After a couple of dress rehearsals and a preview, we’re open! The three sisters are all in various stages of their young lives, somewhat unhappily, and for different reasons, feel that moving out of their small town to Moscow will better their conditions. The town Chairman (who is never seen) conducts some of his business through the visually impaired messenger Ferapont.
For Ferapont’s first entrance, I enter carrying a cake from the Chairman to the Prozorovs. The housekeeper (Linda) leads me to the kitchen door and places my hand on it so I can go through without banging my nose to get my slice of cake. In the next act, I enter to deliver a book and some documents from the Chairman to Andrei (Theo), the sister’s brother. Here I’ve worked with the maid (Ana) for the smooth stage moves, like her placing my hand on the back of my chair which gives me my orientation where to sit and begin my dialogue with Andrei.
I’m reminded that some ‘sightlings’ are naturally in tune with blind folks. When Ana approaches me to exit the scene with Andrei, she silently and gently takes both my arms so I immediately orient and then leads me off stage right. Ah, were my world as graceful as Ana!
Another trick of the blind guy trade is the hand squeeze. I later enter a scene to ask Andrei if the fireman can go through his garden to get to the river to help fight the blaze which is consuming the town. I enter with Ana holding my arm as I chase Andrei, Ana squeezes my hand at the right time and I speak on cue.
Connect and Disconnect
Throughout the play, different characters step out of their scene and approach the audience to deliver a few poignant lines. Director Stephanie calls this a “connect” and when moving back into the action, a “disconnect,” complete with special lighting and sound cues to highlight the actor addressing the audience. On my connect, I employ another trick – counting steps. I’m sitting at a table with Andrei and after he asks me, “Have you ever been to Moscow?”, I stand and take 3 steps to the audience from my chair and tell them, “I’ve never been to Moscow. It’s not in God’s will.” At this point I’m about 2 feet away from the onlookers. Another step and I’m in the lap of the lady in the first row with the nice pearls.
On Stage with the Audience
How do actors react to the audience being on stage with them? Emily, who plays the middle sister Masha, said, “I like it. Let’s me know if the audience is taking the ride with me. It helps me expand my energy. When I’m not facing them, it energizes the back and side of my body.”
You never know what kind of audience you will have for any given performance: some are lively, some pensive, some inebriated. If I get a laugh, I hold a beat before delivering my next line. If no laugh, full steam ahead.
Every performance is different. Actors can be “on” one night and “off” another night. A bad tuna sandwich at lunch can make for an uneasy evening performance. Props and set pieces can malfunction – the smashing clock doesn’t smash (veteran character actor Howard picks it up and tries it again!), or the door knock doesn’t knock, or when I’m making a point to Andrei, I hit the table and it starts to collapse. That’s actually part of the fun of live theatre – you can’t stop the camera and do it again. All you can do is carry on. Like life.
All 16 of my fellow actors are first rate. Working with a bunch of pros doesn’t always happen, and when it does, it’s a blessing. We move this classic play along in 2 hours’ time without a lull.
Critics Dolen and Hirschman said this Three Sisters “is an enchanting, unique South Florida experience…” and “a celebration of theatrical imagination.” Elaiza (Executive Director), Stephanie, Fernando, Octi, Luciano (sound design), the entire cast and crew, and the audience, all came together to create this enjoyable time on stage.
And “in a comic turn as the befuddled messenger” I have another line on my resume and another notch in the boards.