The last 5 weeks have involved a lot of coffee to make it through rehearsals and doing my Masters by day, to playing a perky cheerleader each night at ‘The Original Grease’. We recently had our first day of senior year for the very last time and I realised that I’ve gone from one learning institution to the next- WAAPA to Rydell High. Besides twirling a baton and cartwheeling- whilst- singing- whilst- holding- my- dress- up (costume malfunction alert), this show has taught me so much; and in true Patty Simcox style, I’ve summarised it into 5 lessons.
- The Theatre is the Best Escape
Never take for granted the space, people and community that become your workplace. During our 5 week run, there was not a single day I didn’t look forward to going into the theatre and doing a show. Having said that, there were times when exhaustion or frustration from a hard day had to be left at the door, and the cast were very good at bringing only their best self into the space. The magic for me came at beginner’s call every night, when we would pre-set and let go of everything on our minds for the next few hours. The joy of entering into the world we had created in our month of rehearsal only expanded each night as we got the chance to play and discover new moments with each actor. With a hilarious, bubbly cast, this fun continued offstage with nightly routines and jokes that quickly became backstage tradition and enhanced the connection everyone felt onstage.
- Taking Care of Yourself is a Priority
With enough injuries and sickness during this process to give our production team a heart- attack, I cannot stress the importance of this enough. In my experience, I’ve only ever done a 2 week run- its incredible how taxing 8 high- energy shows a week for an extended period of time is on your body. What begins as a small injury can worsen quickly with repeated stress from the same movement every night; a good warmup and stretch are absolutely essential. Sickness was also an inevitable issue, and reinforced the importance of adequate rest, and being aware of your own needs. Tea, lollies and sarcasm were the weapons of choice for the girls’ dressing room, and seemed to cure most illnesses pretty fast.
- Work Out What Works for You
Drama school focus/ warmups are invaluable. Despite my frustration at spinal rolls and jiggling tension out of some part of my body during Voice Class, the exercises I learned ended up being a vital part of my pre- show prep. Each actor would take time before the call to ensure they were at their peak mentally and physically. For me, this meant vocal and physical warmups and a quick read- through of my scenes before Tuesday shows (after our 2 days off). Our cast was spoilt with an onstage vocal warmup and group gathering for a focus exercise before every show. As we were a particularly wild cast, taking a moment to gather thoughts on the previous show and play 21 with the band and crew was a great way to centre everyone, and ensure the copious amounts of energy were harnessed effectively.
- A Five Week Run Is Very Short.
Coming from a lifetime of two- week show runs, I expected a month of rehearsal and over a month of 8 shows a week may become less exhilarating and more of a job. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The production absolutely flew by, and never became even close to a chore. After the first 2 weeks (when the shows I’ve done in the past have closed), the familiarity of our blocking, cues and lines brought a sense of ease and awareness I’ve never experienced to this extent during a show. We were able to focus on new ideas and aspects of our character every show, which led to a freedom and playfulness that was an absolute joy to experience every night. We weren’t even close to being done with the show by closing; another extension would have been incredible!
- The ‘Fresh Hamburger’ Theory
I think the reason the run went so quickly was because we didn’t try to do the exact same thing every night- there are lots of crowd scenes that gave us the chance to interact with different people and explore different avenues each night. With each audience, we tried to create a ‘Fresh Hamburger’; a unique show gauged by their responses and changeable with the interaction between actor and audience. The script, objectives and blocking stayed the same, however a slight variation in intention could lead to a whole new dimension being explored. The result would have looked so similar to the audience, but it felt like being part of a new situation every time. My favourite moment of this was a scene between Danny (Brendan Xavier) and I where Sandy enters, interrupting an intimate moment. Each night, Sandy (Emily Hart) would give me a varying level of sass on her first line, which was matched in my response and set the degree of intensity our catty competition for Danny would reach each night.
The last few months working on ‘The Original Grease’ were some of the greatest in my life. The whole team was incredible and made it an experience I’ll take so much away from.
This week, I’m sitting down for coffee with new friends in a new state, and hanging up my pom poms for a life- vest in ‘Titanic: The Musical’. With a 24 hour transition between a 1950’s American Cheerleader and an Irish Immigrant in 1912, I’m absolutely stoked with the crazy life this industry is bringing, and cannot wait to embark on this new adventure!