Monday, December 1, 2008
A VERY PONTIPEE THANKSGIVING
As I left the Theatre Wednesday night, I thought, "Dang. A whole morning to myself tomorrow! The Broadway show performances in the Macy's Day parade end at 10:00 a.m., and family dinner isn't til 3:00 p.m. What am I going to do?" Maybe it was my desire to think about Seven Brides without a BlackBerry in hand. Or maybe it was that we had just teched the scene in which I wear only a dance belt and blanket, and felt some serious cardio was in order. But however it happened, I decided that I'd go for a hike. I figured Little Si would be a good choice: Away from town, only two hours on the trail, and you get a view at the end. Sounded perfect. So I hopped in my car and headed East.
As I got out of the car and began scaling the first switchback, my mind drifted. It wasn't until the elevation started climbing and the trees became more expansive that I thought, "Wait a second. This looks like the set for Seven Brides. I'm walking through the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Just like my character, Gideon Pontipee, would have done 160 (or so) years ago." I mean, take away the Nikes and strap on a pair of hiking boots, and the similarities were striking.
Go with me on this one, folks. Gideon's a thinker. He's always making lists and quietly assessing the situation. Whether it be with his father figure, Adam, his surrogate mother, Milly, or his new-found love, Alice, Gideon is eager to impress. He can stress himself out, trying to figure out the right thing to say, do, or feel. Which is pretty similar to how I felt this morning. As we gear up towards performances next week, I've been stressing myself out about character arcs and line readings and hitting my marks onstage.
So, while scaling Little Si, I channeled my inner Gideon, using the forest around me as inspiration. I started speaking lines out loud and going through songs, stopping when I saw another hiker coming towards me (and hoping they hadn't heard my rendition of "Love Never Goes Away" from 100 feet away.) I came out of the woods and back to my car with some new thoughts on Gideon and the show.
With this new-found empathy, I trekked back into the city for my family's Thanksgiving dinner. I have six siblings of my own, just like Gideon, so I know what its like to grow up with a big family. I mean, when Milly calls the brothers to dinner at the end of "I Married Seven Brothers," I run onstage and grab as many biscuits as I can get my hands on, because I know there's never enough for seconds in a big family. That's not acting - that's life experience, folks.
Even today's dinner had a striking Pontipee touch. I arrived to find my Aunt and Uncle's cabin-esque home filled with family. And as we squished into the dining room, with serving dishes, noisy conversation, and a lot of laughs circulating the room, I saw my family as Pontipees: brazen, loud, and full of love.
Pretty good for a day of character research, if I do say so myself.
-Mo Brady (Gideon)