Friday, March 27, 2009

It Only Takes A Moment

blog by Mo Brady (Barnaby) written Tuesday 3/24

Once a show settles into a consistent rhythm, the cast can begin to concentrate on developing the moments between the moments. What I mean by this is we're developing everything between the lines - the fleeting glances and knowing looks that take place onstage. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of acting - existing onstage in the moments when I don't speak, but get to simply react to the other characters and the plot they are developing. The delightful challenge of this is to create a realistic through-line that informs and connects the dialogue.

"Dancing," the full company dance number near the end of Act I, is full of these kinds of moments. In this song, I only speak twice. However, I get to exist onstage in the world of Barnaby for five, delicious non-verbal minutes. Without uttering a word, I get to take Barnaby out of his shy shell, learn to dance, meet a girl, and fall in love. All without saying a word!
Part of this story was developed by David Armstrong's staging. His choreography gave us guideposts for the journeys we each take during the song. For Barnaby, this journey begins by being so frightened of dancing that David has staged me literally hiding in the closet. From there, he created moments for Barnaby to come out of his shell, first by dancing with instructor Dolly, then with cohort Cornelius, and finally with the fabulous fashionista Minnie Fay. David's choreography shows Barnaby's shift from cautious, to ecstatic, to finally confident for the first time in the play.

Between these guideposts, the scenes get fleshed out in cahoots with fellow actors. Most of the time, moments are created without being planned or discussed - a glance between two characters in reaction to a piece of staging or a line will add weight and dynamics to their relationship. Often these unplanned moments will become an intrinsic part of a performance - seemingly necessary to the non-verbal through line of the show.

For me, these moments are some of the most fulfilling parts of a performance. My current favorite is in "Dancing," just before we leave Mrs. Molloy's Hat Shop. As Dolly (Jenifer Lewis) begins to instruct me, I share a brief look with both Cornelius (Greg Allen) and Minnie (Tracee Beazer). My look of self-defeat, and their looks of encouragement, happen simultaneously with my first dance steps, so by the time I look at my feet, I've already begun to dance. These interactions are fleeting, but bring a vitality and truthfulness to the beginning of Barnaby's journey in the song.

These kinds of moments are so complex that they take a paragraph to describe. But their complexity endow a character with so much life that they can't help but feel real. Even as they become slightly expanded for a 2,200 seat house, they can feel big, but exact. Broad, but specific. Theatrical, but truthful. And with their complexity, they bring sense of satisfaction when performed, and the hope that in each performance, we will create one more moment to play.

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