Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Best Seat in the House?

Depending upon your point of view (no pun intended), it could be argued that the best seats in the house aren't actually seats. The supernumeraries, or "supers", are an important part of many classic ballets are on stage with the dancers during some of the most exciting, interesting, beautiful and famous moments of dance history. They stand (or sometimes they do get to sit) just a few feet away from the dancers and act as courtiers, pages, ladies-in-waiting, servants, party guests, etc. Occasionally, an adult super is needed to play an even more important role, such as the case is with David Brown, one of OBT's most regular open class students, who I interviewed a few months ago on this blog about his experiences as an adult student. In Swan Lake, David acts as the major domo in Act 3. He's sort of like the orchestrator of the party in the court, welcoming the guests, introducing the entertainment, and attempting to console the queen when her son makes a distressing choice. He is onstage for most of the act and therefore has an extremely up-close and personal view of the dancing. And of everthing else that goes on onstage, for that matter.

David's also been a regular cast member with us in the Nutcracker, acting as a party guest in Act 1, and has also appeared in Sleeping Beauty, Act 3. I asked him to tell us a bit about how he came to be a part of the productions with us, and what the whole experience is like.

"I started as one of the party scene fathers in Act I of The Nutcracker; that was in 2003, the year OBT started doing the Balanchine version. I'd been taking lots of classes through the adult program at the School of OBT, and that's how I heard about the audition. I've been able to add a few other small roles over the years, but Nutcracker is still the most fun. There's a lot of opportunity to interact with the others on stage, the young students are adorable and so excited to be performing, and the live music from OBT's orchestra is wonderful, of course... Well, Nutcracker just gets me in the holiday spirit, every year, so I'm really grateful to have been involved. I also enjoy the behind-the-scenes view. When you see the dancers, sets, scenery, wardrobe crew, and stagehands flying around backstage, everyone and everything in its place at just the right moment, all coordinated by the Production Director--something of a conductor, director, and choreographer in her own right!--it's amazing how smooth and effortless it all looks from the house. For example, when you see the exhilarating blizzard of snow at the end of Act I and appreciate how it enhances the excitement of the choreography and music, you don't realize how often the dancers inhale the little plastic flakes, how hard they work not to slip in the piles that accumulate on stage, or how meticulously the stagehands have to sweep the stage to make it safe for Act II. In my own experience as a super for OBT, I guess the most nerve-wracking thing that's happened was realizing, just as the curtain went up, that my taped-on mustache was completely unattached on one side. It was only a few minutes before I had a chance to face upstage and stick it back down, but I spent those minutes expecting the tape on the other side to give out, too. Good times...

Here's David during one of our recent Act 3 rehearsals. He gets to stride around with a big stick that makes him look quite authoritative.

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