As a working actor, one of the things I love about my job as assistant ticketing manager at the Mount Baker Theatre is that I appreciate my stage time even more when I spend my days doing things that are related to theater, but not on stage.
It's also never a bad day to come to work with so many intelligent people and interesting conversations. Some are also working actors, such as my co-assistant ticketing manager, Matt Lesinski. He and I both perform on a variety of stages in Bellingham. In fact, I will be in two of the summer repertory plays in July, "Proof" and "Chapter Two," and Matt is a Main Stage member of the Upfront Theater.
Another part of my job that is a lot of fun is getting to know season ticket holders and what kinds of shows they like. This means when they come in, we can talk to them about other shows that they might also enjoy, but might not immediately be drawn to. A lot of times people just don't know about certain events, and it's always great when we can introduce them to another show they end up loving.
It's also great fun to be a part of productions here. I'm looking forward to both of the summer repertory shows I am in. For those who don't know, repertory means that you have shows that cycle; after each show, the actors and staff help strike the set, and set up for the next play. This means you can see three shows in three days. It's a lot of fun, but it also means a very large amount of memorization for actors with multiple roles.
A lot of people don't realize how much time and work go into creating characters for the stage. Memorization is just one part of it. The first thing I try to do is to find the voice of the character. For Claire, I am finding that she speaks lower than I usually do, and Faye is the opposite - a bit higher than my natural voice, both with completely different speech patterns.
Next comes the physicality: I love finding ways of walking, holding things and moving differently than I do in real life. Once I have the voice and the movement and am comfortable in them, I find the character really builds itself from there. Next comes costumes: clothing informs so much of how I move and what I do. How do I move in heels; is my character comfortable with her body? Also, what drives my character? What does she want; how does she view the world around her? Knowing these things helps to enrich my performance.
Something else that I truly believe is one of the most important parts of being an actor is the training. Training is so very important. If you want to be an actor, yes, it takes talent. That is very true. But it also takes a lot of training. Because no matter how brilliant you are, when your talent fails you on stage -- and that will happen -- training is what catches you. There will be days when you are already exhausted, or distracted, or just not feeling the show. Training is what gets you through those times and allows an audience to see the same quality of show without having an inkling of what you, the actor, might be feeling that day.
My sisters and I were in piano, dance and vocal lessons for a long time and I participated in percussion ensemble as a kid. Then one summer my middle sister, who's wanted to be on Broadway since she knew it existed, was going to audition for a show. When "Sound of Music" came up, they needed people who looked like a family, so the three of us sisters auditioned and got to be the three oldest Von Trapp girls. My dad then realized he wasn't going to be able to see any of us that summer unless he did it too, so he auditioned and got the role of Herr Zeller - the bad guy! And it just spiraled from there.
This is part of a yearlong series looking behind the scenes at Bellingham's Mount Baker Theatre.
ABOUT WINDOW ON MY WORLD
Window On My World is an occasional essay in Monday's Bellingham Herald that allows Whatcom County residents to share their passion for what they do, an idea or cause they support. Send your Window On My World, which must be no more than 700 words, to Julie.email@example.com.
Jessica Young was born in Portland, Ore., lived in the Gorge for a long time and was on track to become marine biologist until she accidentally ended up in The Sound of Music in high school and got the acting bug. That was the end of marine biology and the beginning of what promises to be a wonderful theatrical career.