Saturday, July 16, 2016


 I went to PC to study serious Drama work.  In between my Junior and Senior years, my Drama professor went on sabbatical, and the school brought in a temporary teacher named Skelley  Warren.  Skelley was really more into the technical aspects of the Theatre like Lights, Sounds, Sets, etc.  His expertise in directing actors was a bit different, but I learned a lot from him.  One thing was that he would stand on my left during rehearsals and yell things into my ear to try and break my concentration.  Some people couldn't do it, but I was pretty good in ignoring him.  It taught me a lot about how to focus. 
 In the Spring of 1975, it was announced that we would be doing a musical.  The Theatre Dept. was to combine with the Music Dept. to do this musical.  Even the Art Dept. was going to contribute to the production.  The idea didn't sit well with us serious actors, but we had to go along with it.  It was also announced that they would have open auditions for anyone on campus who wanted to participate.  We all thought that the key roles would be done by the acting students, and any crowd scenes would be done by other students.  The musical chosen was "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum".  It had a large cast.
 So, the auditions were held in the school auditorium on campus, where we would do the play.  I was up for the part of one of the leads, who was a slave.  It was the same role played by Zero Mostel in the movie.  During my audition, I was to be called by my master, and I got the bright idea to wear knee pads under my pants and come in sliding on stage on my knees from 10 feet away from the master.  The first time that I did it was well received by the others there, since no one knew what I was going to do.  Everybody laughed.  The idea came to me, and it wasn't in the script.  So, they asked me to do it again.  This time, I got up more speed backstage and then slid further on my knees.  They loved it.  Just to see how I would do in another part, I auditioned for the role of the old father, which was played by Buster Keaton in the movie.  I just half-heartily did that audition, because I knew I had the slave role sown up.  When the announcement of the roles came out, I got the old man named Erronius, and a guy with no experience got the lead slave role.  I was not pleased.  After all, I was a Theatre major.  I was in the Drama fraternity.  I had been told I had a lot of talent.  And, I got cast in a supporting role.  As it turned out, most of the real actors had supporting roles.  That didn't sit too well with us either.
 During rehearsals, we had to do it in sections, because the cast was so big.  Skelley's wife was into Yoga, so she was in charge of getting us to exercise and get into shape for this musical.  There was a lot of physical stuff that we had to do.  She taught us that doing exercise would help us be loose for our work.  One of the hardest exercises was to lay on your back and try to get your legs to bend over your head, so that your toes touched the floor behind you.  Some were better than others with this feat, and I was about to go about 3/4 of the way.  She also had us roll our shoulders, and dance around.  There was some dancing that we had to do in the musical, so she taught us the steps.  Most of us didn't have much coordination, but we learned.  We also got some vocal coaching from the Music Dept., since we had to sing in front of the audience.  Thankfully, I only had to do a brief solo in the opening number, and the rest was choral work.
 When we go to the performances, it was pretty tight.  The main slave took the business that I had done in auditions of sliding across the stage.  The audience howled.  It was my idea.  They doused me with baby powder to make it look like dust, because I had to run around the 7 hills of Rome, and I ran through the stage at very strange times during the play.  The powder caused breathing problems for me, and it made it very slippery backstage.  One actor slipped and fell backstage and hurt his knee.  He carried on, because he was a trooper.  During a dress rehearsal, they brought it some students from a special needs school to see the play.  They laughed at everything, even the stuff that wasn't funny.  We knew where the laughs should be, but we were able to use that experience to expect the unexpected.
 Our reviews were nothing short than amazing.  One told me that she had seen the musical on Broadway, and ours was better.  We took numerous curtain calls.  It was a great success.  It may not have been a serious work.  We had an orchestra that did good.  All of the actors, even those with little or no experience, did well.  It was the hardest I had ever worked on a production, and it paid off.

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