Friday, January 14, 2011

Freshman Theatre Experience

It has been so exciting being a part of the Birmingham-Southern Theatre family my freshman year of college. I had an incredible time in my Beginning Acting class which fulfilled my longing for a more structured approach to learning about acting craft than I received in a high school setting. My classmates were all so dedicated and talented. It was a joy to watch my friends perform their scenes and to offer comments about discoveries and improvements as the work progressed. I had the privelege of working with Dallas Taylor on a scene written by my acting profesor Alan Litsey called "Al Boasberg Gets His Due." Dallas and I created an intricate backstory to support the challenging dialogue. A scene that could simply be interpreted as a blind date between two neurotic people turned into a complicated family history meeting between a brother and sister who were separated at a young age by divorce and abuse. I grew so much as an actress by working on this scene. One of my favorite discoveries was and continues to be the freedom and flexibility that is part of the rehearsal process. I have worked on theatre for years but have never experienced such a creative exploration and sense of freedom with blocking and character behavior.

In addition to being part of an amazing acting class, I was cast in the first production of the season, Light Up the Sky. I remember the audition night clearly. I was extremely nervous as I walked into the lobby and saw the multitude of actors warming up and reviewing material. I had worked very dilligently on my audition scene with Robbie Hindsman, so we walked onto the stage confidently, hoping to have a good time presenting the scene. I was so surprised that I left the stage feeling great about my audition! I remember thinking that I was proud of myself for memorizing the lines and having fun regardless of the outcome. I was ecstatic when Robbie called me that week and said I needed to look at the cast list. I could tell from his voice that he was excited. I had received the role of Miss Lowell in Light Up the Sky and Robbie had been cast in Cabaret! We were so thrilled to be part of the BSC season!

Several weeks later there were auditions for The Miracle Worker, the Interim production. I was so excited about the show because it is such a huge part of my life. I live in Florence, Alabama, right accross the bridge from Helen Keller's birthplace in Tuscumbia, AL. Every summer, the birthplace, commonly called Ivy Green, produces the show on the outdoor set behind the Keller home. I grew up attending the show and being fascinated with Helen's story. One of my first acting experiences was playing a blind child in the production of the outdoor drama. In 2001, I was cast as Helen Keller and it continues to be one of my favorite roles. I returned to Ivy Green in the summers of 2002 and 2003 to play Helen again. It was incredible to perform at the place where the Kellers actually lived and experienced the circumstances in the show. Ivy Green has such a distinct spirit and joy; it is hard to leave after being involved with such an amazing production. Unfortunately, I grew too old to play Helen again the next year. My heart was set on one day playing Helen's teacher, Anne Sullivan. This past summer I returned to Ivy Green to audition for my dream role. I knew my size would probably be an issue--I am barely 5 feet tall, and Anne has to fight vigorously with a seven year old. However, I was cast as Anne and spent an amazing summer back at the Green!!
So when I heard that BSC was doing The Miracle Worker, I was very anxious and excited. Several people have played the role of Helen Keller and gone on to play Anne Sullivan, but how many people can say they have played Anne Sullivan and then played Helen Keller?? I prepared an enjoyable audition, which included the suitcase scene and the fight scene. Again, I had a wonderful time auditioning and walked away proud of my work. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my name on the cast list later that week!
Many people may think it is easy for me to do this role because I have played Helen before, but that is far from true. I was only 10 years old when I played Helen at Ivy Green. I had no clue about goals, obstacles, tactics, and communion. I am currently learning so much about her behavior and relationships that I would have never been able to understand years ago. I am also thoroughly enjoying working on the set crew. It is very humbling to experience first-hand all of the techincal aspects of the theatre. Each area works so hard in pursuit of our common goal. I have realized and learned how much heart and power really goes into making a production possible!

I am so thankful for all the wonderful opportunities I have received my first year at BSC! The support from the faculty and students is tremendous. :)
"One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar."
-Helen Keller