What’s a little vocal damage?

When I first arrived in Frankfort and we began show #1, I was overwhelmed with this acute feeling of genuine incomprehension. For the life of me, my brain could not wrap itself around this notion that, in two weeks, we would be performing the script I was holding in my hand–a script that normally would involve at least a solid 4-week rehearsal period.

But, somehow, the play came and went. We rehearsed tirelessly every day. I studied lines every night. We did indeed open show #1, and before I could dwell on what the heck just happened for too long, show #2 and #3 were up and running, too.

Then the musical arrived.

Suddenly, I was drowning in that ‘I’m-not-able-to-understand-how-this-is-going-to-happen’ panicky feeling all over again.

And, well, I think I was pretty justified in feeling that way.

Here’s the scenario: A rock opera with 38-some songs, a handful of actors singing notes that test the limits of any sane-mortal’s vocal range, the same actors performing an extremely physically exhausting farce every evening (“Black Comedy”), acting challenges like portraying a mother with life-threatening mental illnesses, a half-alive/half-dead ghost child, a daughter addicted to pills, and a dad trying to hold it all together–and less than week to memorize it all.


Well, we were all pretty overwhelmed. Vocally, mentally, physically. Exhausted.

But we love this show–all six of us. And looking back, I’d like to think it was that shared passion for the text that held us together. (The vocal damage is a problem less easily solved..but. Hey, small side note.) “Next to Normal” is a well-written, haunting, beautiful show. It hits on the real ‘stuff’ of life, the tough circumstances no one sees coming–in this case, the death of a child–the problems that don’t have easy answers–like grieving or mental illness–and the way we make sense of the world around us in order to keep on keeping on.

I’d perform this without getting paid. I’d perform this if only one person showed up. I’d perform this, period. Because I think this is quality theater that needs to be performed.

And while I’d like to hope that, in my acting, I would regularly have that much passion for the project I’m working on, I know that’s not often the case. At least, some shows it takes a little more digging to unearth that sort of passion. For every tear-jerking, deep-thinker like “Next to Normal,” there’s another fluff show in the wings waiting to be performed.

And, granted, the fluff has its place, too. Don’t get me wrong.

But when you have an opportunity to not do fluff, to do a show you’re passionate about and believe needs to be shared with others because of what it evokes–well, what an opportunity, indeed.

So now we roll on into August, which will certainly be a slower month of work at the Barn. Without a new show to rehearse, our call time every morning has been pushed back and some days cancelled altogether. We’ll sign up for shifts to come in smaller groups and do some housekeeping around the Barn, smaller odds-and-ends projects that’ll undoubtedly remind me of working at home. In the evenings, we’ll perform “Next to Normal.” The show runs an extra weekend. Mid-August, we scatter.

And about that.

It looks like I’m headed to Chicago. I was recently offered an internship there that I couldn’t turn down. And so now the wheels are turning furiously as I work out the technical details of transitioning from this place one day, to the lobby of a new gig in a big city by 10AM the NEXT day.

I’ll take whatever advice you may have!

Needless to say, it looks like it might be awhile til I’m back in South Dakota. And while it’s sad to miss out on family time, sweet corn, boating, and evenings around the piano (or miss exciting events, like my dear-cousin Lindsey’s wedding today), the old mantra stands true–the show must go on.

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