14 June, 2011

A Star is Born in Valdelavilla - Part III

"I LOVE blondes!!!", screamed Greg, as he turned around after zipping across the room like a madman, his arms raised to the skies for dramatic effect. "Blondes with long hair and boots and short skirts and a big chest...". Then, using his normal voice, "That's how you should do it. You're being too normal".

I glared at him through the black-rimmed glasses straight out of Harry Potter that he made me wear ("it's funnier"), and wished this would all end soon, before physical and mental fatigue overcame me.

We were in the third hour of rehearsals for the Valdelavilla Players' most ambitious production yet, a fifteen-minute collage of scenes from Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam", with yours truly cast in the title role of Allan, a whiny neurotic whose wife recently left him. (Woody himself played the role in the movie, those were the days).

Showtime was but two hours away, and the cast hadn't gotten down their parts yet. As the lead star, I bore the brunt of Greg's criticism, and his caustic mood was made worse by an abscessed tooth. Every little mistake that David, Rebecca, Laura or myself made irritated him. Moreover, being a former professional theater director, Greg was used to working with real actors, not "normal" language volunteers who shirked from the spotlight - heck, I never even gave Powerpoint presentations at work, and now I was tasked to play a character who alternated among three different moods - neurosis, whining, and dream-like fantasy.

I admit that I was flattered when Greg approached me on the second day, and broached the idea of having me play Allan. "You can do it, I'm sure of it", were his exact words. He continued, "Besides, you're the only option I have - the only other male Anglo is too old to play a 29-year old character". I consented to do it, in the spirit of camaraderie with every volunteer and program participant in Valdelavilla, despite the absence of any acting experience whatsoever.

But now, as he barked at me to run onstage from the sofa to the chair at the corner, to give "MORE, MORE, MORE" in acting hyper, full of pent-up energy, I had second thoughts. However, it was too late to cancel now, and I would let everyone down, so I resisted the urge to scream back at him, told myself to calm down, and just soldiered on.

eagerly awaiting our production of "Play it Again, Sam"
So, we rehearsed, over and over. And got better, step by step. At some points I could even hear Greg laugh out loud as we ran through the scene. I made a few more boo-boos, mostly due to overeagerness (maybe I was turning into Allan!) in reciting my lines without waiting for my co-stars' prompts, but laughed them off.

Finally, we were ready for the big show. Or as ready as could be. I took the stage and sat on the right hand side of the sofa, agitated and fumbling nervously, waiting for my friends' knock on the door.

The rest was a blur - pacing around the stage, reciting my lines (which I had mostly memorized, though we were allowed to read from the script), screaming at the top of my voice to drown out Linda's phone conversation as she tried to set me up, trying to remember Greg's litany of advice (e.g. wait for laughter to stop before proceeding with next line, run from one spot to another WHILE saying your lines), and just acting like the crazed person my character was supposed to be, and then switching to the deflated whiner mode when reminded of my failures.At various key points, I heard Greg's distinctive laugh rising above the other audience members', and smiled a little in self-satisfaction.

Then just like that, it was over. The cast joined hands for the traditional bow to uproarious applause. At dinner time, the other participants took their turns to shake my hand and offer their congratulations. Clearly, my laid-back demeanor did not inspire much confidence in delivering an incredible performance.  No, I repeated over and over, I had never acted before. "Get out of here", I responded with a big smile to those who suggested that I should consider exploring community theater as a career option, adding, "all that red wine must be clouding your judgement".

The kudos flowed even during the after-dinner scene. Several barflies, including B., a drama teacher, pronounced myself as having rendered the Best Performance in a Lead Role in a Musical/Comedy among the three nights of entertainment at Valdelavilla, and even my tormentor Greg took me aside, and said "We did it. I had my doubts after the first thirty minutes of rehearsal, but you improved so much. Now you're the talk of the (tiny) town".

Don't bother looking for Youtube videos. Sadly, there is no video nor photographic evidence that documents this epic event. I still don't know how I pulled through without any nerves, staying as cool as a cucumber*, nor why I bothered to stay up till 2am memorizing the dialogue. Perhaps if career opportunities in the Informatics field dry up, a niche playing Woody Allen characters onstage might not such be a bad idea.

*"fresco como una lechuga" in Spanish, literally "cool as a lettuce", since cucumber is pepino. Not sure how this came about.

Click here for more posts from Valdelavilla.


adecisiontolove said...

Bravo! Eric. This sounds like a grand time.

Jenna said...

Wow! What great experience. Way to move out of the comfort zone and embrace something new. Good job!

grumpyurbanslacker said...

Hanep! Too bad no vid to post on Youtube :D

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Now I am intrigue.
- Olivia S.

Win said...

what? not on youtube?! >:-]

Anonymous said...

never thought you could act!
try hollywood! or SNL!


Cecilia said...

Another calling, Eric....

Anonymous said...

Good stuff! Now you have a new talent to explore!

JohnnyFox said...

Thanks for this, I just signed up to be a July Anglo. Should I tell 'Greg' I'm an ex-professional actor and theatre critic or just lie doggo until 'discovered' :-)

will he even still be there, or was he just a feature of your week's sessions?

JohnnyFox said...

ah, well, now I've "been there, done that and bought the t-shirt" (a great phrase to teach the Spaniards) ... I understand everything you said and meant about Greg.

I think I escaped lightly since my role in the two-handed 'Monty Python' 'Argument' sketch didn't require three hours of rehearsals. But I did struggle to impose my British sense of Pythonesque comic timing over his all-American vocal bludgeoning.

But the audience loved it, so what the hell, it wasn't Stratford !