“I can’t, I have rehearsal!” That’s the most heard-of excuse from any performing artist, so much so that it has been printed on clothing. From auditions, callbacks, rehearsals, cue-to-cue’s to the opening night of performances, this is the process that I have lived for most of my life.
The Sonoma State University’s Theatre Arts & Dance Department is presenting “Into the Woods” from Feb. 4-14 in Person Theatre. Those who know the musical, or at least watched the Meryl Streep film adaptation, knows that the premise of the show involves the integration of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales including: “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
I have the privilege of being cast as Jack from the fairy tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” under the direction of Marty Pistone (Stage Direction) and Lynne Morrow (Vocal Direction).
Jack is a young boy whose story revolves around carelessly selling his cow for magic beans. The Baker, who is on his own mission to reverse a spell that he was cursed upon by the Witch, gave these beans. Little did either of them know, these beans provided the beanstalk-gateway to the kingdom of the Giant in which all hell breaks loose.
The intertwined story not only tells a quirky, yet gruesome tale about the origination of the fairy tale characters in the woods, but there are plenty of life lessons that give the musical purpose and a sense of philosophical thought. That’s the core lesson that our director, Marty Pistone, wants us to understand. While it’s fun parading around the stage singing catchy songs to each other, it isn’t done without pondering answers on different moral truths.
What’s different between participating in a production at a community theatre versus a university is the educational aspect. During my time with “Into the Woods,” There are things that I have taken to appreciate more in an educational environment in comparison to the community theatre environment.
For one, Pistone and Morrow emphasize that we are in an educational setting to learn and grow as actors and performers. The expectation of being the best isn’t relevant in this type of environment. In community theatres however, you are expected to already know and perform the best because otherwise, why would they have hired you? The learning environment is key for those who want to try out the theatre world.
There are individuals in the production who do not have a background in theatre, but are still playing crucial roles in the production. In community theatre, a lot of those people are phased out in the audition process because theatre companies don’t have time to season and teach the performer to grow.
Even though having a five-month rehearsal process, six or more hours of rehearsal a week and only receiving three to four units of credit is difficult, being allowed the creativity to invest in a character and gain a significant amount of knowledge in both theatre and real life situations is what makes the journey worth it.
I have met some incredible people that I would have never met in a normal classroom setting. You may have to do a one-month group project in class, but participating in a musical theatre production is a five-month group process here at Sonoma State. That’s intense—But I love it nonetheless.
As an outsider to the theatre community, some may be intimidated to even participate in a show if they aren’t a theatre or music major. I admit that sometimes there are discrepancies on the casting side as to whether or not a theatre or music major deserves a role over a non-theatre major who is just as qualified.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because it’s the work you do in the rehearsal and stage space that counts, not your résumé and portfolio.
Being able to participate in productions at Sonoma State has been one of the highlights of my college career.
From being a farmer in “Oklahoma” my freshman year to being an old Filipino-Jew in “Fiddler on the Roof” my junior year to finishing up as a prepubescent young lad in “Into the Woods,” theatre has given me the opportunity to be disciplined and grow as a performing artist. Although I have to shave off my facial hair once this show goes up, It’s worth it -for the love of theatre arts!
“Into the woods, then out of the woods—and happy ever after!”