Cutting loose?


Tonight we gotta cut loose, footloose!
Kick off your Sunday shoes. 

It’s that time again – show week!  It seems like I only just got off that particular emotional roller-coaster, largely because All Shook Up was only last month.  Now I’m on to Footloose, with the young people of Phoenix Performing Arts (the group where I am brought in from time to time as an “adult”).  In some ways there are many similarities between the shows: in both of them, an authority figure has sucked the joy out of a town; in both of them, a young man arrives and shakes things up; in both of them, I play(ed) the father of the female lead; in both of them, I walk(ed) out part of the way through an emotional song being sung to me.    But in more fundamental ways, they are completely different.  All Shook Up was a comedy, whereas Footloose is a drama with some funny bits.  When I saw a production of the show last year (by Lights Up Productions, before I was involved with the group), I was surprised by how much genuine drama there is in the show, with some complex relationships and some quite serious themes.  Now, having been rehearsing for the last three months, I am still coming across new layers to my character and trying to work out how to make these come through.

I play Reverend Shaw Moore, who essentially runs the town of Bomont.  Everyone there does what he says and follows his guidance.  As Rusty, Urleen and Wendy-Jo explain to Ren, “Reverend Moore? He is the power.  He is the law.”  His leadership has resulted in the town having a curfew for all young people, and bans in place on alcohol, drugs and (more surprisingly) dancing.  Due to these rules and his rather strained relationships with his wife and daughter, he functions as the antagonist to the young leads through the show, blocking their hopes and plans at every turn.  Yet, he is not a bad man.  He is motivated by a genuine desire to protect the young people of the town, to care for and guide his daughter and to do God’s will.  Unfortunately, his judgement has been clouded by an event in the past, an event that casts a shadow over the entire town due to his reaction to it.  He is a persuasive man and a frightening man.  He is a caring man, but an unseeing man.  He is a good man who cannot see that his actions are causing harm.  He cares deeply, but doesn’t express it as he should.  He buries his pain, but he also treasures it in a way.  All of these things need to come through in my performance somehow – so no pressure…

Actually, an awful lot of pressure.  Performing with PPA always brings with it a sense of responsibility.  I am there as an “adult” so I feel I need to be some sort of role model in the way I behave backstage and in rehearsals, in addition to fulfilling the demands of the role and giving the younger cast members an older person to bounce off.  In this role, I know that the way I perform will inform the performances of Ren, Ariel and Vi at the very least – I have to give them everything they need for their characters.  I have a series of scenes towards the end which are wonderfully written, but which scare me immensely – they have to be so, so right to make the show’s conclusion work.  I’m probably not making things any easier for myself when in the back of my mind, I am always aware that one of my last conversations with Stuart before he died was about how much he thought this role would be a good one for me.  And in my heart of hearts, I know that he could have performed it better than I ever will.

As ever with PPA, rehearsals have their strange moments.  The Rens (most of the non-adult roles are double cast, meaning that I have two very different daughters and two very different antagonists) being told that entering a room was like being thrown into a shark pool, with me as the biggest shark.  Running around the acting coach’s garden and delivering a speech breathlessly to see what happened (answer, I couldn’t get to the end as I am clearly less fit than I thought).  Discussing what our characters would wear in bed.  My daughters comforting me as if they were a lioness or a domestic cat, to see the difference.  Rehearsals are, as I have mentioned before, odd.

It is a great privilege to play this role.  It’s extremely scary as well.  There are emotions in it that I don’t want to touch on, but really have to.  The character continues to elude me, and show me more sides of himself which I doubt I can portray.  I have vocal issues in the dialogue which have been pointed out numerous times, but which seem to be getting better only slowly.  But the script is wonderful, and I am sure the show will be a great experience once I manage to cut loose (though not footloose, given Shaw’s antipathy to dance) and just go with it.

    • Trish
    • September 7th, 2010

    I can remember watching the film Footloose and the impression I got from it was that the father and daughter were very much alike -very strong characters, definitely leaders, but risk takers and inclined to take things to extremes. Also both in a state of shock about past events. Despite having an incredible bond they clash strongly.

    The young man enters the picture – an Alpha male who can stand up to the girl’s father but in a strange way is also calming and healing like her mother. He completes the family and enables them to come to terms with the past and regain joy in their lives. Well that was my interpretation of it 🙂

  1. That sounds pretty accurate. I only really talked about the state of play at the start of the show in the blog post, but that is the dynamic of the plot. There is a whole lot of redemption going on in this show!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: