Norman "Smartass" Wilson: A Study In Typecasting

 

When Scott Palmer, director extraordinaire, first approached me about Rough Crossing, he suggested I audition for it because “while it is not a musical, it seems like it should be.” He went on to say “You would be perfect for it because, while you are not a real actor, you seem like you should be.” 

Feeling slightly insulted, and a bit confused, I asked him to elaborate. He said that he had doubts about my ability to be on a stage without bursting into song, to which I countered by bursting into a rousing rendition of You Don’t Know Me a la Ray Charles.
I am not one to back away from a challenge so I prepared for my audition and left home two hours before my appointment to allow for Portland-Hillsboro traffic. Strangely, there was no accompanist at the audition or even a piano. We read lines out of a small book the director referred to as a script. And, although I was in my tights and Capezios, no choreographer was in sight.
By some act of God (Scott), I was cast in the role of Alex Gal who does not sing but seems like he should. Rehearsals have been challenging to say the least. We have not even met the choreographer yet; and there has been no music rehearsal for the one song in the show. But that has not kept the cast from trying to navigate the music anyway, battling Ian Armstrong’s severe accent and Megan Carver’s tone-deafness. 
 
Through it all, we have rallied by supporting each other and practicing our lines and blocking. (As you can see, I have learned a lot of new terms that are evidently very familiar to actors of non-musical theatre.)
In addition to learning the art of “Not singing”, Scott has been teaching me how to “Not pull focus” and “Not chew scenery”, all of which are completely foreign concepts. 
 
I have to admit it has been a very rewarding experience so far. Hillsboropeople are much nicer (and smarter!) than Portlanders give them credit for being. The staff at The Venetian has been very accommodating, even after discovering me sleeping in the kitchen. And Scott has not been anywhere near as terrifying to work for as his reputation would portend.
 
I think we have a great show in the works, and I feel honored to be a part of this production. I’ve learned that, despite the dearth of songs and dancing, a play can still be entertaining if musical theater performers are involved, especially if the director is secretly a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
 
-Norman Wilson

 

ROUGH CROSSING

by Tom Stoppard
May 9 – 26, 2013
The Venetian Theatre
253 E Main Street
Hillsboro, OR 97123
Tickets: www.bagnbaggage.org or 503 345 9590