by Russell Pope, Sr.
Last Christmas my daughter convinced me to audition with her for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I have always wanted to act. Since I was really young I have had a desire to perform. I was in some plays in school but had gotten away from performing for years. Surprisingly, I was cast as Bob Bradley, the dad. And my daughter was cast as well.
Working with Marc Hammes and the rest of the crew at OnStage was wonderful. I had not been in a stage production since primary school (and “Stage production” loosely describes the school experience) and this was more fun than I could have imagined. It was also a great deal of work. More than I ever dreamed. But it was the hardest job I ever loved.
Due to health issues I was unable to audition for other productions until the upcoming Christmas show, “Fruitcakes.” Again, surprisingly, I was cast in one of the main parts. And again, it has been a lot of work but it is a great job and I can hardly wait for opening night.
It's more than learning lines
There is so much more to a production than learning lines. Last year was my first “professional” production. I was such a newbie that learning my lines and cues was the focus of my attention. This year I have had the same situation, just many more lines and cues!
Watching Director Marc Hammes and Assistant Director Noelle Barrett as they pull together not just my parts but the rest of the production has been very educational. I wish that I had been more aware of how to prepare blocking and props last year. I was so focused on the lines and cues that I missed the significant importance of those issues. Although I feel like I learned when I needed to be somewhere in a scene, and which movements were needed to make something scripted seem unscripted, I was not really aware of the difficulty involved in the blocking process or placement of certain props. I’m trying to be more cognizant of those needs now and want to make things as easy for Marc and Noelle as possible.
Additionally, the technical aspects of the shows are often underappreciated by the audience. Without the techies, the performance cannot be properly achieved. I have grown to appreciate the significant contributions of those working behind the scenes to pull these shows together. Marc has made me much more aware and appreciative of the contributions of those behind the scenes.
He also has endless patience. At least that is how it seems. I am quite certain he gets frustrated at times (justifiably) but he is always very good to encourage the cast and crew.
Marc is impressive in so many ways it is hard to describe. He has the ability to take a scene filled with young actors who have boundless energy and zeal and are often hard to keep focused and turn their energy into a seemingly chaotic scene that is perfectly executed and choreographed. From the vantage point of the audience, it looks like chaos and crazy. But the movements and chaos is controlled. He is absolutely awesome!!
Marc does an amazing job pulling together a very diverse cast of actors into a very professional production. He has so much energy that he is incredibly inspiring.
On learning lines
Learning my lines has been a challenge simply because of the sheer volume. Not really overwhelming but just very time consuming. When practicing, I use a folded napkin to read the scenes in which I appear. The napkin covers my highlighted lines and I am pretty good at imitating the voices (in my head) of the actors playing the characters in the scene with me. I will often stand and walk through the scene as I go through my lines. If I stumble with the line I will go back and do the “trouble” area several times.
The most helpful thing I do, though, is rehearse with my daughter Elizabeth who was in Pageant with me, performed in Shrek, and is in this production as well. She and I will go through scenes on our ride to and from the theater. That has been the best practice for learning lines. She also will rehearse with me at home as I walk through some of the blocking in certain scenes.
If you have ever considered performing in a play or working in a production in other capacities (lighting, sound etc.) OnStage can offer you the opportunity for a wide range of experiences. And the productions are extremely well done and professional.
And if you have never been to an OnStage show before, come out and enjoy a great evening of entertainment at a very reasonable price.