I was once asked for a television series audition to “convulse.” I sat down in front of the Casting Director, a camera and the Casting Assistant operating the camera. The Casting Director asked me if I felt I was flexible, if I did yoga and did I have any spinal injuries. I said, “No injuries. I do a bit of yoga and yeah, yeah, I’d say I’m flexible.” “Okay. Convulse.” I looked at the camera person and said, “What?” “Convulse.” I burst into giggles. The Casting Director was not amused. So I … convulsed. She said “thank you” and I left the audition thinking I had the oddest job in the world.
There is telling the story of a play; creating a role based on your research and the emotion and truth you bring to the character. There is deeply listening and reacting to your partner on stage. There is the shaping of the production and clarity of purpose from your director. And then there is the ephemeral; in the play, fleeting physical moments…that due to the nature of our job we repeat every day.
For example, in our fall offering, the funny and romantic “Almost Maine,” if asked on any particular day what I do for a living I could say “Oh, I kiss Joe Foust.” Or, “I collapse on the ground (in love) with Erica Elam.” Or “I hit my fellow actor with an ironing board.” “And do you get paid for this?” they may wonder. “Why yes I do!”
Over the course of our 2017 season, you have likely witnessed many of these moments seamlessly (we can only hope) woven into the fabric of the play, and yet if isolated…
In “The Actuary” Erica Elam repeatedly kissed her very handsome scene partners Kyle Hatley and Matt Holzfeind. Of course, during rehearsals, she did this in front of the director – who also happens to be her boyfriend. She shot rubber bands at Matt Holzfeind and repeatedly snapped a rubber band, loudly, on her thumb throughout a scene. She ended up with band-aides on her thumb and forefinger to minimize snapping damage. Matt Holzfeind was given the task of doing different celebratory moves at a certain moment in the play which, depending on the night, might be a variation of rock star convulsions, hip gyrations, punches, kicks, or crazy dance moves.
In “Peter and the Starcatcher” Karl Hamilton played a door – his hand a doorknob. Karl and Joe Foust flipped actor Henry McGinniss into the air. Joe also used Kyle Hatley, who played his son, as a chair and sat on him. And then there was a plunger sword fight.
In “The Bridges of Madison County” Cory Goodrich and Steve Koehler made intermission much more interesting by slowly disrobing and getting very…romantic…in bed. And then, were fabulously interrupted by the lovely Lynn Gudmundsen raucously playing her fiddle.
And in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” oh well you name it! Actors bearing smoking bombs, fainting, dousing each other with water, choking on chocolates, dodging exploding rubber balls (which also went down Harter Clingman’s pants) and exploding umbrellas, crawling and rolling across the floor and being suffocated with pillows. Whew!!
And all of these things used within the context of the play make perfect sense…except perhaps the exploding ball down the trousers. It’s part and parcel of telling the story and certainly makes the telling much more fun. But every now and then we sit back thinking of that day’s particular crack to the head with the ironing board and rub our neck and think, “What a funny old job.”
You can join the stage of hard knock with us odd jobbers in “Almost, Maine,” which performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m., except for Sundays October 1 and 15 at 3 p.m. For information or tickets please call the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.
Karen Janes Woditsch celebrates her ninth season with Peninsula Players Theatre where some of her favorite performances include “Always…Patsy Cline,” “A Little Night Music,” “Over the Tavern” and “The Elephant Man.”