The setting for the awakening was the remount of Dracula at the BSB in 2004. Aside from reprising my role of Henry Watkins, I also served as an assistant stage manager. The trigger was my habit of reading in character when I read lines in for missing actors. I do this for 2 reasons:
- It helps keep my own chops up.
- It benefits the actors because they can play off the interpretation.
Up until this point, I had always felt that I needed to feel like I was acting. So when I performed, I gave things a 110% effort which often led to Scott noting me on being too big. Dracula has some long pre-recorded monologues and Scott was having me read those so the actors could work their pantomimes over it.
As I read the monologues, I only gave a 100% effort as I was only trying to aid the actors and not really perform. After a few nights of this, Scott asked to see me in his office before rehearsal for my “spanking” as he put it. He closed the door and then turned around with a massive grin on his face.
“You’ve been hiding from me, buddy,” said Scott.
“I have?” I said, rather quizzically.
“Yes, you have. The last few nights I have been blown away by your readings of the monologues. The nuance in your voice has been absolutely beautiful and it’s probably some of the very best acting I have seen out of you. I think back to every note that I’ve given you about being too big and then I thought, ‘What the (F-bomb)? Where has this guy been?’ And I think I’ve finally figured it out. The second that book is out of your hands, you become self-conscious and think you’ve got to give about ten percent more that you really need to.”
“You’re right. That’s exactly how I feel,” I replied.
“Well, you don’t. Even on Saturday, when you were filling in for me and Hatch, everything you did was natural, confident, and perfect because it just didn’t matter to you. It was a night and day difference. You’re a very good actor, Chris, but you’ve been getting in your own way. Just remember, acting is reacting. If you’re too small, I’ll pull you up. But I wanted you to know I have been seriously impressed.”
At that moment, the awakening occurred.
Suddenly I understood acting. I can’t explain it. I just got it. It made perfect sense and I left Scott’s office, grinning from ear to ear and I was ready to roll. Suddenly small steps became giant leaps and my improvement was immediate. I had a fully realized performance in Henry Watkins that year and I began to feel like an actor.
Don’t mistake this awakening for my suddenly getting roles left and right. But now that I understood the game, I was able to continually refine my technique. I actually did not get cast in another show that season by virtue of an audition. However, on Easter Sunday, I did get a phone call from Cathy Kurz who said she needed someone funny and dependable to play the roles of the Haberdasher and the Tailor in The Taming of the Shrew and that I fit the bill perfectly.
I was very flattered at the compliment and accepted the roles. To prepare myself for the role, I began listening to iambic pentameter so I could speak in that fashion. . .and learned at my first rehearsal that it was unnecessary. Cathy wanted the actors to speak in a normal, conversational manner. Fortunately, I had a few nights off of rehearsal so I could unlearn the beat of iambic pentameter.
I genuinely enjoyed playing this little role. I had a truly funny scene including a ridiculous fight with the character of Grumio which had them rolling in the aisles. When I watched myself on the recording, I actually enjoyed watching me. At that moment, in gratitude to Scott and the BSB, I vowed that I would give the theatre first crack at me every season so I could perform great roles for them.
I would get that opportunity very soon as Cathy had decided to mount Hamlet as the season opener for the 2005-2006 season. After my taste of Shakespeare, I was willing to take a stab at what is historically considered the greatest play in history.
And I began to prepare. . .
NEXT TIME: In a new tale entitled Soaring our hero has a banner year in which he lands a breakthrough role.