Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where the sun don't shine

Last Saturday our theater group met for an all day rehearsal. Our performance is about one month away and our once a week rehearsal schedule rapidly closing in on opening night. I have what you might call a petite apparition, actually two. So while some members of our group are busy learning their lines, it took me about a half hour to get mine down.

Having down theater for years and having had some very large roles, I've come to appreciate the character bits. With a large role, especially in community theater, you're a bit like a pack mule lugging lines around the stage looking for a place to put them down (and sometimes hoping that someone else will indeed pick them up). It's fun to have quality stage time, to immerse yourself in a project that can take all you have to offer and more, but a small role allows you to spit and polish and perfect it. It's easy to see how character actors end up sometimes upstaging leading role players.
Anyway, it's all for fun, and I have to say that everyone else here seems to be involved for exactly that same reason. I've detected no signs of egomania or diva syndrome. It's funny but the polarities of attitudes towards curricular and extra-curricular activities seem quite reversed between the U.S. and France. In America there's nothing extra about extra-curricular activities; rather, they are serious undertakings. One could argue, and on occasion I have, that curricular matters are often times secondary to extra-curricular ones.
Saturday was interesting too because of the way my French friends approach the whole thing. Pot luck is the rule here, no sending out for pizza or dashing off in separate cars for fast food. People came loaded with cakes, casseroles, baguettes, drinks, cheeses, salades and even bottles of wine. We began rehearsal at about 10:30 and at about 12:30 we broke for lunch. Since the weather was great we set up tables outside and ate together. The teachers all sat at one end the table so as to share the wine. When I remarked how this wine thing could never happen in America without a teacher getting fired and a student being suspended one of my favorite colleagues, Pierre, looked at me and in deadpan delivery said, "Yes, in America wine is forbidden on campus but not guns."
I smiled but and pretended to scold him for scoring cheap political points, pointing out the obvious flaws in his assertion. He laughed.

Two hours later, we had cleared the table and set to work once again on the play.
The piece we're doing is actually a collection of comic scenes and vignettes loosely connected in theme, very loosely. One of the scenes I'm in is a paticularly bawdy send up of the neoclassical French tragedy Phedre. A girl named Juliette plays Phedre, a libidinous queen with illicit designs on her naive and hapless son-in-law Hippolyte. Juliette who is one of my students is an extremely bright and exquisitely funny girl. Everytime her scene is rehearsed on stage everyone else stops what they're doing in order to watch her say the most degrading and shameful things while vampishly stalking poor Hippolyte from one end of the stage to the other. Her performance makes you cringe and laugh at the same time.

As for me, I appear in the beginning of the scene, a puffed up poet, who is told in no uncertain terms by the queen exactly where he can put his latest script. A polite version would be something along the lines of "where the sun don't shine." I telll her that she'll always be able to brag about how she told off her English teacher in public, in front of paying customers no less!
Juliette has received no small amount of ribbing over her role, and also she has laughingly worried out loud about her grandparents coming to the play.
Another feature of theater here is that teachers work and play side by side with students. It is the one shining example I've been able to find (I'm sure there are others) where teachers and students bond outside of the classroom setting.

There are four teachers, five counting me, involved. Some of them are quite accomplished, all of them are risk takers, which in my book counts for everything. Pierre in particular has a unerring sense of committing unintentionally funny acts on stage...he is almost always funny and almost never for the reasons he might suppose. Love the guy.


Anonymous Brenna said...

The play sounds like fun! I just realized I wrote on a blog from last year, not May 2007!! Anyway, hope things are going well. It's been a while since I've written. I'm getting ready for a dance performance in two weeks. Perhaps you guys will be able to make it to a show next year. Since it will be my last year of college. Already! Anyway, seems like the family is well and that's great to hear. Take care.

12:27 AM  
Blogger kc said...

Great to hear from you Brenna...a show next year might be just the ticket!

6:31 AM  

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