Penelope Freeh

On the Carousel

Posted by on Mar 20 2015, in Uncategorized

Carousel has opened, a “semi-staged” production with Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall..

If I loved you, words wouldn’t come in an easy way…

In this case, “semi-staged” means all elements present except for scenery. We are costumed and have props. It’s fully choreographed, and it’ll even be broadcast live tonight, Friday 3/20, at 8pm on 99.5 FM. Yikes!

This is an astounding production, and I am honored to be a part of it. So astounding, in fact, that I am blogging for the first time in many months save for my occasional Walker contributions (new one posted today in fact on the great Tere O’Connor: http://blogs.walkerart.org/performingarts/category/review-overnight-observations/).

For Carousel I choreographed some of the songs and created the 10-minute Ballet in Act II. If those weren’t satisfying enough I also get to play Louise, the 15-year old daughter of the two main characters. What a role: dancing, speaking, portraying a gentle/fierce heart who facilitates her family’s karmic change.

So folks, it’s been over twenty years since I worked with dialogue. This process has been scary and titillating. It’s exciting for me to take all my dramaturgical smarts relative to dance and apply them to speaking. It’s so technical: timing, voice register, blocking, remembering, actually looking at and listening to the folks you’re acting with. Ah, it’s an art and I can recognize it when it works.

I remember seeing the great Dame Judy Dench in Amy’s View on Broadway. There was a scene where she sat at a dressing table way downstage. There was no mirror, the audience was it instead, a brilliant device. She removed her make-up then proceeded to become transparent. I literally saw the top of her head open up, emotion fall in and pour forth as language. She was a vessel.

I’ve thought about that image many times over the years and have striven to translate the concept into my dancing. But now to do it with language, challenging language at that, is another thing entirely. It is threading a needle without cheaters on, without getting to lick the thread first.

My point of entry is to filter my speaking through the lens of physicality. Thankfully the Ballet comes first in my line-up of scenes, so I’ve already set the tone as a 15-year old. But then I have to undergo a huge emotional shift, from humiliated to laughing, within about 2 minutes. Time has passed within the story, but not that much time. It’s still the same day. So then I recall all that I am capable of containing simultaneously or from fleeting moment to fleeting moment in real life. I have a huge capacity and ability to set things aside as I need to in order to get a thing done. I apply that to Louise while trying to remain guileless.

The process of making and performing this show is all about relationships. So many deep and rich connections add daily to my enjoyment, satisfaction and poignant loneliness at the end of a long day on the Carousel ride.

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