Thoughts on the conclusion of the FTC production ‘Blithe Spirit’
I just finished doing my fourth play since returning to theater as a hobby in 2012. This past weekend we wrapped up a three-week run of the British comedy Blithe Spirit. Being cast in it was a very pleasant surprise, as I saw several talented men audition for the two parts of Charles Condomine and Dr. George Bradman. Ashleigh, Kerry, J.D., Priscilla, Cindy, Dawn, Heidi and the rest of the backstage crew were all absolutely wonderful to work with.
I was cast as Dr. Bradman, which was an acting challenge for me in two ways: I’m an American, and it took a lot of work to speak in a decent English accent. And, while I might have played a doctor on the stage, I’m most certainly not a doctor. If someone from the audience had sustained an injury and someone else had screamed, “IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?!” and eyes had been cast upon me, my response would’ve been: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on stage. Sorry.”
This play, like others, left me bittersweet at the conclusion. I was relieved to have more free time but also very sad to say goodbye to the crew. As friends, I grew very fond of them during the production and enjoyed chatting with them. With any luck, I’ll get to work with them again.
A few anecdotes from the play:
Right before I came on for my one and only scene in the second act, my wife Violet mentioned she’d accidentally destroyed my research paper on “Hyperplasia of the Abdominal Glands.” To this day, I still have no idea what hyperplasia is–even after googling it.
The hardest part for me was pretending I had 20/20 vision. I’m very nearsighted (about 20/200 left eye, 20/400 right), but my glasses are too modern and since there was no suitable alternative, I did all nine performances without glasses. One particular worry of mine was that my squinting might be noticeable.
Dr. Bradman is a polite but, I’d say, somewhat arrogant man who’s very skeptical about the supernatural. I tried to play his skepticism as a nicer version Dr. Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary professor who’s very critical of creationism and intelligent design. As for the arrogance, I based Dr. Bradman on someone I once knew in Michigan.
Still, I wonder: what would Dr. Bradman have thought if he’d realized Madame Arcati wasn’t a charlatan and that Elvira and, later, Ruth, really did dwell in the afterlife realm?
All nine performances, I kept wondering: what IF the table falls off the stage? Thankfully, it never did.
Kudos to Paula Dean, who did the makeup for the crew and made it a very tolerable experience for me. I know some men like to wear makeup, but that’ll never be me. As soon as the performance is over, I wash it off.
In one performance, the seat of my pants ripped when I bent over to help pick up Madame Arcati. What did I do? Ignore it and continue. (During my hiatus until the second act, Nita Regester repaired it). If it had been noticeable, I probably would’ve ad-libbed something about needing to lose weight so I didn’t have to visit my tailor so often.
And speaking of ad libs:
In the previous production I was in, Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to do an ad-lib during the final performance. This time, I stuck with the script. In live theater, ad libs are best left for two cases: if you honestly can’t remember your line or if your fellow player forgets theirs and you see the need to step in, help them and get things going again. I think the best way to practice having to “step in” would be to have my sons read lines to me and then have them pick one at random, say nothing and look at me, as if they went blank.
Theater is something I’ll probably do only once a year due to being a single parent and the enormous amount of time required, but I may try to find ways to hang out there and stay involved since I consider the folks there my “second family.”
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