Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Getting Personal

For the next two weeks, Alexandra, one of our many talented Overtures students, is taking over our blog. Check back for daily updates and come to the Overtures showcase Saturday at 11 AM in Signature's MAX Theatre!
Overtures students work on blocking for "King of New York," one of the group numbers they'll perform at the showcase.

In the past week and two days, our Overtures company has worked so incredibly well together. We have made great strides as an ensemble, making beautiful music and putting together tricky choreography. But at the end of the day we all go home with our individual homework and challenges to overcome. Whether running lyrics until all hours of the night so we won’t flub a word the next day or daring to stretch our emotional range in order to perform a more truthful monologue, we all recognize the work that must be done is, ultimately, personal.

Overtures has been like a buffet table; we are given multitudes of approaches to the work, ways to find vocal placement, ways to act a monologue, ways to connect to text and lyrics. Then we must pick and choose which approaches fit best. My swimmer’s shoulders do not drop into proper posture as easily as others, a fellow company member may have old knee injuries and alignment difficulties, and still another might simply psych themselves out every time a pirouette shows up in choreography. But we all still need to land that double, so we practice in our down time and when we return home at night after our eleven-hour days. We push past our own fears and inhibitions in order to be better the following morning.

During this evening’s staging rehearsal I was reminded just how personal and individually meaningful the work is and must be. Though we all sang the same words - “I pull myself together, I’m focused on the prize” - they clearly meant something different to every one of us. Our prize could be Broadway, maybe a Resident Artist contract with a company here in DC, or perhaps just graduating high school and heading off to a stellar collegiate theater program. We gave meaning to those words with a knowing smile, a flicker of hope in our eyes, similar enough but still personal.

Performing requires ruthless bravery: the willingness to take risks, to push ourselves beyond boxes of “type”, to test our presumed limits is integral to our training and development as actors. While we can be technically proficient, there are skills beyond the physical that we will not learn from manuals or how-to videos. Instead, we exhaustively search our souls in order to better bare them under the bright lights of the stage. And thankfully, at least for another four days, we are surrounded by an encouraging and truly caring group of fellow artists all going through the same process of discovery and personal perseverance.


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