Oh God, Body Grease! Murder in the Magnolias Act Four

Oh God, Body Grease! Murder in the Magnolias, Act Four
                We are in our fifth of seven weeks of rehearsals. Starting next week we add Monday practices to our Tuesday and Thursday schedule.
                Stephanie, our fearless leader and director, gave us until February 1st to learn out lines. I think we have, for the most part. The cast at the least now know their characters and have a feel for what they would say, if not what they should say.
                It’s tough. Erika, who plays the lead Amanda, said on her Facebook page how strange the lines are. Very true. “Murder in the Magnolias” is a broad spoof filled with cracked characters. To say the bulk of the lines, especially in the first two acts when the characters are being introduced, are off-beat non-sequiturs is being kind.
                It is not until the third act that there is anything resembling realistic conversation. It’s easier to memorize lines when there is a flow to them. If one line is “How are you?” and the next “Fine, thank you, yourself?” – that has a flow and makes sense. If nothing else you can wing it.
                But “Murder in the Magnolias?” Yeek…
                The opening scene has the Colonel complaining about his sister Amanda’s botanical garden. He says a few lines about vicious and despicable weeds. Amanda tells him to hush, now. The Colonel says the plants are the unnatural and morbid. Amanda talks about how hot it is this evening. This at least feeds me the line about favoring prickly heat; but it’s a strange path. Perhaps as we practice it will seem more natural.
                Another great example is with my other character Thornbird. In between an argument between Amanda and Pete Bogg about excavating around the house I mention there is something odd about the “O” on my typewriter: a line completely out of the blue with no relation to the current conversation. It defines the character, sure, but I have to remember where it fits – what is my cue line? I’ve missed it a few times now during rehearsal. There’s not much cadence to dig into.
                Odd and obtuse lines – we have to memorize our cues and then get the cadence right to make it funny.
                As I said, it’s tough.
                In the third act is gets better. Most of the lines (mine anyway, I pity the actress (Britney) who plays Blanche – her non-sequiturs never seem to end. At one point her character literally stands up, holds up her hand and says “I would like to stop the drift of this conversation.” (I paraphrase) Talk about left field.
                But the lines and character quirks are starting to gel. Now that the lines are down we are working on the physical part of the show and blocking more effectively. You stand there. When he says this, you move over there. We’ve added some physical comedy during segments where characters are otherwise simply talking to one another. One cute segment between Blanche and Bubba: Blanche is demonstrating how she trains dogs; Bubba thinks he is talking to him. “Sit up!” He stops slouching. “Off the table!” He moves his leg from the coffee table. “Play dead!” Umm, what?
                The set is coming along nicely, too. Most of the walls are painted and the windows and doors are in. Over the mantel is a painting of the Colonel. Stephanie took my photo in almost-costume a few weeks ago and will print it out using a photoshop program that makes it look like a painting with brush strokes, etc. It will hang with pride on the stage wall!
                Here is a photo:

                  On Thursday, January 30th I was in court most of the day and still had my briefcase in the car along with my I-Pad. I was the first one at practice and shot a few photos of the set.

            I also took some pictures of rehearsal, but I do not want to show them right now in case any of the actors object. When we start releasing any “official” cast photos I may post them in a future blog.

               The costumes for the play are mainly street clothes. Pete and Bubba can wear blue jeans; Bubba could wear a t-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. Lawyer Possum could wear a sports coat. Pete Bogg, a construction vest and a utility belt. Sheriff Billy Jerk could get away with street clothes and a badge and a brimmed hat – a full uniform would not be necessary. Facial hair for these male rolls is completely optional.
                Lorraine, Lotta and Blanche can be dressed business-casual.  Blanche later appears in a Southern-Belle-like dress, though. So does Amanda. “Cousin ‘Manda” also has a scene in which she comes straight from her disgusting mess of a weed pile. She decided to dress in boots, gloves and an apron.
                But the Colonel and Thornbird, my characters, are the exception. That hadn’t occurred to me when I auditioned. Oh the pain…
                Colonel Rance Chickenwing is (obviously) a spoof of southern colonels and our director wants him to look like Colonel Sanders. White suit, mustache and beard. Black-rimmed glasses and black string tie. He’ll wield a cane. I have the white suit – all the better to cosplay John Lennon – and other than the string tie his costume is complete – and a long, thick black ribbon can be used for the tie.
                Thornbird will wear a frock coat with a frilly shirt and ascot/cravat. I have those, except the cravat, but a fru-fru lady’s scarf will do for that. He’ll have a dark mustache and soul patch under his bottom lip – which will remain on for all three of his personalities. I see Thornbird wearing spats (he and the Colonel will wear the same dress shoes and socks, I’m afraid), gaudy rings, Panama hat, granny glasses and a cane – different from the Colonel’s cane.
                I hope to avoid anyone thinking Thornbird is the Colonel in disguise – ready to pounce on his greedy relatives. I’m trying to keep their mannerisms and voice different. The Colonel has a throaty growl and Thornbird a higher-pitched smoother voice (having sinus trouble over the past month makes it hard to avoid the rumbly growl, but now that it has somewhat passed I will try to pull it off).
                They have Thornbird’s sister’s dress ready: a dark-green-hooped skirt with mid-sleeve blouse. I presume I will still be wearing my frilly shirt underneath. They have a pig-tailed blond wig and a pink parasol for me. The theater isn’t heated well, so the warm wig feels nice, haha!
                Rufus T. Chickenwing’s costume is complete at well: a Confederate officer’s uniform, hat and saber. Esther has kindly lent me her toy plush parrot for the bird scene. Here’s the bird with my Panama hat (actually a wide-brimmed trilby, but it still looks the part).


                I should have enough time in between scenes to change. Going from the Colonel to Thornbird then Thornbird to his sister will be a rush; but if I get changed right away and don’t fool around watching the other performances, I should be okay. We only have one or two dress rehearsals to practice my quick-change-act. I will certainly let the director know if time is my enemy.
                It’s evolving into a fun show – the cast seems to like it and laugh at its silliness. We get along – or at least the people that DON’T get along are keeping it to themselves – a nice change of pace from 1981, I must say.
                Because of snow/sleet we had to cancel our practice on the 4th, which leaves only seven more rehearsals left.
                I think I’m going to be sick…


Copyright 2014 Michael G Curry                









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