Dear Wearers of Caps and Ringers of Bells,
Prior to East o’ West o’, I had never acted in a production at Williams. Although I’ve sung in different groups and settings at Williams, this is my first time doing *serious* acting. I mean, I basically learned about acting when my friends Anna Barnes ‘14 and Quinn Solfisburg ‘14 made me watch the “Sir Ian McKellen, On Acting” video (which was totally educational and super serious) after the cast list came out. The video and my experience have not quite matched up; I haven’t had the chance to yell “Wizard, you shall NOT pass!” yet, which Elena Faverio ‘15 can hopefully write into the libretto before opening night. But overall, this whole process has been like a prairie dog cuddling with a teddy bear: just awesome.
Although Michelle and Alison might say that we are banned from having any fun in rehearsals, I’ve been having a blast working with other people, exploring another artistic medium with which I haven’t been so familiar, and assessing characters’ motivations. One unique aspect of the play that I had not foreseen is the process of adapting an old Norwegian folktale into a musical. I really liked the discussions among the cast, director, and writers who all have striven not only to make the language and relationships more “realistic” but also to replace archaic morals and values with contemporary sensibilities. For example, in the original fairytale, Ava screw things up (classic, it’s always the girl’s fault), and later saves the day by doing laundry well, which implies that her value as a a life partner/human being to the Prince-Bear depends on her laundering skills. And because we are trying to break the norms established by the original story (Elena loves to rewrite… or maybe we just love making her do it), I find that the characters and the background stories have been constantly evolving from one rehearsal to the next.
Another aspect that I enjoyed was the animal transformation session with Margy Love ‘12. Using how animals rely so much on impulse and unmasked wants and needs, the session revolved around the cast members’ embodying their assigned animals. She explained her own experience as a meerkat first then gave us time to become our animals, occasionally giving us scenarios that brought out aspects of our characters. Being a prairie dog, breath was especially an important part of the transformation: knowing the speed, depth, and placement of breath in the body (chest, belly, etc.) all helped me to embody Ava with the quick energy of prairie dogs. The session gave me a physical tool of becoming super excited (and a little bit scared) Ava is to see the mountains, the ocean, and the world.
It’s really cool to see a parallel between Ava and myself as a novice actor: new and eager to know more! I am grateful for the opportunity to perform and really excited about the show, which runs from March 8-10 in the directing studio. Hope to see you there!