Friday, August 10, 2012

The Crying Show

Drained, emotionally drained.

I already knew going in, before rehearsals started, that I would be crying quite a bit while learning the music and blocking for Miss Saigon. Even just in first vocal rehearsals, sitting around a piano with the cast, I had to bow my head to weep as quietly as possible while Nicole, our "Kim," sang the moving solo, "I'd Give My Life for You," a heart wrenching song of love and devotion sung to the character's small son, "Tam."

I was glad I was sitting in the back row.

Tam is played by Kyle, a six-year-old actor. He looks like and reminds me of my nephew, who is the same age. Kyle also looks the way my college-age nephew, Shane, did so many years ago, when Shane had auditioned for the very same role.

It's difficult for me to handle when Nicole/Kim is singing to Kyle/Tam in rehearsals. I see my own mother's face as I watch Nicole sing about parental devotion and sacrifice to Kyle, who is a tangible and corporeal representation of my inner child and vulnerability.

And I am absolutely loving the entire rehearsal process. I am trying to be consciously aware of how much I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this amazing and special project. Many of the cast members, from as young as 17-years-old to almost-my-age, have done the show before. A few of them were in the national tour. The directing and creative team sincerely care about and respect the story of the show and the way it's told.

It is not a "happy show," but it is a joy and a privilege to be part of this cast that is synchronized in unspoken understanding and a willing, mutual effort. Everyone demonstrates a high level of professionalism in that they all know how to show up, and shut up, and focus on the task at hand.

I told a coworker that one of the reasons I'm enjoying the rehearsal process so much is because this is one of the first times in my life that I feel as though I'm in the middle of a storybook, bringing it to life.

But oh, how we cry. During a climatic scene in the second act, when the iconic helicopter swoops in from above, we are screaming at an uppermost level of desperation as Vietnamese villagers, pleading with American G.I. soldiers to let us in past the border gates and fences, begging them to save and rescue us. Every cast member has been so genuine in their individual performances that we all seem to feed off of and support each other. The only way I know how to pull off the level of desperation needed for that scene is to think of my late pug, Caesar, as I scream to be united with my son. With the heartbreaking cries and pleas of the other cast members, the desperate tears flow easily.

I am exhausted. And I am at my happiest, my most content, from the fulfillment of doing what I love best and from the satisfaction of getting to be part of such a high quality production. It has been worth the lack of sleep. It hasn't been too bad during the daytime, sleepy at my job's desk, and yet, feeling peaceful and grateful while I anticipate the evening's pending rehearsal.

I have been listening to the music from this show for two decades, now. I should have made more effort to get into a production of it much earlier in my life, even for the national tour. But I have lived a lot of my life in the "better late than never" mode. Now, as an older performer, the young women of the cast affectionately call me "Auntie," partially because of the "mama-san" character I play in the opening bar scene. It is an endearing moniker that warms my overly-emotional heart, reassuring me of the bond we have already formed in our little theater family.

Yes, better late than never.

For information about tickets and show times, please visit Candlelight Pavilion's web site.

(The photo above is from the rehearsal of of yet another emotionally-charged scene where soldiers intimidate and abuse the main character, Kim)


golfwidow said...

I wish I could go. I saw it when it opened on Drury Lane in London and it's absolutely one of my favorites.

Peter Varvel said...

GW, I'm envious that you were able to see it on Drury Lane! Yes, it was already one of my favorites (the original cast recording) before I first saw it performed live.