Posts Tagged ‘ Kiss Me, Kate ’

Baring all for art

Oh, dear.  Not content with attending the powerful, moving play Equus simply for the chance to see Daniel Radcliffe in his birthday suit, the great British public is now being alarmed by Sir Ian McKellen ‘s on-stage nudity as King Lear, in a scene which always seems odd when the actor doesn’t take his clothes off.  It doesn’t help that certain other productions in London at the moment are using naked actors for what seems like pure shock value,as neither of these instances should be titillating or shocking as such, but are a small part of the wonderful plays being performed.  When Equus first opened, I became quite angry with the endless tabloid press stories on the play, which were mostly getting worked up about ‘Harry Potter getting his kit off’.  If they knew the play, they’d be much more concerned by the fact that ‘Harry Potter’ blinds some horses, and, by the way, that’s not Harry Potter (who, I hate to say it, doesn’t exist) on the stage at the Gielgud, that’s Daniel Radcliffe, an actor who will have to play more than one part if he wants to have a career.  Hmph.

Having criticised public and press for getting terribly worked up about dangly bits on stage, I have to confess that I can’t ever see myself going for a role which required me to bare all.  For a start, I think there are very few theatrical situations that truly justify it.  But mostly, I’d just be too embarrassed, though I’d probably use the excuse that I was sparing the audience from nightmares.  It’s strange, as going on stage at all means shedding a whole host of inhibitions, and both acting and blogging could be compared to baring your soul.  I have no qualms about making a fool of myself (as long as I’m playing a role) or taking on a completely ridiculous part.  And on a related note, when the time inevitably comes that I find myself in a stage kiss, I suspect that this will be more problematic in rehearsals than in performance.  I sometimes wonder what other lines I may draw in the sand when it comes to on stage performance, but I know that being a naked librarian is a step too far. 

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Acting like a duck

You keep paddling like the clappers,
Just keep paddling with your flappers,
While seeming to be dreaming and calm.
Just beneath the surface
You may struggle to get by.
But nothing can deter you
If you hold your head up high.

So sing a mother and son pair of ducks in Honk! as the ugly duckling learns to swim.  The image of a duck or swan gliding serenely across the water while its legs are working nineteen to the dozen beneath the surface is particularly apt for theatre.  No matter how polished a performance the audience may experience, you can guarantee that backstage is complete chaos, involving many people whose existence would surprise the paying punters in the audience.  Actors may be dashing about at breakneck speed, changing costumes and locating props.  Crew members all in black will be changing microphones, getting sets into position, acting as crowd control, clearing the stage of hazards, grappling with velcro, safety pins and gaffa tape.  There’ll be a deputy stage manager constantly whispering into his or her headpiece to communicate with cast, crew, lighting people, sound people and more.  Miles of electrical cable coil like snakes around the building, clothing rails are hidden in the strangest places, the sewing machine is very rarely turned off and at any given point, several people will be in the middle of a nervous breakdown.

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After the show

Nearly six months of rehearsals, several false starts, numerous sleepless nights over administrative problems, thirty-nine cast members, dozens of crew and musicians dressed in black, six performances, one visit from the Lord Mayor and a very subdued after-show party, and it’s all over.  There is now a Kiss Me, Kate-shaped hole in my life, and I have the potential to study, or perhaps even relax, on Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.  Since I am young, male, and now on the radar of the local performing groups, this doesn’t mean a quiet life (I’m already back in rehearsals for The Sound of Gershwin at the Whitstable Playhouse and have a July concert to work towards), but I really am going to miss this show.

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In just a few days time I sally forth on to stage once more, for the heady mix of Cole Porter, Shakespeare and general silliness which is Kiss Me, Kate.  This has been a rehearsal period which I will look back on with distinctly mixed feelings, as I have been involved with a number of major headaches both as part of the general run of things and as a member of the Society’s committee.  On the positive side, though, I have got to know some great new people, and got to know other people better, often greatly increasing my opinion of them as people and performers.  As I now pause before launching in to a hectic week in the theatre, I thought I’d take a step back and think about the things I’m looking forward to, in both a positive and a negative sense, over the next seven days.

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Respect your character?

I seem to have a problem.  I get cast in a role, large or small.  I begin rehearsals full of excitement and trepidation.  I learn the words and movements.  And before long, I realise just how much of an idiot my character is.  Once upon a time, I would defend my characters. I offered a sociological justification of Torvald Helmer’s actions in A Doll’s House, for instance, which absolved him of all blame for the play’s ending, and I even managed to find a motivation for most of the things that Roger got up to in Grease.  But no longer.   I simply can not remain blind to my characters’ shortcomings…

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Another Op’nin’, Another Show

You know, Kiss Me, Kate really doesn’t have the most musically-advanced opening number in the world, and the lyrics are pretty simplistic, but it has a power and appropriateness which is hard to match.  As I have been rehearsing the number over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by this again and again.  Sometimes less really is more, even in musical theatre.

The tune is simple and catchy, though the revised version of the show currently doing the rounds adds some tough harmonies to the number.  It drives  along, expressing the combination of dread and elation that performing a show brings with it.  I sincerely doubt that a musical analysis of the song would provide much insight even if I had the skills to do such a thing, so let’s look at the lyrics…

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What’s so great about Kiss Me, Kate?

Musical theatre is my passion.  Hardly a surprising admission, but it is definitely true.  There are many musicals which I like, many songs which I love to sing, hum or hear, many writers, composers, directors and performers I admire.  And of course, there are the shows that I love.  The cream of the crop, and Kiss Me, Kate is one of those.  Convenient, really, as it’s going to be part of my life for the next few months!  But what’s so great about it?  What makes me rank it almost as highly as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story?

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Singing Librarian flashbacks: Dreams

I don’t often remember dreams.  I’m not sure why this would be.  It could be due to my sleep patterns, or a side-effect of my utter lack of a visual memory (I cannot picture anythingin my head), or maybe I just don’t dream as much as other people.  Whatever the reason, I very rarely wake up knowing that I’ve had a dream, and it’s very rare indeed that I remember what I was dreaming about.  I do remember two different dreams where my house went up in flames, though, and my dream self has killed at least two people I know (so watch out, mwah ha ha!) for some reason.  However, I do normally manage an anxiety dream in the days or weeks leading up to a performance, and this is the focus of this flashback.  No insights into the strange backstage world of the theatre, I’m afraid.  Just into my head!

I’m sure most performers of any kind and at any level have had the usual anxiety dreams – turning up late; forgetting the words, or the steps, or the music; turning up with no clothes on…  But that’s kid stuff!  My sleeping mind seems to be able to come up with some wonderful variations on this theme. Continue reading

Audition preparation

Many things in life make me nervous.  Performing.  Meeting new people.  Seeing crocodiles (or alligators) on the television.  Looking at my bank balance.  Watching someone I know perform.  But auditions are one of the worst things for nerves.  I know that the audition panel are not really evil monsters, that they want you to do the best you can do, and that any decision they make is unlikely to be personal.  But even so…they’re a terrifying experience.  The weeks leading up to them are rather scary as well.

This coming Sunday, I have an audition for Kiss Me, Kate.  Amateur, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.  After much soul-searching, I decided to audition for two roles within the show – Bill Calhoun and Second Man.  Second Man is actually the best role, one of the two gangsters who are the root cause of much comedy and who get to sing ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ at the eleventh hour.  The gangsters are often played by people older than my oh-so-youthful 27-year-old self, but the director is willing to consider anyone from their twenties upwards for Second Man, who is the subordinate (and marginally more stupid) one.  Bill Calhoun is a long shot, the juvenile male who plays Lucentio in the musical version of The Taming of the Shrew which forms a large part of the plot.  He’s a dancer, which is the main problem.  I can sing his songs and I can possibly be charming enough to play him if I try, but the dancing is the real worry.  Still, I can dance ‘in my fashion’, so I’ll just give it all I’ve got at the audition and see what happens. 

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