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Theater Thursday: Dearly Departed

Acting hasn't been a part of my life for too long, but in the last few years it has been incredibly influential and undeniably eye-opening. As I approach my eleventh production in almost five years, the conversations I've had and the memories I've shared with my theater family have made me realize I don't remember all of my previous productions as well as I had thought. So this blog series seeks to delve deep into the experiences I've had thus far, as few as they may be when compared to those my many people I've acted beside.

For the second post in this series, we'll be looking at my first on-stage performance as the character Ray Bud in the show Dearly Departed, which was put on in the late summer of 2013...

  Left to right: Sharon Hartley, Mitchell Dallman, myself, Bri Keran, and Terra Dosh is cut off. Front and Center: Deb Binda.

Left to right: Sharon Hartley, Mitchell Dallman, myself, Bri Keran, and Terra Dosh is cut off. Front and Center: Deb Binda.

Auditions - A Fortunate Advantage

By the summer of 2013 I had entered fully into a new phase of my life - I was in the process of putting the finishing developments on my clunky and ambitious tabletop RPG, Round 10, and was still entertained the idea of becoming an English Teacher just so that I had an easy answer any time anybody asked me what my career plans were. I was writing and creating regularly, with my weekly gaming group exploring the worlds I would craft, interacting with the stories I had woven, and after my Acting 101 class in the Spring of 2013, I found that I was confident and prepared when the auditions for Central Lakes College's production of Dearly Departed.

I had already performed a scene of Dearly Departed during my acting class, and the instructor of that class was also the director of the show. He had approached me after the class, suggesting that I audition. That was all that I needed, really. Once I heard from him that he wanted me to show up and try for a part, I felt confident enough to do so. It also helped that during the auditions, the scene I had to do a cold reading for was the very same scene I had performed in class, meaning I was two full steps ahead of the other people auditioning.

I wish I could remember who else was there during auditions, but sadly that day is all but gone from my memory. I remember encouraging my former classmates to also audition, but the number of those who actually did was fairly small. But I landed the role of Ray Bud, the Michael Bluth analogy in this working class South Carolina family (that is to say, it was the story of a family who lost their patriarch, and the one son who had no choice but to bring them all together).

  Myself beside Dave Endicott

Myself beside Dave Endicott

Scene Partners

Rehearsals were interesting, a new process I had never encountered before. I didn't know anybody immediately, and in all honesty it felt like only a few of them knew each other. The first couple of read-throughs had the sense of a group of strangers getting together for the first time. This was the first time I would meet such influential folk as Bri Keran and Mitchell Dallman, as well as building on the friendship I had already established with Nicole Rotheleutner, Ann Sheldon (not Sheldon at that time, but I forget her maiden name), and Nitasha Sanders. Bri had only just returned to acting in the area, and she quickly seemed to me to be a very talented actress. She's funny and down-to-earth, very encouraging and ready to help if ever the need arose. She continues to be one of my favorite people to work with.

I had an interesting interaction with Mitchell Dallman. If you read my previous post, you'll remember that he got the role I had auditioned for in The Glass Menagerie. Despite the fact that I was as brand-new to acting as I could be, I still felt disappointment when I heard I didn't get the role. And then when I learned I would be acting beside the guy who had gotten it, I felt the competitive drive in me - which I normally try to keep well stifled - flare up. Here was the guy who had already outperformed me once, and now I was going to be working beside him, and it was likely that he would be outperforming me again. It was a silly, and likely one-sided, rivalry that had sparked up, and luckily these feelings didn't last long for me.

Mitchell played my character's younger brother, and we shared multiple scenes, but there was one in which we were the only two on stage. The scene, pictured below, was meant to be both funny and also somewhat poignant, and Mitchell felt that he and I should rehearse it together frequently in order to seem comfortable with the dialogue, and also with each other. We were brothers, after all.

During a few of these separate rehearsals, he would ask me questions - about the scene, about the play, and about theater - questions I often didn't have answers to. I made it clear that I was new to the craft, and it was obvious he was not. But despite his experience, he always desired to learn more, even from the perspective of a newcomer like myself. His professionalism and care to his work quickly undermined my childish concerns of being outdone on stage, and by the time we entered into tech rehearsals I was truly enjoying every moment we shared on stage.

  Myself with Mitchell Dallman

Myself with Mitchell Dallman

Live Performance - 2013

I don't remember exactly when during the summer Dearly Departed opened, but I believe it was around mid August of 2013. I do know that I was able to walk to the college for the majority of rehearsals, and I distinctly remember the shining summer sun after our Sunday matinees. With this being my first production, I told a great many people about it - friends from my job at Target, members of my family, my gaming group, basically anybody I thought liked me to any degree. And I remember the overall turnout being pretty strong. Every member of my family I had informed of it made it to the show, even those from out of town. My father came to it twice, and would later talk about seeing the film of it on television and remembering my performance. I invited my crush to the show, a coworker at Target named Laura who I would shortly after begin dating. Most of my friends came and sat front and center, giving me my first break in character as I sat staring at Kip Peterson's face at eight feet away during the penultimate scene. There was also one show where, during the final scene, an actor was pulled down into a folding chair during the funeral ceremony - a maneuver we had done many times in the past - and by a combination of over-pulling and over-falling, the chair came apart and the actor was forced to stand for the remainder of the show.

When it was all finished I had my first taste of that temporary depression, the feeling of loss after a show is finished and everyone heads their separate ways. Each of us had been continuously asking Patrick what his fall show would be, and he had at one point said Frankenstein, and at another said Dracula. It was clear it was still up in the air, but at least we knew he was thinking of a Halloween show. But that was months away, and we weren't even guaranteed that we all would be in it. This feeling, this mixture of relief and depression, is something that I - and I'm sure most actors - would feel after every show, and in my own case, it would only grow with each and every show.

Next week, read about a very unique audition experience for a cancelled show, as well as the Halloween production where the actors were outpacing the tech on almost every single night.