29 May 2008

Seeing red

Generally, I am a "laid-back" kinda gal. Perhaps this is because my inner Drama Queen gets to flex her muscles on stage.

In my personal life, I don't like conflict; I enjoy working "behind-the-scenes" to help folks out; I tend to listen first than speak second (unless hardpressed or questioned specifically). All of these traits are parts of my personality.

Cue: this evening's rehearsal.

I have a really juicy part this summer. I'm playing in the Mikado, and my character - is...shall we say...whatever the exact opposite of a shrinking rose is. And she's mean as hell. My first entrance is the Act 1 finale - and BOY! It is with guns blazing, eyes of steel and fangs dripping with blood. It's great and awesome in power. I'm not used to it yet...her particular feeling of rage and red seeping into my vision.

It's just acting, right?

But after that scene - I am so keyed up it's hard to focus, to listen to other people, to quiet the load whooshing noises in my ears. And it takes a ton of energy to keep myself hyped up that much for the duration of the scene (it's about 20-30 minutes in length). Well, it's not anger the entire time. There is a brief suspension of the anger for a short section of complete heartbroken pain. That is a hard switch...and then she goes right back into wrath. I have to be in the right frame of mind - for all of these emotions, and keep them all somewhat real in order to sustain them. Fake emotions are hardly believable and impossible to sustain for any length of time if there is not something real up under them for support.

I started getting a glimpse of what this character will ultimately be (I've only been to a couple music rehearsals thus far) and it actually made me start laughing. It was a completely involuntary response to the rush of rage coursing through me/her and the images I had in mind of thoroughly eating the object of my wrath alive and with much relish (not unlike, say, a praying-mantis).

One of the biggest challenges in all of this is the fact that while all of this ire runs amok, I also have to sing. This is what makes our job as singing actors hard - and rewarding. I can't let the anger/sadness/joy/insert-emotion-here takeover my body and character 100%. There has to be some percentage...even if it's small...held back, so that the voice doesn't become slave to emotion. Think about this...when you are angry in real life, do you consciously think about the mechanics involved in shouting at someone? What about grieving? Do you try to time your sobs around your sentences, making sure to clearly enunciate your words whilst collapsing in a heap on the floor? No?

It's a balancing act...multitasking at its best - especially during the rehearsal period. It's so important to learn the music correctly - and be able to sing it legato, before adding in some of those extreme emotions...lest the voice gets overblown. But come performance time, THAT's when to let loose...and rely upon technique and training. You should be able to trust that your body knows how to react when say...you take the wrong breath or push your voice. My voice teacher has this saying that "Technique is everything you do to recover after taking a wrong breath". (Breathing is KEY for opera singing...!) There are no crutches. No tricks, no easy fixes, no patches, no valves or strings to tune.

It's you and two tiny little inch-long pieces of muscle which vibrate together to create sound. Other than that...you better be able to trust in your training, or you will psyche yourself out and crash and burn. Been there and done that. And it sucks.

So. I am looking forward to the challenge this summer. The gauntlet has been laid: time to face it - locked and loaded - with a glint in the eye, a curl of the lip, head down and hell-bent on leaving no witnesses . . .

2 comments:

Bag Blog said...

Wow, that is an interesting glimpse into your life as an actress/singer - one that I had never thought about. Next time I am really mad at someone, I will try to sing my response :)

Wyldth1ng said...

Sounds awesome! Break a Leg!