My first love has always been musical theatre. I remember being seven years old, at home with the chicken pox and my mother producing a copy of Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney.
“No, MOM, I don’t want to watch that, it’s in black and white! That means it’s booo-ring!!”
“Just watch 10 minutes of it. If you don’t like it after that, you can watch cartoons.”
And so, Yankee Doodle Dandy became my entry point for all things musical theatre. I grew up watching all the MGM musicals of the 30s and 40s, falling in love with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye…There was something distinctly romantic and magical about the emotions of the characters becoming so strong that the only option was to break out into song.
The picture that accompanies this post is a meme from Les Misérables. Eponine is in love with Marius, who falls in love with Cosette. Even though she can see that he’s falling in love with someone else, Eponine risks her life to help him deliver a message to her. For those who are unfamiliar with the phrase “friendzone,” it refers to a situation where someone has romantic feelings for another that are not reciprocated.
In The Language Archive, I play Emma. Emma has romantic feelings for her boss, George, which may or may not be reciprocated (you’ll have to come see the play to find out!) Coming from a background that is strong in musical theatre, I find I have to switch gears when approaching contemporary pieces without music. The Language Archive is not about spectacle—none of the characters suddenly break out into song. This play centers on how we communicate with other humans, in both what say and what we choose not to say.
I find that acting in straight plays is as satisfying as performing in musicals. It is a quieter satisfaction that comes from listening to your scene partners, staying in the moment and striving for authenticity. All of which happens, whether or not your character is relegated to the friendzone.
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This piece was originally posted on the OutCast Productions blog.