of those photos where the kid is in a crazy, humiliating sailor outfit–sure to humiliate him years down the line. This isn’t to say this outfit was bad; it fit the period. And I guess it was the hat that really chapped my hide. But again, period, period. I did learn (one only has to look down or in a mirror) after the first rehearsal in costume that a dance belt would be necessary. The pants were white and tight. Always keep a dance belt for situations such as those. White and tight are not your friends. Again, always check when in doubt. Sure, other cast members might let you know. And on the other hand, they might not.
The crowds were great. I’m not sure there were any sell-out nights but we had fine houses full of appreciative people, which always makes performing that much more fun. Sell-out crowds are obviously desired, but it’s tough to compete with the Internet, Video Games, and High Def television these days. We do what we can.
Oh yeah, for this show, we would have no mics. In fact, the theatre mainly has plays and plays don’t usually need mics, so there is no sound system installed (that I know of). It was a fun change. You have to sing loudly or at least be very good at throwing your voice, but everyone did fine. In fact, I remember being in awe at my first opera years ago because the volume was too high. I thought, “They need to lower those mics a lot; it’s hurting my ears!” But well, what do you know–they were not even wearing mics! So bravo for opera singers being so powerful! But still, they need to write more interesting operas. I just can’t sit through them anymore.
I did try several times though. For the record!
Oh yeah, again, we also had no conductor. Er, we had a conductor, but couldn’t see her as the orchestra was behind the set. It’s not the first time I’ve had this situation. The last time was for “Carousel,” and it worked out fine. One just has to listen more and count diligently. It’s an extra challenge, though I’m all for that arrangement on occasion as it really does teach musicians awareness and teamwork.
Actually, I don’t think there were any, aside from the final one at the director’s house. We did attend a restaurant/bar one or two nights. Those were good times. Nice to mix outside the theatre, even without being able to drink. As Danville is too far to walk home from, I couldn’t indulge in the spirits.
We got paid in full! I don’t need the money, but when it’s offered, then sure, I can accept. It was actually the second show in a row offering a hearty stipend.
I could get used to that.
Though it does cancel out one of my favorite rebuttals: “Hey, I don’t get paid for this.”