A bit of life in the theatre

Sweetie and I finished off 2016 by getting rid of almost a quarter truck load of stuff. We own a detached house, with basement. When we have that kind of space, we tend to fill it up and not look too often. It had been a long time since we had gone through stuff. We were pretty ruthless this time, and we're still not done. It's an ongoing process.

There was an orphaned box sitting in the living room that I thought was all Sweetie's stuff, but she said some of it was mine. Today I dug into it. Almost all of it was stuff from my time in the theatre: some sheet music for musical auditions, and a whole lot of working scripts, in binders, stapled, and even one in a Manila envelope. It doesn't represent all of my theatrical experience, but it's a curious assemblage of material from various periods of my brief career.

One of the most fun things I did in Boston was work with a children's theatre company. I found two original scripts by Stan---whose last name I forget. He was a very talented writer of musical plays for children. One script is for Cinderella (very memorable), the other Beauty and the Beast (which I remember less well). I was also part of a tiny touring company that performed Stan's version of Rumpelstiltskin.

For a few years, I worked with a voice teacher who then became my acting teacher. She invited me and a few other people to be part of creating a staged version of Dylan Thomas's poem Under Milk Wood, which was quite an honour because I was not yet very experienced. The five of us played several parts, including narration. It was mostly a dramatic recitation, but the power was in the words. I learned to play "The Rambling Sailor" on the tin whistle for the opening and closing. We toured a bit and played some interesting settings. Working on this project was a personal high point.

Despite my complete lack of Irishness, I was in several Irish plays with different directors. Away Alone by Janet Noble was one of my favourites. It's the story of young Irish people who show up in New York City, interact with others who came before them, and continue the cycle of getting work, settling in, and then breaking in new arrivals.

Undiscovered Country by Arthur Schnitzler was the height of my acting career in Boston. I didn't really like the play, and I was only a minor character, almost an extra, but I was on the stage of the Huntington Theatre in the midst of a professional company. I learned a lot from this experience, including such handy advice as that I should quit smoking lest I end up with wrinkles like the lead actor had.

I found a binder that contained The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerantz, which I believe was my last theatrical experience in Boston. For that one I was assistant director and stage manager. Every night, I ran the lights and sound. Every night I watched a gifted actor embody John Merrick and break my heart. If you've only ever seen the David Lynch film, you should seek out a good production of the play.

A Kind of Alaska, a one-act play by Harold Pinter, was the only theatre I did in Vancouver. My focus was on film and television. I didn't work well with the director, and it was not the happiest theatre experience. But every experience is one to remember.

There were some mysteries in the box. I found part of a script of Scenes from a Marriage by Ingmar Bergman. I have no idea why I have that. Maybe it came from a scene study class, which I did for a few years in Vancouver. I also found a play called Tide by Aidan Parkinson which is only vaguely familiar. My guess is that I participated in a reading.

I don't look back very often, but I will hang onto these scripts, at least for a while. There is plenty more in this house to clean up. Best for 2017. Stay vigilant!


Coline said...

Shall be thinking of your example as we also try to "declutter". Being a child of the fifties where recovering from the war everything had to be recycled, nothing thrown away, it is hard to change...My partner has lived in this house practically all her life and still has stuff left by previous generations, wish me luck.

Until recently I looked upon moments in the spotlight with horror and could never stand upon a stage let alone open my mouth. Every admiration for someone who can do it well.

Alisha said...

It feels really nice to read your blog. Thanks for posting!