“Act well your part; there all the honour lies.”
― Alexander Pope, Pope: An Essay on Man
When I hear the word ‘stage production’, a vivid picture comes to mind: standing centre stage, a single spotlight, a sparkling costume, a microphone in hand, every single person in the audience holding their breath in anticipation… The sheer drama of it cannot be expressed enough.
Every aspect about it –the make-up, the acting, the costumes- appealed to me. The night before the auditions way back in the month of June, I found myself practicing my monologue over and over till I knew it like the back of my hand. I hadn’t ever taken part in a production before and unsure of what it would require of me, I took no chances.
Getting through the audition process was a relief. A good 100 students had auditioned, but only the best 30 were accepted. We were going to be the main cast of Inventure Academy’s production. It felt amazing. It was exhilarating. I personally was filled with excitement at the possibilities. What character would I be? What would I be wearing? What kind of scene would I be a part of? Bear in mind, in the early weeks of July, not one of us had an inkling of what our script would be. All we could do was guess.
After months of acting exercises with Tarantismo and reading for various roles once we did know the script, I was cast as the Dowager Empress Cixi of China. It was a role that demanded an aloof attitude and a regal personality. She was an empress, a woman of power, a woman who had never heard the word ‘no’ in her life. She was always in complete control.
To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would be right for it. I didn’t think I possessed the condescension and nonchalance required to deliver her lines. I was quite skeptical with the director, Aarti’s decision to cast me. This character was nothing like me!
And I believe that’s the beauty about acting –the character didn’t have to be anything like me. Most people follow the notion that acting requires you to be ‘fake’. In reality, it only requires you to create a new personality to add to your own. Offstage, I didn’t need to be a thing like the Dowager Empress Cixi. I could be myself in the wings. I could joke around with my friends and watch the scenes that were underway. But the minute I stepped onstage, ‘Rhea’ was gone. My posture, my way of talking, even the way I held my hands, changed when I sat down on my throne. It’s an experience that really needs to be felt, more than explained.
Moreover, other than learning about the art of introspection, I also learnt the art of improvisation during this production. It isn’t often that scenes go exactly as planned, but does that mean we halt? No, we learn to work around the mistakes. Acting is a constant give- and- take. I depend on my co-stars to push the scene forward just as much as they depend on me, and when someone makes a mistake, improvisation is necessary. A quick dialogue, a little hand gesture, even a mere expression can go a long way in overlooking the error. It’s a matter of keeping a cool head at all times. I’m quite certain that this skill can be applied to many other aspects of life beside theatre and I’m glad to have learnt it.
Just a week away from the play, I can’t help but marvel at how far we have come. I watch the younger actors in my scene and I smile when I remember the way they stumbled over every line for the first few weeks. It’s amazing to see the way each scene comes together to contribute to the production on a whole. For a long time, I was just an actor in the China scene. But now, I’m an actor in the school production. ‘The Kick, The Quest, The Question’ promises to be quite a spectacle and I feel extremely pleased to be a part of it.