Sunday, 23 October 2011

In theatres, as in life, each has their line

I am so bad at this blogging thing sometimes. There are reasons for that, which I may or may not go into in a different post. But anyway. I was actually technically "working on" a post for about 3 weeks before finally giving up and abandoning it. I'll probably come back to it in a few posts time if I can get back into the habit of blogging more frequently.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was in a production of The Grand Duke. Of course I've already done a post about the show in general, and I'm not sure how much I really have to say about this specific production, but I guess we'll find out, and then I'll probably wander off on some tangent or other, perhaps related to choice of parts and auditions, which are more on my mind right now.

OK, so to stave off the tangent for a while I will talk a bit about this particular production. Apparently the last time this society did Grand Duke, they had a chorus of 21. This time round, the entire cast was 22. Obviously this led to some difficulties, like Come bumpers having only four chorus members onstage, all female. General issues with numbers.
The solution to this was a rather odd idea - the idea was that we were performing the show as if it was a dress rehearsal, with an onstage 'backstage', and an onstage director, thus allowing principals to be onstage unofficially as it were, singing in chorus parts from behind a gauze. Now, personally, I was a bit iffy about some aspects of this idea. It did allow principals to fill in chorus parts, as I said, and it did distract from the small size of the chorus by reducing the size of the stage. But I was iffy on the idea of doing it as if it were our dress rehearsal - that is, playing ourselves playing our parts. It seems to me that anyone who either didn't get a programme, or didn't read the relevant bit of it, wouldn't have really understood that was what happened. Also having clear out-of-show elements in the form of an onstage director and costume lady wearing normal clothes rather than costumes like the rest of us could potentially damage the immersion. Had I wanted to do something similar, I would have removed the 'our dress rehearsal' element, and just had it as the theatrical troupe who are the chorus. Treating their real lives as performances, still acting even offstage (in-show offstage, that is). I mean, we already kind of have that with Julia being incredibly over the top theatrical, so it'd just be extending it.
That said, the production went rather well, and as our MD pointed out, having such a small chorus may in some ways have helped, because it meant the people we did have tried that much harder to perform everything.

Now, what else... cuts were different. Generally there was more in this version than in the version I did in February, though there were some small bits cut this time. Some of which I felt were rather odd, and some which I found perfectly reasonable.
One line which was in this time round was Ludwig, on discovering he's engaged to the Princess of Monte Carlo: "Here's another! The fourth in four-and-twenty hours! Would anyone else like to marry me? You, ma'am, or you? Anybody? I'm getting used to it!" Possibly my favourite line in the show.
In general, due to the different cutting, the part of Ludwig was even bigger this time round (Which is saying something given he's already the biggest part in the show, possibly the biggest part in any of the G&S shows). So I was fairly pleased about that since I was playing Ludwig. And I guess now we're kind of getting to my tangent, so I'll just say that the rest of the cast were very good as well, congratulate Hazyshade in particular for doing very well as Ernest in his first ever foray into acting, and move onto said tangent after a couple of photos:



















So. Tangent. Choosing parts in shows. Always an interesting thing. The best situation to be in is of course to be OK with any part you could get, so then anything is fine and you'll only be disappointed if you don't get cast at all. This was how I felt about Iolanthe (Where of course I didn't get a part), and also the coming production of Pirates of Penzance, in which I will be playing Samuel. For different reasons though - in Iolanthe I just liked all the parts and thought any of them would be fine for me, though I did really want to have a part; whereas for Pirates, Samuel isn't that great a  part, it's pretty small, I would have preferred something bigger, but I really wouldn't have minded if I hadn't been cast at all, and indeed if I had been responsible for casting, I probably wouldn't have cast myself, simply because, well, it's the university society and I've both had my chance at a big part and graduated. So I feel other people should be allowed their opportunities if they could also do justice to the role. Though that said, of course I'm not going to turn down a role if it's offered.

So anyway, yes, that's the ideal situation, to not care what part you get. But really, that's a fairly rare occurrence. It can happen, depending on both the show you're doing and the people you're doing it with - you may feel all the parts are equally good enough for you, and/or you may feel your co-principals-to-be are all good enough that you wouldn't feel bad about them getting cast over you in a role you wanted. More often, though, there will be a part or parts you will want more than the other parts and/or you will feel you could do better than any of your competition.
Then, this preference of parts may depend on other people, as well as on the size of the part and the quality (in your opinion) of their music, and their personality, if it's something you'd really care to play. For an obviously relevant example, take The Grand Duke. As a man, Ludwig is the big part to go for. He barely leaves the stage, lots of acting and singing, it's all pretty good. That said, some of the other characters have songs which I prefer to any of Ludwig's. But it all depends. For instance, how happy I'd be about playing Ernest would be highly dependent on who I thought was likely to be playing Julia, since so much of his stuff is playing off her.
Next point. Actually, Grand Duke isn't the best example for this, because Ludwig is so disproportionately larger as a part than the others. Going for any other male part (Other than the Herald and Costumier, who can get away with chorus-ing) means resigning yourself to spending a large amount of the show offstage. Let's instead talk about Patience, being done this year by the society with whom I did Iolanthe last year, but I'm not with them this year because it's a bti too far to travel. Now, not so much of the concerns about who you'll be playing opposite in this one, but there is the difference in size of parts. Bunthorne is the biggest part in the show. Does that mean he's my top choice? Well, quite possibly, I do like the part, but not necessarily. The other parts are also good. I might want to play, say, the Duke. Smaller part, but a tenor, which of course appeals to me, and definitely fun to play. But then I might still go for Bunthorne depending on the competition, because Bunthorne is the biggest part and therefore a very significant one, so if you don't think anyone going for it is really as good as you, or even good enough, then you'd rather that you get it for the sake of the show being good.
This sounds quite mean to your friends who you're thinking of as not good enough, but let's be honest, we do have these thoughts sometimes. You perform with someone, inevitably you develop an opinion of how good they are, and you develop an opinion of how good you are.

So, OK, there are the things which go into deciding what part you want. But then, what part or parts do you audition for? A whole 'nother thing right there. If you're OK with any part, sure, just audition for everything if that's allowed, or if you say you'd like to audition for everything chances are they'll just pick two or three for you to actually do, to save some time. No problems there. But again, usually you'll want something in particular. It's probably best to audition for something else as well, to show some variety in your acting if nothing else. Because auditioning for one part is unlikely to show whether or not you could necessarily manage the acting for all the other parts. Some of them, but not all. So, yeah, go for multiple parts.
But one can potentially have the concern that if you audition for a part, you may be more likely to get it. Which is not necessarily such a good thing if it's not actually the part you want. I mean, yeah, you got a part. But maybe they thought "Well, he auditioned for these two parts, this other guy just auditioned for this part. I thought he was better than the other guy, but they were both good, so if we give the other guy the part he auditioned for and give him the other part, they'll both be happy!"  So, y'know, it's a trade-off. By auditioning for something else, you increase your chances of still getting a good part if you don't get the one you really wanted. But you may dilute your chances of getting the one you really wanted.
Hmm. This touches on a general thing about pessimism and approaching everything trying to prepare for failure rather than success, which is kind of relevant to me. I might right a blog post about that some time. I'll add it to the list (Which right now has 22 things on it, some of which will spill over into multiple posts, so don't hold your breath).

Anyway, this sounds kind of bad about me, like I'm whining despite the fact I got cast as my second choice of part, which I did audition for, and which is one of the central parts in the show. As opposed to other people who presumably got less preferred, smaller parts. And that's really not my intention. My reaction is, I suppose, to quote the show "On one point rather sore, but on the whole, delighted."
Also, I think one of the reasons I'm taking it as I am is because I never expected for one second that I would actually get the part. Now, this is another thing you shouldn't do, not auditioning for a part because you're certain someone else will get it, but there are some casting choices which just seem obvious, and of course returning to the point about how you think you compare to the other people in the society, if you think someone else would be much better suited to the part than you, and they're auditioning for it, why bother?
Anyway, point is, both last year for Yeomen and this year for Gondoliers, I auditioned for my first and second choices of parts, in neither case actually expecting to get my second choice because I was sure who would get that part. In Yeomen I was right, but this time I was wrong. So I guess that's a good reason to do as I did and go for the part even thought I didn't expect to get it. But to be honest, in both cases I really went for it to show, as I said, some range and variety in my acting. And this year also because I remembered the room we waited in before auditioning being very cold, so I thought I'd go for a baritone part to make sure I was properly warmed up before going tenor. And then, I got the part, to my astonishment.

So, to round off this post that was supposed to be about The Grand Duke but ended up being about picking what parts you want in shows and auditioning, I guess I could go through what parts I've auditioned for in G&S shows I've done, as examples? Or something. I dunno.

The Mikado - auditions happened before I joined.
Patience - Bunthorne (Part I wanted), Grosvenor, Duke (Parts I would've been OK with)
HMS Pinafore - Ralph Rackstraw (Really wanted this part, was sure I'd get it and I did)
Ruddigore - Sir Despard (Was perhaps over-confident following Pinafore, so I thought I'd just go for the one part I wanted and get it, but I didn't. Fortunately they then asked me to also audition for Sir Roderick, and I got that)
Iolanthe - Everything except Private Willis (Would've been fine with anything, didn't get anything)
The Grand Duke - Ludwig, Ernest, Prince of Monte Carlo (Really wanted to be Ernest despite the limited stage time because it would've been really fun playing opposite who I expected to be Julia (I was right). Got the Herald)
Yeomen of the Guard - Colonel Fairfax, Jack Point (Really wanted Fairfax, Point would've been good but I never thought I'd get it. Eventually became 2nd Yeoman)
The Mikado - Everything (Anything would've been OK, 'cause it was the Savoynet production, so I expected a lot of talent. Didn't get anything and then didn't actually do the show)
HMS Pinafore - N/A (Unusual audition format with no going for specific parts. Got the Boatswain. If I'd known in advance how the show was going to be, would have wanted to be Dick Deadeye or Sir Joseph)
The Grand Duke - Would've been Ludwig and Ernest but then they cast me without an audition (Really wanted Ludwig this time - give me all of the stage time!)

Pirates of Penzance - Frederick, Pirate King (Really not bothered, as I mentioned further up. In general though, Pirate King would be my preference, I'm not as fond of Frederick unless I really feel like tenor-ing. Got Samuel)
The Gondoliers - Marco, Giuseppe (Really wanted to be Marco for tenor-ness, but Giuseppe was my second choice and I got it, further description further up the post)

So there you go, maybe. I'm not sure how well I explained some of this stuff, but whatever. I've spent far too long writing this. I need to get back into the swing of posting posts regularly-ish.
Oh, and you should all come see me in Pirates and Gondoliers in February and March, respectively.