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February 04, 2008

In the Model Shop

During one of my periodic visits to Legoland, I was talking to a Master Builder and they mentioned that there were actually several different jobs in the Model Shop; besides being a "designer", the highest rank, you could also be a builder, a repairer, or a mere gluer (for more background info, follow the link from this Brickwiki page to this sordid tale of glue shortcuts and melted bricks). But they also commented that the distinctions mattered less than you might think; "Once you're in the model shop, you're in the model shop."

[New thought] As you might know from my incessant promotion, my children like to perform in shows put on by Studio East. Studio East also has training classes, and one that they offer each summer is a two-week, four-hours-per-evening class for adults interested in theater (it overlaps with a much more intensive 6-week program for teenagers). Out of curiosity for what my kids were doing, I enrolled in it last summer. The students were mostly parents on a lark like myself, although there were a couple of younger people who were taking it as serious training (and it was certainly worthwhile in that respect). We did scene work, improv, masks, audition practice, Shakespeare, camera, and stage combat.

I, and everybody else, had a great time in the class. Fast forward to late last fall, when the Studio was casting roles for the show "I Never Saw Another Butterfly". This is a very moving play about life in the Terezin concentration camp during World War II. It's based on a book of the same name, focusing on a survivor named Raja Englanderova (a real person) and a teacher she meets in the camp (fictional, but based on Friedl Dicker-Brandeis). One of the early scenes involves Raja remembering life in Prague before her family was sent to the camp. The scene features her father, mother, aunt, and older brother. Well (you can probably see where this is going), the director needed somebody to play the Papa role, and she asked me (she actually needed two somebodies, because the show is double cast). Of course I accepted.

I remember that when I proposed to my wife, I found it somewhat hard to wrap my brain around the fact that I had started in motion the process, previously observed being undertaken by others, that would eventually lead to my being in front of an audience at a wedding; it was difficult to believe that such a simple act had started such a complicated chain of events (but it did!). It's been the same with the show. Starting in early December I've been through the whole sequence: callbacks, read-through, early rehearsals, costume fittings, tech day, dress rehearsals, and finally opening night on January 26th.

We're in the middle of the run now (6 out of 10 shows that my cast will do are in the books) and it's been an absolute blast. I'm not really an actor, I'm just playing one on stage, but evidently I can do a decent job pulling off the role of a Jewish father, and it's been very interesting thinking about my preoccupation and inner monologue and other actor-y notions. But the best part has just been being in the cast. There are 4 adults and the rest is kids between the ages of 7 and 16 (including one of my children). From our call for a show (which is when you have to get there) to the end is almost 4 hours, and there's a lot of downtime in there, with nothing particular to do except keep an eye on the stage monitor to avoid missing your entrance. Technically there are separate boys and girls dressing rooms, but none of the boys/men have any revealing costume changes, there are only 5 of us so the room is less crowded than the girls dressing room, and the small size of the theater means that oftentimes actors have to walk through the boys dressing room on their way to or from the stage. The net result is that a lot of people of both genders wind up hanging out in our dressing room (oh, and boys are cooler also). It's been vastly entertaining observing the cast interact--and also being a part of it, since I am a real member of the cast. The ridiculous stuff that goes on backstage and the hilarious accidents that happen during rehearsal are memories that I'll always treasure. Yes, these are the social networking kids (currently on Facebook) that I've written about before, and there is some inevitable sniping and drama, but mostly it's just good times (I'm not Facebook friends with any of them; I think that's a line I won't try to cross). I may have a small part (my character is on stage for about 6 minutes total, and gets sent off to Auschwitz early on), but now I know what it feels like to be let into the model shop.

Posted by AdamBa at February 4, 2008 09:43 PM

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