Friday, November 21, 2003

Minutia and Jingle Bells

Last night was rehearsal for the Christmas performance of the Reader's Theatre to which I belong. Because I'm just like that (and never fancy myself too busy -- my history here bears that out) I was elected Creator of Scripts. So far, we are performing "A Visit From St. Nicholas", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus", "The Polar Express" and potentially "The Littlest Angel" and segments from "The Life and Times of St. Nick".

Strangely enough, I like scripting. I have such a huge reverence for the published written word that I've had to overcome some real mental blocks about doing it, though. It's sort of tricky translating a narrative work into a script. It's not like creating a full fledged play or *agh* adapting it for a screenplay. No, you get to use narrators and you are supposed to stick pretty close to the actual work. You can cut things out or convert exposition to dialog. And since almost everything is about the voice, it's very relaxed. We don't memorize, but read from our scripts. The experience we are trying to provide is the pleasure that comes from being read to. We have a few really good voices in our little troupe, in particular Mr. M, who is our local version of Rich Little or Mike Meyers (without quite as high a wince factor).

I love theatre. I always have. I'm just not terribly good at it. Oh, I can memorize my lines and hit my marks. I can even develop the character reasonably well. My voice works. I'm just not...good. I lack the particular charisma and magnetism that really good actors have, the "whatever" that compels an audience to pay attention to you, the inner light that convinces them that everything you do and say is true. On top of that, I have always been a difficult physical "type", and I am not particularly graceeful. I also have trouble emoting convincingly. I'm too self conscious in a negative way.

But I get over a lot of that when I'm reading aloud. With the security of the words in my hands, knowing I don't need to rely on memory for them, I can give more attention to all the other things. I don't need to sparkle and shimmer because I'm not demanding that sort of attention frorm the audience. They can close their eyes. They can relax. There's not much to see -- perhaps my face, occasionally. But it's really all theatre in their minds. It seems almost everyone likes to have a book read to them.

I'm looking forward to our spring performances. I'm thinking of writing up scripts from some classic novels -- Pride and Prejudice, perhaps. Jane Eyre. I need to look over some comedies -- Jonathan Swift? Who knows? There's a wealth of children's books that bear up well for adults.

Hey, it may not be high art. It may not change anyone's life or make a long memory. I certainly won't get rich and famous from it, gets me out of the house.

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