Posts Tagged ‘ Canterbury ’

Something new every day


They say that you learn something new every day. This is probably true, even if it’s only something that’s seen, read or heard in the news, but I suspect we all forget many old things each day. I sometimes wonder whether new things push specific old things out of the memory banks and whether the volume of lyrics, tunes and useless facts about musicals stored in my head will one day have a disastrous effect, as something vital such as ‘alphabetical order’ or ‘how to breathe’ falls out of my ears as yet another song goes in. Recently, in addition to everything I’ve been learning for my various performing exploits, I have learned some more unusual things, which I thought I’d share.

1 – Bad posture can have painful results.On Monday, I woke up and my neck was very cross with me. The muscles in the right hand side of it were tight and angry, meaning that I could not fully turn my head to the left, and would get twinges of sharp pain when moving suddenly or when lying down. This was probably Officer Krupke’s responsibility, as it was noted in Sunday’s rehearsal that my Krupke posture was not going to do my back and neck any favours due to the way I was holding my shoulders. Or alternatively, I may have jarred the muscles when rehearsing the scene where Krupke falls over one of the Jets. Either way, a change of Krupke posture and some appropriate gentle stretching exercises gradually righted the problem. My advice – be careful, bad posture hurts!

2 – I cannot do an Irish accent. I really can’t. Monday evening was the first script read-through of Titanic, and one of the people that was missing was the young chap who plays Jim Farrell, third class passenger on the voyage. I was asked to read in for him and although his first line was delivered in a passably Irish manner, things simply went downhill from there until you’d have been hard-pressed to tell that the poor chap was human, let alone Irish. On the positive side, it did cause minor amusement to my fellow cast members, which was increased at the nadir of my accent attempts, when a particularly atrocious sound gave me a case of the giggles and caused me to go bright red as I struggled for air. I shall stick to the various English, Scots and American accents that I actually can do in future.

3 – The sense of smell can be numbed. On Tuesday, I helped at a family fun day organised by the local churches, where I spent the best part of four hours either serving or cooking sausages which were handed out free to grateful members of the public. I love sausages, but being part of the cooking and serving of several thousand sausages may have curbed my enthusiasm slightly. After only half an hour or so, I realised that I could no longer smell the sausages that were merrily cooking on the BBQ. My nose must have had enough and simply given up.

4 – An empty glove is not a good thing to be.The wonderful Archbishop of York was a part of Tuesday’s event and gave a great message about what it means to be a Christian. He compared life without God to being a glove without a hand in it – floppy and directionless. But being filled by God is like a glove is like a glove being filled by a hand, now able to wave, shake hands, bake a cake or do the hand jive (OK, so the Archbishop didn’t actually mention doing the hand jive, but you get the idea). He was speaking of Jesus’ statement that He came so that we could have life in all its fullness, not just a little bit of life, but an awful lot of Life. It was a clear, direct and inspirational message.

5 – One of my defining qualities is agelessness. It tends to be said that I look younger than I am, and I thought the cast of West Side Story were going to prove this when one of them guessed my age as 24. Unfortunately, yesterday, one of them (who is 13 but has the cheek to look at least 16) decided to guess my age and came up with the figure of 35. Yikes. I’m 29, and will turn 30 the day before the curtain rises for our production of Titanic. There’s nothing wrong with being 35, but really… However, to a 13-year-old, surely anything past about 21 is ‘ancient’.

6 – I’m a big softie. I don’t cry at films or books, and the only things I’ve seen in the theatre that I recall making my cry are Cabaret and Blood Brothers (though Parade and Billy Elliotmust both have been close to bringing on the waterworks). However, on Friday, we reached the final scene of West Side Story in a run-through, and there I was with tears trickling down my cheeks, so that I had to nip outside and dry my eyes before we set the bows. The last couple of scenes are deeply emotional for my more serious character, Doc, but even so… I don’t normally get deeply invested in my characters and this was a run-through in a hot room in a school, with very few costumes, with a few stops and starts and with only plastic chairs as the set, so I don’t know why it got to me. It did, though, so the only conclusion must be that I’m a big softie. I’m hoping that I get over this by the time we open on Wednesday, but who knows. Perhaps I’ll be a blubbering mess all week.

So there we have it. Six things that I’ve discovered this week. What’s your ‘something new’ for the day?

Talented youth


This week, I have been privileged to see talented young people performing in two different venues in Canterbury, and it has inspired and encouraged me.

The first was a performance of a musical by two of the local grammar schools – the Bernstein/Sondheim/Laurents masterpiece West Side Story.  I am not frequently in attendance at school shows, but this one starred a talented young guy who I have performed alongside in Kiss Me, Kate and My Fair Lady, and I wanted to support him, so turned up to the opening night along with a couple of other members of the operatic society.

From the overture onwards, I was frequently impressed by the skills, energy and enthusiasm of those involved.  The orchestra negotiated Leonard Bernstein’s difficult score very well, and seeing the show performed by people of around the right age for the characters was a rare treat.  Though there were some iffy moments, these were far outweighed by the good bits.  ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ exploded with energy, and the boys were clearly loving every moment of that song.  The ‘Tonight’ quintet was impressive – not perfect, but very, very good.  It is an incredibly tricky piece of music.  In terms of stage craft, I was amazed at the ensemble’s ability to hold a freeze at the end of the ‘Somewhere’ sequence – it seemed as though not a muscle twitched.  The leads acted most of the adult characters off the stage.  My young friend had an entirely natural, relaxed and convincing air to his performance as Tony and both the main girls impressed me greatly.  The girl playing Anita had an incredible voice, with immense power and control far beyond her years.  I was so glad I had gone and I was encouraged that the schools were supporting talented young performers – involvement in a project of that nature can teach many things which cannot be taught in conventional lessons.

Then on Saturday, I was a steward at the semi-final of a talent competition run by the local churches for the city’s secondary schools and further education institutions.  This competition has many aims.  To encourage and develop local talent (the judges are from a local stage school and offer helpful advice as well as giving out scores).  To demonstrate that the church is not a remote and cold institution.  To have fun. 

The talents on show at the heats and the semi-final were diverse – dancers, singers of all varieties, solo musicians, bands, a comedienne and even a pair of roller-dancers.  Some are better than others, but most of them perform with such joy and enthusiasm that it is infectiously exciting, even if their particular brand of performance is not the spectator’s normal cup of tea.  Particular highlights from the semi-final include a girl who had written a song after hearing someone on the radio say they’d never been given flowers or a card on Valentine’s Day.  The song was well-structured and moving, and her delivery very engaging, using her deep voice to great advantage.  And then there was the boy who did an Irish dance routine, who was able to do amazing things with his knee joints.  It was also encouraging to see the acts cheering each other on and giving fulsome applause.  Next week’s final should be an absolute delight, though I fear the pressure of counting the votes may get to me!

It is a joy to see talented young people perform, perhaps even more so than talented people who have had time to refine their craft.  There is a raw energy and excitement to what they do which is wonderful to behold, and there can be a surprising amount of talent locked in the youngest of bodies.  I can only hope that their teachers, relatives and friends continue to encourage them to use and develop their gifts into adulthood and that young people (particularly boys, who seem to have more inhibitions than girls) continue to be brave enough to act, sing, dance and create music.  It is a privilege to have shared in what they do.

Questions are asked and answered


There is a meme going around, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, where bloggers interview one another, and end up giving really quite interesting (or in my case, really quite long) answers.  I think the beauty of this meme is in the nature of who is doing the interviewing.  It’s not people that the bloggers know in their day to day life, who would most likely be fishing for particular bits of information that they already know.  It’s also not people completely disconnected from them, who would end up asking entirely generic questions.  These are people who know their interviewees through the blogosphere, a curious form of social interaction which is simultaneously very open and very reserved, as each word can be chosen, pondered and held back.  All of us leave a whole number of gaps in the narrative of our lives as we blog away, and many of the questions and answers I’ve seen have been filling in some of these gaps, which the blog authors may have been entirely unaware of.

So the meme has been floating around, and I’ve seen it whiz through the periphery of  both the comics blogosphere and the theatre blogosphere, and now it has entered the realm of the blogs that I read more regularly.  I finally decided to be brave and ask for some questions following the questions that Aphra posed to Reed.  Reed, or possibly her ever-present Editor, posed five questions, and warned me that they “are all prompted by the fact I am a NOSY woman”.   As a result, this is probably one of my longest posts ever.  If you really don’t want to know about the real Singing Librarian, look away now and come back in a few days when I start wittering about something less personal.

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