Young Frankenstein Ensemble is Like High School All Over Again
She lied to us!
Two months ago I auditioned for Santa Maria Civic Theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein. At the time, director Sally Buchanan promised me (along with everyone else) that there was very little dancing in the show. I’d like to state, for the record, that this was a bald face lie. Not counting the small incidental songs, this show has NINE song and dance numbers. One of them is a full on tap dance.
Luckily for me (and also for you) I don’t actually tap dance. As Inspector Kemp, I get to sit and watch the rest of my villagers dance with Dr Fronkensteen and his monster. If I HAD been in the number, we’d still be rehearsing it, day and night (dancing is not my strong suit). The other seven members of the Young Frankenstein ensemble, many of whom had never even worn tap shoes, perform a confident and elegant dance number.
Let me tell you a tail…
Being a part of the Young Frankenstein ensemble is like high school all over again. Back then I was in a production of the Hobbit. My role was the grumpy red dragon, Smaug. Not his voice. I played the tail. It was my job to stick this seven-foot-long papier-mâché monstrosity out from the side of the stage and wiggle it back and forth. One night I wiggled it a bit too much and it broke. During the performance, I had to repair it with a broom stick and about two miles of duct tape.
For me, theatre will always be about the dichotomy of the quiet, dark, and frantic world of backstage paired with the bright, smiling on-stage production. I spent over two years traveling the country as a Tour Actor/Director with an organization called Missoula Children’s Theater. During those two years I directed children at 72 different theaters, high school gyms, churches, and one park pagoda. Let’s just say, I spent a lot of time backstage.
Sometimes it’s hot back there, and you fan the faces of your actors with your script. Sometimes it’s cold and they huddle for warmth against each other in their bright costumes. Sometimes it’s an expansive cavernous space in a 15,000 seat theater, and sometimes it’s the tiny stage in an elementary school cafeteria. It’s always quiet backstage though. A quiet that hums with the silent energy of actors holding their breath and nervously waiting for their turn.
Shrouded in Mystery
Sally did something different with our backstage. Something I’ve never seen at the Santa Maria Civic Theatre in the last twenty years. She took down the high fake walls we call flats and put up side curtains called wings. It gives on stage a sense of theatrical majesty you don’t get with a fully representational set. It also makes the backstage much more inclusive because now we can actually watch the action on stage while waiting for our turn.
Young Frankenstein Ensemble
I’ve been a part of this theatre for a long time, and this is my fifth play with the Santa Maria Civic Theatre since I stopped touring with MCT. It’s my first musical (that isn’t a cast of 60+ school children). Young Frankenstein is also the best time I’ve had backstage since high school.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the highest praise you can get as a cast member is “You are such a professional”. I did a lot of work learning lines and making a character as Felix Humble in last year’s Humble Boy. At the end of the run, I felt like the cast truly created something together.
This show is different somehow. It feels less like sculpting and more like just squishing the clay between your fingers. Everyone always says this, but being part of the Young Frankenstein ensemble is like being part of a family. At some point between frantically pulling off lab coats, tying up the tap shoes, and zipping up each other’s dresses the play came together as a something more than just learning lines and songs. It’s about bursting together from that shadowy dark world of backstage and then rushing back again, tumbling over each other like puppies, and asking those magical four words, “What’s the next scene?”
Come and see the fun starting October 20th. Tickets are already on sale. Trust me, you won’t regret it.