Sunday, November 17, 2013

Eight-Legged Lessons

Life Lessons Learned by Being a Spider/Hobbit in “The Hobbit” at Wheelock Family Theatre

by Anna


The Hobbit was the first professional play I was in, and I loved every minute of it. I'm definitely auditioning for “Where The Mountain Meets the Moon” in December. I met some amazing people and got to know amazing actors. I formed great friendships with fellow Spobbits and learned just how much time, care, and effort goes into creating such an amazing play. It was one of the best experiences of my life.


There are lots of things that being in “The Hobbit” taught me—about the audition process, about being in a show, and just about life.


Lesson #1: Swords are scary, but stage combat is not.


Ok, so yeah, having a big, long sword being swung at you is scary, but not if you know what you're doing. (It also helps that the sword is blunt.) Stage combat is about looking like you're meaning to hit someone, and then missing them but looking like you hit them. That's quite a tall order, which is what makes stage combat so hard. But the ridiculously obvious cues, blunt swords, and skill of the fight choreographer and everyone onstage made it totally safe.


Lesson #2: Opening night is the best part.


I'm in the very first scene of the show as a hobbit who is very loud and rambunctious until the two adult hobbits in the scene offer us a story. On opening night, I was super-nervous:

A.)   that my stick would hit one of the lights (backstage, I was pretty much sandwiched between a light at head level and a light at foot level) and

B.)   that I would mess up onstage and forget my choreography and blocking. I mean, we OPENED THE SHOW. It had to be good. 

Then I went out and did my choreography, and reacted to the story Stephen and Tyla told us, and remembered all my blocking.

And then I went backstage and the first thing I said was "That was awesome."


Lesson #3: Go with the flow.


On the first Sunday, I subbed for Luke, who was supposed to do that show but couldn't make it. Another spider subbed for Camille, but didn't know Camille's choreography because in our cast, Caroline does it, so the spider who subbed for Camille didn't need to know it. (Complicated, I know.) This was a problem because Camille/Caroline's choreography was vital to the opening, and it wouldn't work with just two people instead of three. The rest of the opening scene craziness took their cues from the fight, so we couldn't leave it out. So Nadia (the other hobbit in the stick fight) and I went backstage with our sticks and came up with a new fight (this all happened about five minutes before curtain). We came up with it, practiced it twice, then went out and did it onstage. I reminded myself that 95% of the audience didn't know what was supposed to happen for the stick fight, and it wasn't too bad for something devised in the backstage hallway in ten seconds.


This taught me to roll with the punches and be cooperative. I just added the event to my list of things I never thought I'd have to be doing (figuratively; I actually don't have a list like that) and moved on. 


For the Mirkwood scene, I had to do something somewhat similar. The spider who subbed for Camille didn't know the choreography for the beginning sequence in that scene, but I did and I was in the right place to do it, so I did it instead. Probably no one noticed, not even my fellow spiders. You can't tell who anyone is under those big costumes.


Lesson #4: Be cooperative.


OK, this one is kind of an offshoot of #3, but it deserves a mention in its own right. The Purple and Green Casts have different orders for the curtain call, and this different order meant that I had to come out for the curtain call from a different place than I normally did, since I wasn't really being Anna-as-a-spider, I was being Anna-as-Luke-as-a-spider. I really didn't care where I came out for the curtain call, as long as I got to come out for the curtain call.


The next time we had a show, one of the Purple Cast members subbed for Simona, a girl on the Green Cast. The girl who subbed for Simona did all the choreography fine up until the curtain call. We told her where Simona came out for the curtain call. She said, "No, I'm going to come out where I usually come out."


I really didn't understand that. We reasoned with her for a bit, and she finally headed over to the other side of the stage. The next time she subbed for Simona, she said, "I'm not dealing with that craziness again. I'm just going to come out from here."


I told her that the order would be messed up if she didn't come out from there. Maybe it wouldn't matter that much, but it would mess things up. She grudgingly agreed after three different people telling her that in different ways. She went over and came out in the right place.


The lesson I learned from this is be cooperative. Help your cast-mates out. If the director changes something, make the change in the real show. If you have to do something different, do it, don't argue. Don't be the person who messes things up and gums up the works.


Lesson #5: Throw your heart into it.


At first, I was timid. Everyone was. We didn't know what spiders were supposed to be like in this show. Then we learned. I was still timid—I still wasn't sure how to apply what I learned to what I was doing. I realized that I had the hiss, I had the spider movement, I had the totally amazing costume, but I couldn't put it together. It reminded me of a summer camp I had been to, where we had written a fifteen-minute play. I played the main character. My character's name was Libretto, and I went on a journey and met three characters: Music, Acting, and Dance. And together we defeated the villains—something I couldn't do on my own. Without Music, Acting, and Dance, I wasn't as powerful. The point was, without music, acting, and dance, the libretto was just words. Music, acting, and dance made it a musical. So I realized that me as a spider without really acting the spider was like Libretto, and the acting was like Music, Acting, and Dance—I wasn't as powerful.


So I threw my heart into it. I became a spider, not just a person with a cool spider costume. I added menace to my hiss, and thought spidery thoughts (one of them being Yum, dwarves). I was the spider.


Yesterday, after the Red Carpet, Stephen (who plays Gollum and is just supremely awesome), came up to me and complimented me on my spider-ness.


I was so proud of myself.


Lesson #6: Be in the right place.


This one seems like it goes without saying, but sometimes you just worry about other actors. I learned this one during the first dress rehearsal. There was a bit of a problem with the spider costume racks. When we came off from the Battle of the Five Armies, some spiders had to go through the lobby, get their shells and helmets taken off, and go back to the wing they were originally in. These spiders included me and Simona.


It was stressful. I got my helmet and shell taken off and went back to the wing. Simona wasn't there. I was worried about her. She was little and I wasn't sure how well she knew Wheelock. I wondered if she had gotten lost or something.


I stood near the door to the lobby, waiting for her, and I almost wanted to go out and look for her. When it was almost time for curtain call, she finally showed up. This problem was fixed for the Open Dress. Now we have time to spare between the Battle and curtain call. I learned that the only thing you can do is be in the right place and hope they'll show up. That's pretty much it.


Lesson #7: If you're going to be in a room with nine other kids who are mostly younger than you and a TV, bring headphones.


This one is pretty self-explanatory. For Open Dress and Opening Night, I only had my Nook, because I didn't expect it to get that loud. But it did. They had the movie on pretty much full volume, and it was a stupid movie at that. It could qualify as the worst movie I've ever seen.


For my next show, I brought headphones and my iPod. I had a much more pleasant time in the Spider Room.


Lesson #8: A story fixes everything.


I saved this one for last because it's the best one. In Scene One, we are rambunctious hobbit children who fight with sticks and run around yelling and just generally cause havoc.


When Stephen and Tyla, the adult hobbits, calm us down, Stephen asks us, "Are you ready for a story?"


We ad-lib lines like "Yes!" and "Please!" and "I love stories!".


A story calms us down after so much yelling and running around. A story makes us behave and be good little hobbit children. Stories fix everything, perhaps the best lesson learned from this show.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Anna! Very weel said and well lived. Take these lessons into all parts of your life and it help your road to happiness! Keep acting! Love and big spider hugs! Auntie flo in california


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