Scott Lange on the challenges of preparing for Romeo and Juliet.
Most of our audience members are probably not aware of this, but on the morning of Pigeon Creek’s final performance of The Taming of the Shrew, I was in a fairly serious automobile accident. In addition to losing my car, some musical instruments, and the majority of our set, I also sustained injuries bad enough to require a six day hospital stay. Needless to say, we didn’t have a performance that evening.
We held auditions a few weeks before that scheduled performance, so I knew before the accident that I would be playing Mercutio and Lord Capulet. After the accident I had a number of concerns about my ability to perform. I had extreme difficulty walking for a few weeks, bruised lungs, and a dislocated elbow.
In order to perform adequately, I need to project my voice, move around the stage quickly, play music, and be able to fight as Mercutio. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things. I brought up my concerns to the rest of the Pigeon Creek board. We decided that I should go ahead with rehearsals, and see how my body improves. We came up with a plan “B”, but hoped we wouldn’t have to use it.
Anyway, it’s been almost exactly five weeks since that day, and that conversation. I’ve made quite a bit of improvement. I’ve still got a little bit of a limp, and I can’t quite straighten out my left arm, but things are progressing. I’m working pretty hard to develop a sort of strut for Mercutio to cover up the fact that I’m not walking totally normal. For Capulet, however, I am allowing the limp to come through. Both of my characters also talk excessively, so my lungs are getting back into shape.
By talking about this, I’m not really hoping to elicit any pity from actors or audience members. I also hope to avoid anyone saying “you did really great, for someone recovering from a major accident.” I want the performance to be able to stand on its own. As an actor, I’m always thinking about how I want to walk, move, gesture, or speak as a specific character. But this time the experience is so different. Instead of starting with my natural body movements (a.k.a. my neutral state), I’m basically building a framework from the negative end of the scale. I’m trying to discover my characters, whilst trying to rediscover myself.