So. The show is over; Malvolio is no more. Nine performances, none of them went really badly. No missed entrances, no set collapses, no wardrobe malfunctions. Well, not within the meaning of the term; Viola popped a button on her shipwreck dress in the middle of the scene, but there was no unintentional skin revealed. I dried once, during the Prison Scene, and wept for a moment whilst figuring out where in the scene I was; I doubt anyone in the audience interpreted it as anything but Acting. Some shows were better than others—the best show of the run was definitely Saturday the 27th and the worst Friday the 26th—but those were a matter of timing and focus (and the audience, mostly the audience) rather than anything going wrong. So that’s all right. And now, the wrap-up:
- It was, I think, a good production. I’m as proud of this show as I have been of any show in quite a while. Rough Crossing may be the only other show I’ve been in that I think has been that well-done throughout. Now, I could certainly be wrong about its quality—I never saw the thing, after all, and it’s not as if anyone is going to come around after and tell me it was dull, badly acted and poorly lit. But it felt like a good production.
- We sold some tickets. I don’t know how many tickets the place usually sells, but from a financial standpoint, it seems to have been not-a-disaster. It was pretty even through all the performances; I don’t think we went below a hundred or above two hundred. Call it an average of 140 and I won’t be too far off, that’s 1,260 over nine performances or a take of more or less $25K plus whatever the concessions take was, with a relatively cheap set and no royalties to pay. I would guess the theater at least broke even on the show, although I have no actual idea how much it costs to keep a place like that open.
- In terms of a way to spend most of my evening for three months, it was a lovely experience all around. Everyone was supportive and kind, with very little personal unpleasantness. There were no assholes in the cast. Nobody showed up late all the time, or screwed around during rehearsals in a way that made it difficult for other people to work. Nobody messed with someone else’s props, went on drunk, or screamed at anyone else. Surprisingly little time was wasted, and most rehearsals broke up around nine o’clock. I didn’t make any new close friends, nor did I have a mad crush on anyone, but that’s probably just as well, really. We all worked hard, laughed a lot, did our preparation, and focused on putting on a good show. In addition, the crew and administration were largely invisible to us, which is frankly lovely—we actors are sufficiently self-centered that we don’t notice anything unless something goes wrong.
- As for Malvolio, it’s a hell of a part and I think I did it successfully. For values of successfully that are pretty much as good as I can do plus with an appreciative audience. Many of my ideas stayed in the show, including the funny voice I arrived at, a few physical bits (a bit with a handkerchief, and a chair bit that evolved very nicely over the course of the run, and my interaction with the Prison Scene bars) and the shape of my geck and gull line. Others didn’t, which is good, too, if they weren’t working. There were suggestions by the director that pretty much always worked well, and in the one that I recall that didn’t, he ditched it and replaced it with something else. Most of all, when I got the part I had no idea what the hell to do with it, and I found a thing to do, and did it, and it worked.
- Finally, and perhaps I’ve written about this before, I’ve come to believe that the primary job of an actor in amateur dramatics is to maximize the percentage of people involved with the show and the company that will afterward say yeah, I’d like to work with that guy again. One aspect of that, of course, is to be good on stage; if you turn out to suck at acting, people will not be inclined to cast you again. All the other aspects count, too, though; in a community as tiny as ours, when someone sits down to cast a show, they are likely to have input from someone connected with your old show, whether it’s the costume mistress or the Stage Manager’s spouse. If you are unloved backstage, people will know. And as far as I can tell (and I could well be oblivious to sniping behind my proverbial) I accomplished that goal: many of them have said outright they wanted to work with me again, and nobody seemed to be diffident or cold. And in fact I would happily work with any of them again, given the opportunity. So that’s all right, too.
- We didn’t get a lot of positive reviews. In fact, there was only one review at all, and it was lukewarm. I like reviews. I know a lot of actors don’t read ’em, and it’s certainly disappointing when they suck, but my vanity is such that I like to get my name in print a few times. When I say suck, I mean either a negative review or just one without insight. Often people reviewing community theater for local websites spend more time on the plot than the production. To be fair, it’s not an enviable job, as any negativity is viewed as an unfair attack on people who are in fact volunteers, and a total lack of negativity is viewed as dishonest boosterism. But I have enjoyed reading reviews of shows I’m in, and there is little more delightful than finding that somebody gets what you are trying to do, and gets it professionally.
- The director, who is I think not yet thirty, tends to give direction by reference to pop culture. I am old. We share a few references, but only a few. It would be as if I were to tell somebody to do a Mrs. Garrett, or to be like James Garner and Mariette Hartley. Except of course he was using references from the last twenty years, of which I know nothing. This didn’t prevent him from directing me, in the end, but it did make me feel very old. Plus the cast was young—the actor that played Sir Toby is more-or-less eighty, and the actors that played Maria and Feste are forty-glob just like me, but the rest of the cast is thirty-ish on down, with many in their early twenties and three not of drinking age. The tininess of our pop-culture overlap was itself a topic of my conversation backstage, and while the bulk of the time of disconnect was movie-related, it was also the case that my knowledge of musical theater ends around the time most of the cast were born. I don’t know the songs to Wicked or Shrek or The Addams Family; they don’t really know Best Little Whorehouse or Sunday in the Park. I mean, we all know Oklahoma, and it’s my fault that I don’t know Les Mis and Phantom. Still. Old.
- While a lot of people came to see the thing, including family members and friends from out of town and a few co-workers, most of my co-workers and even more of my local community-theater friends didn’t. The latter was a surprise and I think mostly a coincidence of timing, with several getting their kids situated at college this week or of course being in shows themselves. Of the co-workers, well, after nine years and ten shows, I should be inured to their lack of interest. And yet, it still rankles. Particularly, I must say, for those people who I know do go out to the theater now and then. Although those folk mostly see musicals, I suppose.
Anyway, I may write a few more notes about Malvolio before letting it go. There are a couple of things that I might enjoy writing up, if I find the energy (coincidentally, the show ended as the semester began, which is much better than trying to do the start of the semester and rehearsal simultaneously, as I so foolishly did last year), and of course if any Gentle Readers want to ask anything specific, I could write it up. It was a good experience, all in all, and I’m glad I did it, and now I’m tired and want to spend my evenings at home and go to bed early.
On the other hand, there’s another group doing Hamlet this winter…
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,