The Sound of Music Rehearsals: Gettin’ the Ball Rollin’

So. I am too lazy to check and see if I’ve mentioned this on the blog yet, but I’m in TBA Theatre‘s upcoming production of The Sound of Music.

And it’s going to be awesome. (Less than three. Less than three. Less than three!)

Everyone in the cast is great. We have an array of beautiful singing voices and fantastic acting talent; everyone has a wonderful attitude; and everyone is totally jazzed about doing this. Some of our cast have never been in a play before, but I have every confidence in their ability. Irony alert: all of our on-stage newbies are adults. All the children have been in at least one play before. Interesting, no? But I digress.

Parts to Play

I’ve only met a few of the crew, yet, but they’re already busting their beach balls to make sure that we have everything we need when we need it, and that the entire process goes as smoothly as possible. They are just as jazzed about this as the cast, and it’s a pleasure working with them.

My part in the play is that of an unnamed, miscellaneous nun. I failed to get a speaking role because I was ill-prepared for the audition… which is fine with me, in all honesty. The little parts are as important as the big parts. I’m getting to work with old friends and make new ones and sing gorgeous hymnal music in The Sound of Music. Playing little parts is nothing new to me, anyway. The only big parts I’ve ever had, if I recall correctly, have been villains. (And I’m just not cut out to be a Nazi, when you get down to it.)

Last time I was up for a part in a play was when I lived in Japan; that was an abnormal audition process since it was a drama club with about ten members. We all read for parts and the director decided to keep me off the actor list because my Japanese skills were below par. (Reasonable, though I probably would have been more useful on stage, when all was said and done.)

Before that, all my acting experience was with Alaska Theatre of Youth. I did ten plays with ATY, nine of which were part of their summer conservatory. I went through something close to a regular audition for those.

However, having paid for the privilege of receiving a one-month, intensive acting/performing arts course culminating in the performance of a play, I was guaranteed a part in something. I went through a real audition for the only winter season play I did with ATY (their first run of Perseus: The Adventures of the Greeks), but I was 11 years old at the time, so that was a very long time ago.

So. I’m happy I got in and excited about my part in it. Did I mention it’s gonna be awesome? Because it is.

So, Actual Rehearsal Stuff…

Today was the fifth day of rehearsal. We started last Tuesday, and only got to have three rehearsals last week. We were supposed to have started on March 22nd, the Monday of the week prior, but the scripts/scores (scrores?) had yet to arrive at the time.

Last week’s rehearsals were mostly devoted to having everyone get to know each other. TBA Theatre runs under the assumption that a tight-knit, ensemble cast yields a better end product than do a bunch of people who don’t bother to get to know each other. That’s a sentiment I agree with, and even if that were untrue it still makes for a more fun experience all around.

We also did a read-through of most of the script last week. It was supposed to be a read-through of all of the script, but we ran out of time. A read-through, for those of you with no theatre background, is where the entire cast of the play comes together and reads the script as a group to familiarize themselves with the script so that everyone knows how their part fits into the story as a whole.

There are several advantages to having everyone read through it together as opposed to just taking the script home and reading it. One of those is that you get to hear each cast member reading his or her own lines and get a feel for the flavor that each actor will bring to the show. Another is that it helps knit the group together more tightly. (And, of course, since many people procrastinate… the director gets to make sure everyone has read it.)

The first two days of rehearsal this week have been devoted to learning parts for songs. The first half of the 6-9 rehearsal time on both days has been devoted to Maria and the von Trapp children, and the second half to the nuns.

The children sound beautiful! I get to listen to them before we nuns rehearse, and it’s fun to hear them shape up so quickly. Some of them (including the 6 year-old who’s playing Gretl) are learning entirely by ear because they are unable to read music, but that’s proving only a minor hindrance.

We the nuns are divided into four sections: first sopranos, second sopranos, mezzo sopranos, and altos. I’m in the second soprano section. The poor altos are understaffed, overbalanced, and have the hardest parts to sing. Since we have no men (nuns, wot wot), they get to pretend to be basses.

Their parts jump all over the place, and dip so low that producing sufficient volume is a challenge. I wish my voice were in better shape. A couple of years ago, I could have done a pretty good job of helping fill that section out; now, I would do little good with the low, low notes they must sing.

Tomorrow is the first all-cast, three-hour rehearsal since the read-through of the script. No one has told me what the agenda will be, but I suspect we’ll be starting to block the show. Blocking (again, for those with no theatre background) is the actors’ placement on and movement across the stage. Which side of the stage an actor enters on, for instance; where he or she needs to be during certain lines; and on which side of the stage to exit. Finding an in-character reason to move from point A to point B is often left up to the actor, but it’s the director who decides where the actor must go in order to develop the image in the director’s head.

Bonus Trivia

  • Theatre is the art; a theater is the place where theatre is performed.
  • The copyright contract for The Sound of Music forbids many things, including changing the place or year in which the story occurs and recording performances. Each infraction of the copyright terms costs $5,000 US.
  • The movie version of The Sound of Music is a shortened version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, which is based on the memoirs of Maria von Trapp (The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, ISBN 0-385-02896-2). Japan also created a 40-episode anime based on her memoirs.
  • Unrelated: U.S. naval boot camps separate their recruits into divisions of approximately 100 people, who are then stuck in a building together and forbidden to leave. The goal is to simulate shipboard life, when navy soldiers (is that the appropriate term?) have nowhere to go and only each other to depend on for extended periods of time.

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