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'The Beaux Stratagem'

Life of a Performing Arts College Student Part 1

(This isn't the picture of my performance, by the way. It's a random picture from Google #notsponsored)

So to briefly explain the story there are arguments, gossip, stress, funny moments, and amusement. I'm going to go into detail about this because I have never seen anything about the life of a performer or "what it's like to be on stage" type things, unless there have been and I've just been stuck in my cave. I am not sure how any of this will be interesting for some people but I do hope it is because this will take me ages to write and I'm putting a lot of effort into it.

The Process

The Beaux Stratagem is just a big old classical play and to quickly explain the entire play is about consent and the one character who I play is almost sexually harassed twice trying to get the attention of other men because her husband is a drunk, Scottish man who only loves her for her money, everybody wants everybody's money, women have no power, and there are always arguments. I, myself, barely understand the play and neither did any of my classmates considering it is written in an old English language that is kind of like Shakespeare but isn't as complicated as Shakespeare. The teacher seemed to know the play very well but it is her go to genre. It is difficult when we are expected to know and understand everything without being told the subtext. This is where it gets difficult. We had to stage a one to two hour play in just under a month. If you know classical plays, then you know that they originally last for about three hours but this is college, not Broadway. So we took a 100 page script and cut scenes or lines that weren't necessarily needed, thus making it easier for everyone to learn lines and quicker to produce a play in such a short period of time. Bearing in mind, I have been on this course for about two years and soon I should be going onto my third year (hopefully) and never have I had to be forced or put under pressure to produce such a big scale performance in a short amount of time. Last year, I performed DNA with my class and I was given the lead of Leah. At first, it double casted but the other actor gave up the part. Double casted basically means a different version of understudy except both actors get an equal amount of chance to perform. We began rehearsing 7 months prior to when the performance was going to be. Unfortunately, we couldn't for the Beaux Stratagem performance which lead to a lot of difficulties. I know that in the real acting world, we need to get used to a tight working schedule but I mean this is a college environment. We should be having fun and learning at the same time.

In the beginning, this caused a lot of issues for us and a lot of stress. When we were reading for the parts, at first I didn't want a big character because I didn't even want to be on the course for much longer due to difficult people and work load. Anyway, there is this one girl and let's call her Sharon. Sharon was certain that she had gotten one of the main leads, Mrs Sullen. Sharon and I have always had a sense of competition between us. We clearly both see highly of ourselves; however, she is still the same and I'm not. I have stuck to myself and stayed out of all the drama that I could. It is as if there is some imaginary crown to be won and I don't have the time to fight for it. 

Sharon read for this part of Mrs Sullen and I did too. However, the way we each played the character is very different compared to one another—she is toned down and naturalistic while I am more melodramatic and over the top. I wasn't sure about the part at first but then the other cast members started laughing at the way I said certain things and how I spoke with an accent. The characters all had to be posh with pother accents and Mrs Sullen was from London, from what I can remember, she had a really posh, stuck up accent when I became her character. Hearing them all laugh and enjoy listening to my version of her made it so much more enjoyable which pushed me just a little bit closer to wanting the part. We did a few more run throughs and we were discussing who would get certain parts and everyone pretty much admitted that it will either be me or Sharon for Mrs Sullen, but from what I gathered, they definitely wanted it to be me (not trying to brag but, you know, I was good).

A couple days later the parts were announced and... I got Mrs Sullen but it was double casted with Sharon (how fun). The other character that was double casted was Dorinda and let's call them Deadrey one and two. I was paired with Deadrey one and Sharon got two. I definitely enjoy working with one; as actors, we bounce off each other so easily which makes us a good pair to work with because there is never a disagreement between us. We have the same ideas and communicate helpful suggestions and criticism well (unlike some people). 

The first week or two was us getting to know the characters and understand the storyline a lot better. It helped but because we were so pushed for time in the end, everyone just nodded along and acted as though they knew exactly what they were talking about. Me and Deardrey one weren't the "original cast." There was a secret discussion where certain people had influenced the decision of what the end of year production was going to be (clearly that was unfair). After this secret discussion between some students and the teacher, the parts had already been declared. Sharon and Deardrey two had already definitely claimed their parts, incuding other people in the room. At this point in time, myself and Deadrey one were difficult students to deal with and never really attended class for personal reasons, so we had no chance of getting big parts, so we thought. Then BOOM, we came swooping in and claimed big parts. Deadrey two really wasn't happy about this. In fact, once it was announced that her character was double casted, she began sulking in the corner (not everything can be yours, honey). 

Back on track, because they were the "original cast" in the beginning, they got more stage rehearsal time, so me and Deardrey one had less time to rehearse, which clearly wasn't fair. In this period of time, the teacher had told me and Deardrey to play our characters the exact same way as the way that Sharon and Deardrey two were playing them. We were pretty annoyed. Isn't acting all about originality and making the character your own? We told each other that we wanted to play the characters in our own way and we will stick to it and if there was an issue we would confront it because I am my own person and I didn't want to get down graded if I wasn't allowed to step out of my comfort zone. This benefited us further down the line. 

Eventually, we got further down rehearsal days and more disagreements followed and Sharon was behind it. My husband, or otherwise the actor of my husband, we shall call him Squire, didn't like Sharon and she didn't like him. They made it each other's goal to make their lives hell. Sometimes a lot of the stuff was uncalled for on both their parts but Sharon just had a thing for making everyone miserable and I wasn't going to stand for it and in the end I didn't. However, it will come back on me because whether I did something good, karma still bites me in the butt because the universe hates me. Anyways, she was the centre of all disagreements and she has been for an entire year and she gets away with it and I get the full blame for being the good guy. 

There was one rehearsal where Sharon and I had to learn a scene and I had to watch her every move to make sure I nailed the staging. The staging was hard, I'll get to that... eventually. Sharon looked lost and had to repeatedly do the scene over and over which is fair. We all have our struggles but if you're going to big yourself up and act like you are the queen of the world then at least do it right. Once they were done rehearsing it was my turn and once I was done rehearsing, the teacher said, "You nailed it. That was perfect" and not to brag but to brag, I was pretty good. I did pick it up very quickly. I'm not one to want there to be competition between me and Sharon but I was pretty proud of that moment. 

Sharon and my partner, Deadrey one, became absent for a lot of rehearsal time. We have all been there—for the beginning of the year, I stopped attending every lesson I could because I hated it, so I'm not so innocent either. But this made it difficult for me and Deadrey two. The teacher eventually paired me and her together because we matched and bounced off each other more effectively. We were both melodramatic and the other pair were more toned down and naturalistic. Deadrey one and Sharon don't like each other so I felt bad for Deadrey one but it benefited us both in the end.

A piece of negative feedback that I recieved was that I was too melodramatic and the teacher was worried I couldn't play the serious parts, seriously (I proved her wrong. Unlike some actors, I am capable of playing more than one character and emotion). The scene that I nailed perfectly the first time proved her completely wrong because it needed an emotional shift which she didn't think I was capable of, but I nailed it. An emotional shift is switching between emotions quickly and effectively. At this point I was definitely opening up more with this character and stepping outside my shell and not giving a care in the world about what people thought. 

This is only part one and I really hope this is good enough and a part two is something people would want. I was really enjoying digging into the mysterious back stage business of performing arts and my experiences and I really hope I can do it some more.

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