I have made many discoveries about our show as we have worked the story through moment-to-moment rehearsals and run-throughs. It is so exciting and inspiring to see everything start to come together, and it has been fascinating to work on the specifics of our acting during the rehearsal process.
One of the biggest challenges that has come with this show has been acting honestly during the musical numbers that can be “show-tuney” or stereotypical. A lot of the time it can seem like being an ensemble member means having a big smile and doing the right dance moves, but it is important to know why you are smiling and dancing. If you are not acting honestly in every moment, you will stand out and it will take away from the entire ensemble’s hard work and energy. We have been working on actively working to achieve a goal, or objective, whenever we are on stage. Warts and All has been an especially challenging number. We get lost in the choreography because there are so many dance moves to be focusing on. Though it can be interesting to watch the show-stopping dance moves, it can become dull very quickly because we are all doing the same thing in unison. We need to make sure we each have an individual motivation for dancing to make it more interesting. The objective of this piece also becomes foggy because we are part of Ugly and the Bullfrog’s dream. We are overly optimistic about ugly being in, and the entire song is somewhat surreal. We have been working to balance our focus every time we are singing. Mastering the choreography is an important goal, but it is also important to be acting and listening while you are dancing.
We have also been working on making discoveries. There are several moments in this show where a character receives information, and that piece of information influences their movements. For example, there is a part of the script where my character, Jay Bird, is doing a TV report on Ugly’s disappearance. I find out that Ida, Ugly’s mom, has gone missing, and I notice that this new piece of information could help me sell my story to the viewers of America’s Most Feathered. In real life, we always have to have a moment where we learn new information, a moment where we decide what to do with it, and a moment where we make the action. We need to clearly demonstrate each of these beats on stage, or it will not seem as realistic. One thing that I have learned throughout this rehearsal process is the difference between making discoveries and being precious with a moment. In life, there are often small moments of realization, and we do not take a long and slow beat of thought. There are many times when it is important to slow down and think when you are on stage, but there are also many situations where you should not stop the momentum. I used to think that the best actors were the people who took the most time to think and slowly discover, but this show has taught me that there are times when plays slow down naturally. With some characters, you can be honest without taking a lot of time on every discovery.
During our most recent run-throughs, it has been amazing to watch actors play off of each other. There have been very clear relationships on stage, and this week we have truly seen these come to life. For example, James and Morgan (as Drake and Ida) have been doing a remarkable job of playing off of each other. Ida is frustrated because Drake is not being a good father or spouse. Their relationship and personalities have been clearly established, and it has been fascinating to watch Morgan and James react to each other so honestly. They are always listening to each other, and it is making their scenes together very engaging for the audience.
Moving forward, I think that we should work on having clear focus points and always being meaningful. There are several moments in the show where it is unclear what a character’s action or line is directed towards because they do not have a clear focus point. Asher has been doing a fantastic job of having a clear focus during Different. You can tell when he is directing his thoughts towards his siblings and all of the other bullies in the duckyard. If everybody has this level of focus, it would make the show more clear and engaging. It is also important to be focusing your energy towards something in every part of the story. There are several opportunities where we are talking in big groups. It can seem like people will not hear your individual conversation or like all you need to do is talk about the correct concept. However, you need to be having real conversations. You need to have the same amount of focus as you would with assigned lines. When I am watching scenes that I am not a part of, the most distracting thing from the story is when people are not directing their energy to a specific person or thing. I will be working to be meaningful and clear with all of my actions, and I am sure that we will be able to make a lot of progress as we continue to work on our focus.
It has been a wonderful experience to work and run this show, and I am thrilled to share this story with the community next weekend.