I ‘M often asked some pretty interesting questions about Broadway and theatre when I leave the stage door. And as such I thought I’d start to share some of those questions and my subsequent answers here.
I’ll start with a great question I was asked the other night by a great family from Salt Lake City. Paraphrasing, the question was:
“How do I keep the passion and drive new each night given the fact that we do the same show 8 times a week and have continual rehearsals?”
I found this a fascinating question and not one that is often asked by people seeing the show. Here’s a snippet of my answer:
When I was in school studying theatre I had an amazing professor named Dr. Richard Mason. My university training wasn’t in musical theatre in fact I think I only did two musicals while I was doing my undergraduate work. I studied mostly classical and contemporary theatre while I was in school, the works of Shakespeare, Williams etc.
I remember one day when we were in rehearsal for Twelfth Night and Dr. Mason called the entire cast together. He was a very insightful, playful and demanding director, by demanding I mean demanded that you do your absolute best, whatever that best was for you. He challeneged us constantly to reach beyond what we thought were our limits. A very valuable lesson that would stay with me always.
However on this particular day I remember him saying to us all;
“What audacity do you have to stand in front of 1000 people each night and ask them to pay (at that time) $75 a ticket to watch YOU perform for 2 1/2 hours?”
He was challenging us to go beyond the “ego” of the actor and look at the responsibility we had as performers. This was a life altering moment for me.
It was at that moment that I realized that I had a responsibility that went beyond that of just “doing” a show because I liked it or creating a character because “I felt at home on the stage.” My duty, I realized, is to bring something to the audience in an effort to affect a positive change. Even if only one person out of the thousands watching is reached by what we do and they leave the theatre thinking of life in a different way then they had before, then I feel I’m moving in the right directing with my art.
I’ve heard over and over again that actors are selfish, self involved and narcissistic. But when it comes down to it, this is not a selfish art form, for without the audiences we would be creating art in a vacuum with no one to see or hear it. It’s tangible and thus needs a recipient for it to even have a purpose.
What is art without anyone to experience it? A painting in a closet? A script left on a bookshelf never to be read? Art and specifically theatre is something that must be DONE. There is action behind it and those who watch and partake in this action actually become part of that art form. They applaud and are moved by the emotion of a scene or song. It’s interactive. The audience is PART of the show.
Subsequently curtain calls for me are a way of saying “Thank You” for allowing us the honor and opportunity to perform for you and bring you into our world, to give you a glimpse into the story we are telling. Hopefully you’ve been moved by it in some way and will leave the theatre with a slightly different perspective on things.
That’s what keeps me going every night. That’s what keeps the performances fresh despite fatigue and repetition. I am truly honored and blessed to be able to do what I do.