Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The man from "Oklahoma!" speaks

When I was in high school I played Liesl in "The Sound of Music" and was in the cast of "Camelot" and Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians".  In college I minored in drama and traveled to England to study theatre and see some of the world's finest actors. During college summers I performed in community theatre musicals. After college I directed a high school play and assisted directed a community college play. That was over 40 years ago. Participating in a theatrical production is a labor- and energy-intensive experience. Totally exhausting and exhilarating.

My husband Art had no theatre experience until last year, when he was cast as a gambler in "Guys and Dolls" at the Voyager RV Resort, where we live in the winter. He had two lines. He got that part without an audition, after we had already returned home to Seattle.

Two weeks after "Guys and Dolls" ended, Art auditioned for a part in "Oklahoma!", which was this year's production. He was cast as Will Parker - one of the three male leads. The play ran last week for two nights. Over 400 people attended each performance.

As it happens, we're now on a road trip to the real Oklahoma to attend a family wedding. After we settled into our motel room tonight, I asked Art to tell me how he got into acting. Here's his story.


It was seeing "Pirates of Penzance" two winters ago at our park. You said, "You could do that. Would you like to try it?" And I said, "I suppose I can try." So I put my name on a list.

That summer the director sent me a notice saying that I was in the play "Guys and Dolls" and I was Angie the Ox. They sent me the script. It didn't look too bad. I only had two lines. I saw there were a bunch of songs I had to learn.

We got to the park in December and they had already started practicing. So we got the movie from Netflix so I could see what it was about. It was Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. They had a lot of dancing in that one.They always have more dancing in the movies. And they had more verses to the songs. I'm glad our play didn't have all the verses. So I got to see where things were, but I didn't know who I was!

We met with Al, the director. He took over because the original director had some personal problems and had to go home. So everybody welcomed me and showed me how to, you know, write in pencil on the script where we enter and where we leave the stage. So we could practice that.

The practicing went on for a couple of months, but it was a little frustrating because the director kept changing the blocking and we never knew which set of blocking they wanted to do on a specific day.

We had practice three times a week and there was, you know, camaraderie with the people in the play. I could see that the main stars had a lot of lines. I was glad I had just two, because I was having trouble with them!

Anyway, the play came off as a big hit. I thought one of the best things about it was Kathy and Mac doing the Spanish dance. It was really outstanding.

After "Guys and Dolls" was over they had a day for tryouts for "Oklahoma!", the next year's play, and I went down to the rehearsal room and there was hardly anybody there. Maybe two other people. Diane, the new director, was there with Dee, the stage manager. They gave me a script and wanted me to read it. And then to sing something. I don't remember what I sang. Maybe I sang the humility song. I don't know.

In July we got notification of our parts, along with the script and the CDs. And it was real scary, because instead of 2 lines I had 43, plus a solo and a duet.  I had the CD for the songs. They were pretty easy to learn because I had the CD in the car and whenever I went anywhere I got to learn it along with everybody else who was riding with me!

I tried to learn the lines but I didn't quite follow what was going on in the story. We went on the internet and watched the play version on uTube so I could get the story line. There was a lot more dancing in the play. I didn't think I was going to be able to do the part.

We got to the park in December and they had already been practicing for a month. I knew the songs fairly well but I was really strung out on the lines. The director gave me a URL of a site to learn how to learn my lines, and the only thing I didn't do was do flashcards.

We practiced a few times with the scripts so that we could read the lines rather than trying to go from memory. But some of the cast members had their lines down pat already, so I had to practice. In January I'd wake up in the middle of the night and try to go over the lines.

People were quitting right and left. I told one of the guys that I knew from the year before, "I don't think I'm going to make it. I'm having troubles with the lines." And he said, "Well, you can't quit. You're the only one with a bad enough voice to sing Will's solo." (laughs) So we just did practice and more practice. We rented the original film of "Oklahoma!" And it was a lot better, and I could see my part and what they were doing a lot better than the newer version. But I was still waiting for all the women, so I could grab them and kiss them like they did in the movie, which wasn't even in our script!

Some of the cast were just outstanding, and some other people had trouble with their lines. Everybody was helping everybody, and some people stepped in when others couldn't remember their lines. And it was just amazing that they could pick it up. From the first practice I saw that Mary, who played Ado Annie and was with me on the duet, was just outstanding. I found out later that she had done a lot of chorus line work, but this was a big step up for her because she had a part with words!

Two weeks before the show people started getting sick, which wasn't a good sign. People were missing practice because they were deathly ill. But the director hit upon the spots where we were really weak, and boosted them up. And the thing started really to jell, and then we started having fun.

I thought I was the only one who was messing up my lines, but the closer we got to the days of the play, the more people started dropping their lines. But when it came to opening night, they just seemed to get into it. I know that me and Ado Annie were practicing two or three times a week to get down our parts.

The opening night was a little scary because we hadn't practiced that much on the stage and people were kind of bumping into each other. We had been working in another room because the room with the stage wasn't available until the last two weeks before the play. But it came off okay. (laughs). Friday night, though, everything just came together from all directions, and everything was just in shape. Yeah. Everybody was just having so much fun, and the "oops" that we had on Thursday night were taken care of and people knew what they had done and it was ironed out. It was really something else. A lot of fun.

Tryouts for next year's production are next week. Art will be there.


Olga Hebert said...

Amazing! And so good for you both to keep so involved and active.

DJan said...

What fun! To find you have a talent you didn't know you had at any time is wonderful, but later in life it's even more wonderful! Congratulations to Art and the entire crew! :-)

joeh said...

Even if I had talent, I couldn't do it. I would freeze in front of any audience.

Looks like fun though, but a lot of work.

Deb Shucka said...

This made me laugh out loud. I can hardly wait until Art has his own blog. I would be a faithful reader. What is next year's play?

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so impressed how Art jumped into the fray and came out swimmingly. Those of us in an audience never realize all the work and worry required for a production. Amazing when opening night comes and it all falls into place. Well done.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I loved reading about the process of making the play come alive. In high school I enjoyed working backstage but I've never been a good singer and I can't imagine I'd be much of an actor either. So I just envy others. It's wonderful that Art has gotten so engaged in theater!

Linda Reeder said...

It was fun to read about Art's experience, and learn some more about your background too!
Good for Art for taking this on. Never stop learning.

Tom Sightings said...

First there was Frank Sinatra, then Marlon Brando and now ... Art Myers! Congratulations!

Sally Wessely said...

I love this! Art is the man. The photo of him from last year's play is a treasure. Art has a great way of telling the story. Bravo to Art!

I acted on stage in high school and wrote and directed plays for youth when I was a younger woman. It was fun. I miss the stage in a way, but I would never have the devotion to put in all that work. I am sure that memorizing the line, keeping focused on stage, and paying attention to blocking etc. is great for the brain, and for self confidence. I can't wait to hear about Art's part for next year.