For a while now I’ve had something of a vague mental list of activities that I just wanted to have a go at. Not a bucket list as such, nothing amazingly adventurous or dangerous, but quite high up on this list always remained, “Have a go at a bit of acting.”
Nothing where I was in the spotlight, absolutely NO improv (it just sends chills down my spine, I can help it), but something where I could learn a script, be part of a rehearsal process and be on stage (actual stage or church hall) in a credible production.
As a big fan of theatre and the performing arts in general, I think it’s quite common to feel that pull to have a dabble at it yourself just to see what it’s like being on the ‘other side’. Also, as my day job is working with very high energy and often volatile drama students, where most of my time is spent being on their case for having not learned their lines, continually losing focus, arguing with their director and endless… endless…. fidgeting, the idea of being an actual part of a production, as opposed to watching and commenting from the sidelines, would give me the chance to experience things from the actor’s (or even a student’s) point of view.
The audition workshops for Medea appealed to me for two main reasons; Firstly, there were eight spots going for the all-female Greek chorus. I’ve always found something quite fascinating about Greek choruses and also it provided the opportunity to contribute as part of an ensemble without having too much focus on me individually. Secondly, I’d previously attended one Burjesta workshop that was great fun and it struck me, at the time, as a very inclusive environment, which is something I actively seek out no matter what I become involved in.
The first audition workshop was enjoyable and pain free until it got to the (unexpected) part of having to get up and act in front of everyone else. CRINGE! I literally had never, ever done that before in my life and it came to the point as people were getting up (and being really, really good) that I was scanning the venue trying to figure out how I could make an unnoticed exit, never to be seen again. Upon realising there was no dignified way of actually doing this, it was my turn! My untimely death would have been preferable to me at that point.
I got up and did what I did but with no intentions at all of returning the following week for the ‘proper’ audition. It was only due to the director, Julian Bond, giving me some genuinely encouraging feedback that I returned the following week and was subsequently cast in the chorus. It really was just a case of facing the fear and doing it anyway, which happily paid off.
I’m penning this as we are entering into our final week of rehearsals and wanted to write something from the perspective of a total non-actor among the women in the chorus who have great and varied skills, experience and training (in one way or another) on how I have found the rehearsal process.
The main thing, is that there is no getting away from the fact that this is a definite commitment that WILL monopolise a lot of your time. I remember our director saying at our first script read-through that it is very difficult to carry on with your normal life AND learn lines/rehearse on top of that. That something usually has to give, which I’ve found this to be completely true. The process can be intense and quite tiring on occasions, and to be fair to the many drama students who have been on the receiving and of a telling off from me for fidgeting or giggling at inappropriate moments… I kind of get that now (I’m not telling them that, though).
A friend commented to me recently, “Imagine how hard it would really be if you had a main part and not just a small one in the chorus.”
I had to correct her that the chorus, as a whole, is integral to the production and is actually a massive part of it considering we are not only on stage, acting and reacting the entire time, but we are also; remembering our line allocation, when to speak and when not speak, when to move and when not to move, when to move in a straight line and when to move (backwards) diagonally, suitable pauses, when to become dynamic and when to remain detached, when to react to the actors on the main stage and when to remain impassive, when it’s OK to move our heads but not move our eyes, when to lean forwards… not too much, though, when to stop, when to shift, hold still, when to be frightened, amused, repulsed, intrigued, shocked and anxious, and when not to be anything at all… except be like a tree… or creepy ghost.
That is a challenge for one actor but with eight actors working as one unit, it proves even more challenging as we are eight different voices, opinions, learning styles, memories and levels of focus trying to work cohesively on a continual basis. All in all, I can say that it has all been a very enlightening and enjoyable learning process and something that I am very pleased to have become involved in. The feedback for the chorus by our director and fellow cast members has always been consistently positive and useful in pointing us to what we’re doing right and how we need to fully develop into the strange and unsettling entity of Medea’s Greek chorus.