Now that I’m a bit more into our “Oklahoma!” rehearsals, I’ve been making a strange observation…
As singers, we often have issues with re-visiting a role many years later. Very often, bad singing habits can suddenly reappear when coming back to a character, no matter how long ago we originally embodied the role. But I’m finding that I’m having different issues revisiting my old role of Laurey Williams. You see, I first sang this role back in high school (mumbly-teen years ago.) Oddly, I am having absolutely no vocal issues relating to the music in this show. (With my usual knock-on-wood gesture there!)
My problem is the dialogue!
I didn’t really feel that my acting “came into” itself until just a few years ago – at least when it came to spoken dialogue. Acting while singing was something I got a lot of help with during graduate school. I felt good about it when I got into the “real world.” But since I was trained solely as an opera singer, spoken dialogue was NOT something I was trained in. It took me years to feel like I finally arrived in a good place with this particular skill. That is, until I started revisiting my “Oklahoma!” dialogue. Suddenly, I was once again that unskilled teenager with no feeling of connection to the text in any emotional way whatsoever. I was very frustrated.
So I did what any good singer would do – I got to work! Since this show was so ingrained in my subconscious, I had to break free by seeing other versions besides the Shirley Jones version. I threw myself into YouTube, watching all kinds of acting approaches to this particular character – some good, some…..well, not so good. I did quite like the London revival with Hugh Jackman and ended up watching the whole thing in one very late night sitting. But even watching the bad versions out there provided a different window into these characters that I hadn’t looked through before.
I’ll continue to break down each little section of dialogue to find the emotion, character, motivation, and personality in order to bring the very best Laurey Williams to the stage that I possibly can!
I hope some of you will come out and see our production in April. For more details on show dates, visit rvco.org!