Friday, February 8, 2013

(Not So) Broadway Baby

I recently volunteered for (and thankfully, was cast in) a staged reading of excerpts from The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I hadn't read any of Doug Adams' stuff before I got to college, but among my peer group once I got there, it was a required text. Since I'd grown accustomed to this "reading for social acceptance" thing in high school, it wasn't that big of a deal. I located a copy and set to work indoctrinating myself into the mysteries of science fiction satire, having previously read the entire corpus of Frank Herbert and two different complete Asimov series to keep up with the boys. It was a little different and, well, Adams was ever-so-slightly shocking to my "good girl" brain.

Anyway, one of the components of my staggeringly hideous stage fright is that even if I can get off-book, I still blow my lines. At the first rehearsal, I did manage to get through most of my lines as Eddie the (overly-cheerful, then overly bitchy) Ship's Computer. I had also failed to realize that I have to sing a little- so I took a page from Rosemary Ashe, the wonderfully demented original Carlotta from "Phantom of the Opera" and belted my way through it.

There's a reason I have a hangup about the singing part. I don't do 'pretty', but I can, when I try, do 'loud'. This is best suited to jazz torching, Broadway belting, and comic turns. It's been over a decade since my last show, which profoundly scarred me about this. My vocal feature in the second act was brief, but it required me to forcefully address the male lead's character. The actor in question had a serious hatred of fat people, so whenever it came time for me to sing, he'd give me this searing look of disgust. I'd miss my cue, come in resoundingly flat, and then practically run offstage in tears.

Thanks to my friends Stefan and David, and a long, long night of running and re-running the scene with them calling out different characterizations for me to try, we finally hit on a winner: Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney's The Little Mermaid. The next day in rehearsals, the time came, Stephen assumed his air of general contempt believing that he was going to scare me yet again. Not so. I marched out, dragged him up to the apron, belted out my lines, and upstaged the crap out of him into the process. The director yelled, "STOP! You must do that again!" Stephen, who had nearly peed in his pants from shock, got dragged around again...and again...and again...until the director was certain that it wasn't an anomaly. From there on out, I owned my little piece of stage real estate and had a great time doing it.

Still, the residual effect lingers. I was a bit surprised at myself when I grabbed this latest part and ran with it. It's not very large but the point is not so much how many lines one has as the impression one makes with them. It's also shown me how much I miss performing; I just hope that when the time comes for the performance that I'm a credit to myself, our director, and my castmates. This time, at least there's no Stephen treating me like he's going to catch 'fat cooties' from sharing the stage. I think that will help a lot, or at least I hope so.

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