If you had asked me a year ago where I'd be, I never thought I'd say singing Edward Rutledge in 1776 in New Jersey and playing the violin in between scenes.
Approximately 7 weeks ago, I stumbled across a posting for 1776 on backstage.com. I auditioned (after juggling multiple responsibilities in the process) and was given the role of Edward Rutledge, the representative from South Carolina.
This production was “The show that almost wasn't.” It was a lengthy rehearsal process due to the schedule limitations of the theater (located at a Jewish Community Center, no Friday rehearsals or shows to observe the holidays) and the numerous adult males in the cast who were juggling their day jobs and their life responsibilities and needed to be excused from multiple rehearsals. I, too, had my own set of conflicts that prevented me from being there at all call times, so no judgement.
This show demands a lot of it's actors. It's a musical that has very few musical numbers and extensive dramatic scenes. The show requires a LOT of older male actors, which if you're familiar with this business, you know that that particular bunch is slim pickins. We had more than a few people who had to drop the project or enter into the process at a much later time. We didn't even have a full run through with the entire cast until opening night! So, at times the process was stressful...but, in the end, this production was a lot of fun.
This group of guys and gals were a bunch of rag tag misfits who had hearts the size of Manhattan. Truly wonderful people that always found a joke in everything, were eager to rehearse and enjoyed each others company. Just a lovely bunch of people.
Now...why am I playing the violin?
Two days before opening night the pit was starting to assemble. And to my surprise there was no violinist (the show had a small budget...to say the least). In the show is a song entitled "He plays the violin" and it has an extensive violin solo. Without the sound of a violin the number loses a bit of it's authenticity, which is a shame considering how great the actors were on stage. So, I offered my abilities to the musical director and that evening I had the book in my hand.
The Violin part was...much harder than originally anticipated. But I was grateful for the challenge. Edward Rutledge has one of the hardest songs in the show "Molasses to Rum," but for the most part he has very little stage time. I had frequent breaks between my scenes and picking up the violin in those down times allowed me to have a much more interesting evening of performing and allowed me to regain some of my former chops with the bow and fiddle!
Until next time,
Lift Big, Sing Big, and Look Your Absolute Best Doing It.
Kasey (Ol’) Yeargain