Acting While Directing

Life with a BFA – the title of my blog. Four years ago, I was getting ready to move into my freshman year dorm, meet a whole bunch of strangers who would turn in to my best friends, and learn that I knew nothing about acting. Acting class consisted of learning about objective, really digging into who my character is, developing an inner monologue, etc. Throughout my training, I studied really complex characters, analyzing their every thought and back story. It was a long way from my audition into the program, when I broke down my monologue by thinking “it would sound convincing if I said it that way.”

Fresh out of my university bubble, I have been given this unique challenge of acting and directing children simultaneously. Every week, we teach an entire show to a new group of kids. Here’s the breakdown:

Monday – 2 hours of audition, 2 hours of teaching one group of the cast everything they need to know for the show

Tuesday – 2 hours of teaching a new group of the cast, 2 hours of another group

Wednesday -The groups that I’ve taught + the groups that Kevin has taught unite, and we have a 4 hour rehearsal to put the entire show together

Thursday – 2 run-throughs of the show

Friday – Get kids fitted into costume, dress rehearsal, dinner break, get them in makeup, and finally a performance

Saturday – Performance #2

So much of my energy goes into making sure that these kids learn the material, remember everything, and, of course, are quiet backstage. Directing is definitely the main part of this job. During rehearsals, my inner monologue during my solo is not about trying to convince Pinocchio to plant his money into a magic field in hopes of stealing his money. Instead, my mind is on the vermin: “TURN – TURN NOW! WHY CAN’T YOU REMEMBER THAT?! SEMI-CIRCLE!!!!!!!!!!!! NO, DON’T SQUAT YET!”

My very first week, my own lines were still fresh in my head and our cast was small in number AND in age. Kevin and I were improv masters for that week, as there were just too many lines for those little ones. There’s one particular scene where I say a line, praising Pinocchio, saying he has “grace, poise, and statuosity.” After, different vermin have lines basically restating mine. The kid who played the head vermin that week was probably 7 or 8. Like I said, a young cast. He couldn’t remember pretty much any of his lines. Because I was so frazzled and I was still new (and likely the scene before had been a train wreck), I somehow jumped over that one line and skipped ahead in the scene. Later, he asked me backstage, “Samantha, when do I get to say, ‘Yeah, grace’?” Bless his heart, there was ONE LINE that he remembered, and I RUINED IT FOR HIM!!! It broke my heart to confess, “Oh… you don’t get to say that line. That scene already happened.” Since then, my lines have been correct so that I don’t destroy the dreams of small children.

Our scripts were mailed to us prior to training week. We were told to come in with our lines memorized so that during training, we could focus on learning the rest of the show. I did my usual actor homework and made all of these plans in my head about the Fox and motives and all of that. Halfway through this tour, I remembered that and chuckled a little. Then, however, I remembered the main note that I received at my freshman year assessment. I tend to over-analyze things, so my professors wanted me to continue to analyze prior to a performance, but then trust that all of the homework I did will be there and simply act. I think it took a bunch of kids distracting me from my own head to really let loose and trust my acting, even if it is children’s theatre. Because, I realized, I have been simply acting. Yes, the dialogue and subtext is a lot simpler than Chekhov, but still…. using that BFA for good.

Tonight is Thursday, which means that tomorrow I will once again be in director mode for the majority of the day, but by 7:00, I will share that opening night with those kids. I will put on my costume, and I get to perform.

I realize that the audience consists of parents coming to see their children and so much of my energy during the week is focused on making said children look good. Still, I share the stage with them. I get to sing a solo and most weeks no one applauds because the parents are probably tired and also because Pinocchio has the next line and he usually goes straight to it. I’m not offended – mostly I’m relieved that Pinocchio knows his line! Last week, however, the audience applauded and I had a moment of gratitude as I realized what a gift it is that every single week I get to sing and act and be silly for a different community. After the show, one of my sweet little “spirits of the enchanted forest” came up to me and said, “Samantha, good job. You’re a really good actor.” I think that’s the best compliment I’ve gotten all summer!

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I can’t neglect to mention that I was lucky enough to one week have audience members there for ME! Much love to my mom, brother, and future sister-in-law!

Today at break in between our two run-throughs, one member of the cast was very confused. She said that she knows we’re directors/actors, so she wanted to know if I’m the actor or the director. Then I was very confused because I had just spent the last two hours yelling counts to her choreography and then appearing onstage saying my own lines. Both, little girl. I am both. And I love it.

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Living That Tour Life Part 3: Lodging

As I write this, I’m sitting on a lovely wooden lawn chair outside of my motel watching the sunset over Lake Superior, realizing I forgot to put on bug spray.

Pause to go get bug spray.

Ahh, bug spray, my favorite perfume.

Anyway, this perfect writing spot is on the front lawn of my motel for the week. Confession: I have a fear of motels. I prefer entering through a lobby, walking down a hallway, and arriving at my door INSIDE. As a kid, anytime my family stopped somewhere to sleep during a road trip, I would beg my parents to stay at a hotel. I was convinced that all motels were broken into. You literally park your car right outside your door! I mean, come on! THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE (whoever they is). Pretty princess, Samantha, didn’t always get her way at 2AM, and we would have to stay in a motel. Though I was paranoid and terrified, I was comforted knowing that my parents were there to protect me. Or at least to block the invader as I make my epic escape! I kid… sort of.

I’ve joked with Kevin all summer that if we ever stay at a sketchy motel, he will have to stay with me. So far, so good. This is only our second motel. The first was a lodge in a wooded area, so I felt secluded enough; though maybe seclusion should’ve made me more cautious. This week, I have an extra layer of protection with a screen door that locks, which is probably more for bugs than intruders, but it does help me a little. Kevin is also next door so can listen for any signs of scary. If I don’t post anything later on this week, though, please send a search team.

Nevertheless, it is nice that I simply walked out the door and was able to take in this amazing view. Maybe my motel fear can subside for the week.

This blog post isn’t just to talk about this week’s motel, but to share some of the benefits and struggles of living in a new place each week.

Temperatures

I have yet to be in a place with no type of air conditioner (so #blessed for that), but I cannot, for the life of me, ever get the temperature in the room right. Usually when you walk into a fresh hotel room, the A/C is either off completely or blasting cold air. I immediately adjust accordingly to try to make it comfortable, but somehow I always manage to get it to another extreme. How do I get it to a comfortable room temperature? Last week, I was so hot, so I turned on the A/C. The next day my room was completely damp. That was Tuesday, and the rest of the week everything in my room was slightly wet. WHAT DID I DO?!

Another temperature that is tricky is the temperature of the shower. A fellow tour director, Larren, posted a Facebook status that perfectly captures this dilemma:

“Every hotel shower seems to have such a fine line between ‘Hmm this could be a little warmer.’ and ‘Boiling lava, I’m melting, it’s getting hot in here so melt off all my skin, now I’m a lobster.'”

Finally, there’s the temperature of the mini fridge, assuming there is one. I’ve found that the mini fridge is either so cold that my lettuce becomes little frozen treats and my milk is a slushie, or not quite cold enough for the freezer section to keep ice cream solid. Cereal slushies, it is!

The Beds

Mostly, I’ve been lucky to have beds that are fairly comfortable. Sometimes I immediately strip down the comforter that looks like it’s as old as the hotel itself and replace it with my trusty freshman dorm comforter.

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Note the dated comforter that has since been removed

When you live life in a hotel room, you quickly learn that the bed is not just for sleeping. Yes, there is often a little desk with an office chair, but who really wants to sit there? Therefore, the bed is where I sleep, eat, read, and watch endless hours of Netflix.

As nice as a king bed seems, I have determined I much prefer two double beds to one giant bed. First of all, who needs all of that space to sleep? I’m not that big – I’d much rather have room for activities than have that giant bed! Second, two beds are really nice because I can reserve one bed specifically for sleeping and the other bed for everything else. That way, I can eat and not sleep in the crumbs from my breakfast that morning.

Housekeeping

Do Not Disturb. Nothing against housekeepers, but it’s just me, so I don’t need my room cleaned that often. Plus, I don’t want them to judge me for my dirty dishes that are sitting around. I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they finally do clean my room at the end of the week. They probably can’t figure out why there’s so much orange makeup on my towels.

Though I don’t need their service during my week, I am lucky to have someone else clean for me. Sometimes the kids bring us candy as a treat, so I often leave extra behind in my room as a thank you.

Living Out of a Suitcase

Or two suitcases. Or two suitcases and a cooler and a toiletry bag and bags of food.

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My possessions for the summer vs. Kevin’s possessions for the summer. Sorry, not sorry. 

Whoops. I have a clothes suitcase and a stuff suitcase. I unpack my stuff suitcase every week, which consists of a:

  • tea kettle
  • box of tea
  • George Foreman
  • mugs, silverware, food containers, lunch box, and plates
  • books waiting to be read (they remain packed until it’s their turn)
  • iHome

My clothes, however, stay in my giant suitcase. It used to be that anytime I vacationed anywhere, no matter the length of time, I would unpack to feel at home. When it’s no longer a special occasion and you travel every week, that just seems silly. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase that much, except for a few things.

  1. The clothes that I packed that I have yet to wear. I look at them and think, “Why the crap did I think I would want that this summer?” I resent these items every time I have to carry my insanely heavy suitcase up or down a flight of stairs, which I’m a pro at, by the way.
  2. The clothes that I left behind in Indiana that I miss and am longing for. Fun floral dresses, I’m talking about you.
  3. Everything is always wrinkled. Always. I’ve become very good friends with Downy wrinkle releaser spray. Sometimes the hotel has an iron that I can use (I’ve busted it out a couple times), but not always. Plus, even if there is an iron available, who irons a t-shirt? That’s just silly.
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    If this blog were super popular they’d probably send me some for free, which would be nice because I’m out….

     

Keys

I’m shocked at how many actual keys I’ve been given, rather than the piece of plastic that you scan. I have a bad history with keys. The key to my house I somehow never can manage to open the door with. There may or may not have been a time when I have stood outside my house WITH A KEY, crying because I couldn’t open the door. Luckily, I’ve had better luck with these.

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The sun has now officially set and the light from my laptop is a meeting place for the mosquitoes that do not care that I loaded up with bug spray. I’m headed in to my home for the week. Hopefully no one follows me in….