Nun of us are Normal

Behind the Sister Act Scenes – Part 1

As with many of my behind the scenes posts, I start writing it at one point of the process and finish it at another. This post was started last week and will finally be finished today (after 4 days of crazy tech week rehearsals and loooooooong hours at the theatre). Last week I had the time to mull over how cool we all are, this week I’m just confused. Read below…

“The versatility of performers always amazes me. As you get to know people in a cast you’ll find out all sorts of amazing things… Acting work in South Africa (and everywhere, but especially here) calls for reactive and adaptive performers who can do almost everything. There is no space for being boxed in to a speciality. There is also no chance of keeping us in only one industry.

As I’ve chatted to everyone I’ve found that most of us have more than one profession. Sometimes more than two. Judy runs corporate role play sessions, Andrea is a teacher, Anne-Marie is a sex therapist, Dean owns and runs a marketing agency, Trudy arrived at rehearsals fresh from completing the Comrades, etc. I have Musings and Musicals and a full time position at a digital agency.

It’s incredible to watch Andy marking her exam papers between scenes, while listening to her harmonies in earphones, singing and calculating marks at the same time. I guess wearing different hats for different roles and changing them at will is the same thing as acting.”

We have now finished learning the whole show, and have spent close to every waking hour in the theatre doing bits and pieces over and over again and slogging through the week of hectic-ness that we affectionately call Tech Week. So, needless to say, we’re all pretty tired and our minds are swimming with lyrics, harmonies, lines, quick costume changes and the “numerous” counts of 5, 6, 7, 8 that hold the show together.

The swings take a moment!
The swings take a moment!

There is a flip in the process (that hasn’t happened yet, but will) when we stop having to think about everything before we do it and muscle memory kicks in. When we find this blissful settled-in-track feeling, then everything suddenly becomes much more manageable. As a swing, however, I will never get the chance to let this happen. If I do, then terrible things can happen. I remember our dance swing from Phantom ending up on the wrong side of the stage altogether and doing a subtle sprint around the back of the ensemble to find her place. Eek!

Rehearsals are crazy. It’s the time in a performance process when we work the hardest. People are always surprised to find that we only get a couple of weeks to put a full professional productions together. Show Boat took exactly 3 weeks. Sister Act has taken 5. There is a fine balance between finding that muscle memory and being on edge enough to give an exciting performance. In the beginning of the run, the nerves and the thinking give you a natural “edge” and anything-could-happen excitement. Once we’re on show 25, we have to start working to create that feeling.

Sound checking while I watch and wait...
Sound checking while I watch and wait…

It’s a strange balance between being comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time. Mix some confidence with just the right amount of nerves and you have a magic formula. We have to make it look like we’ve never done these things before, like the audience is watching the action live and for the first and only time. This buzz is one of the things that makes our jobs so amazing. We don’t fake the sensation we recreate it. Imagine the feeling of it being the most exciting night of your life every night, and you might get an idea of what it’s like to be on stage every evening.

Today we do our final dress rehearsal. We’re all vaguely keeping it together (with a little help from energy drinks and coffee) and our work days are plagued with a mix of exhausted moaning and ridiculous giggles. We also spend a lot of time changing song lyrics to stupid and dirty rhyming alternatives while we go a bit mad in the dark behind the scenes. I don’t know why we all find it so hilarious to change the lyrics? But it seems we all do it! For people who entertain for a living, we sure do tell some lame jokes….

By the way, have you heard the one about the nun and the prostitute?

Andrea Shine and myself in Dressing Room 14
Andrea Shine and myself in Dressing Room 14

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