Thursday, January 19, 2017

Playing Father

It's been awhile.
A lot has changed.
I'm playing the role of Violet's Father in the musical "Violet" for DLO Musical Theatre. It's the first time I've been cast as my "part of first choice" in a production, and I am beyond thrilled.
My interest in the role started with the beautiful song the character gets to sing, "What I Could Do". And the role seemed written for my circumstance - single father, raising a slightly feisty daughter? How much of stretch is that?
Turns out, simultaneously not much and quite a bit.
I try to pull my character references only from what the audience gets to see. There is more backstory in the 'original' version of the musical, and yet more in the story that serves as the basis for the musical. But the audience doesn't get to see that. I use it to understand where the character came from, and the arc that he has followed as the material moved from story to musical to revival. And the way his relationship to other characters changed.
It would be easy to play him as angry, angry about the hand he was dealt and the hand he dealt his daughter by accident. But that would do the character a disservice, I think. It leaves him no room for redemption or forgiveness.
Father lives his life every day in the shadow of that accident. His grief and despair consume him. He loses his wife, then disfigures his best tangible link back to her. We learn little about Mama from this script, but I know this: He loved her. She was his sun.
 So when Violet asks "How come we never talk about her" and Father doesn't answer, it is because he can't. How do you describe the sun to someone who's never seen it? How do you talk about what was the center of your life without having to remember that it's gone? How do you talk about all that was good without reliving it? Lots of folks never figure that out, and Father hasn't either.
When Violet finally confronts him, even in her dream (if indeed it IS a dream) and he finally faces his loss and her loss, he is brought down, devasted, to his lowest point. And perhaps his response to Violet is the only response, the best response - I did what I could do.
To build that character informed by those experiences has been difficult at best. It would be easier still just to come in and be me, but the character deserves more than that, this show deserves more than that. I still have a lot of work to do. If I'm not emotionally drained and exhausted at the end of each show, then I'm doing something wrong.
The tagline for the show is "It's About the Journeys you take to get to where you are". I think that sounds catchy but it's wrong. Ultimately I think the undercurrent of the show is forgiveness, and Father really never rests until he has gotten it from Violet, and from himself.
I am surrounded by incredible talent, raising the bar with every rehearsal.To see some of the work that is going into this, one would never know that it's community theater - -that indeed we PAY for the privilege of doing the show. I do it out of love - for the music, the performance, the pursuit of excellence, the cast family. But mostly for the transformative power of live theater, to take the cast and the audience to somewhere and somewhen else, to literally put on someone else's shoes and portray what it was to live in them for 90 minutes.

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