Monday, January 31, 2011

What a rush!

houstRauli Garcia, HGO’s Chief Financial Officer, on his stage debut as a supernumerary actor in Dead Man Walking.

On opening night, I found myself onstage in front of more than 2000 people. By this time I was confident that I knew what I would have to do, and when to do it. I was pretty calm, except for the fact that I was also very excited!

I could not really see the audience most of the time. From the stage, all I can really see is the edge of the orchestra pit, and then a reddish darkness that begins right on the other side of the orchestra. In the midst of the darkness, the windows of the sound booth at the back of the theater reflect the stage, and every now and then I see faint silhouettes of people in the audience.

Rauli Garcia (far Right) intercepting John Packard as
 Frederica von Stade (far left) sings her testimony.
It was quite a rush when I got to run across the stage to tackle John Packard, who plays the victim's father, before he reaches Frederica von Stade during her testimony as Mrs. Patrick De Rocher. When I got to John, I practically crashed into him! That must have been the adrenaline through my veins ... When we escorted him to his side of the stage, my heart was thumping pretty hard. As we guarded him throughout the last part of the scene, I tried hard not to breathe audibly.
The next time I was on stage was with Ms. Von Stade (affectionately known as “Flicka”) and Joyce DiDonato. What an honor!!

Early on in the rehearsal process, Anthony Freud and I discussed my participation in that scene. He exclaimed, “Rauli, do you know that you alone are on stage with Frederica Van Stade, one of greatest and most famous mezzo-sopranos in the world, and Joyce DiDonato, one of the top mezzo-sopranos in world and at the pinnacle of the industry?”

During the scene Flicka and Joyce have just said goodbye to the title character Joseph De Rocher for the last time. In my role, I am a guard that prevents them from chasing after him—I literally block them by standing in front of Flicka. Here is where it got really interesting. Opening night was completely different from rehearsal. When Flicka came up to me chasing after Joe, she was blasting emotional energy, with Joyce right behind her. It is really strange for me to say something like this: I was not sure I was going to hold up in front of that emotion. It was tremendous! At that moment, Flicka really was a woman preparing to lose her son by execution. It was extraordinarily powerful.

The last scene is the actual execution. I am the guard who leads Joseph to the table, along with the other guards who strap him down. This is the marching scene about which I have already written so much (see especially my previous post titled “Never let them see you sweat”). This is another scene packed with emotion, stress, and symbolism. If it happens to look easy, then I suppose I’ve done my job—it took a great deal of work to get it together!

When the lights finally come up in the auditorium at the end of the show, I could see the audience. It was still very difficult to spot anyone in particular. It was exhilarating to hear the audience welcome and thank the singers. The audience was very generous.

When Flicka came back on stage for a special bow (this opera is her official “farewell” to the operatic stage), the entire audience jumped out of their seats at the same time, and went wild! A surge of energy and emotion swept the stage as the audience thanked the singers, and all of us in the cast. It was very cool to see how much appreciation the audience has for the talent, emotion and pure hard work that went into making this production happen.

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