“I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed.” – Jane Bennet
After blushing on stage for two hours straight with two handsome young men and half the neighbourhood exclaiming my beauty – it’s not hard to say this Jane Bennet line and really mean it. It’s a wonderful, though somewhat embarrassing, feeling. 26 April to 7 June this year, three times a week at the Genesian theatre on Kent Street, I will play Jane Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Simon Reade. Hope you can make it!
Not all roles are as sweet as Jane Bennet, they’re likely not as naïve as she is too. She’s certainly a far cry from my high school musical days where I bellowed Shakespeare’s epic line “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” in a fist-swinging, furious aria. But that’s what I love about the stage. I can be Mark Antony in a toga- wrapped rage one day and Jane Bennet dancing in a satin gown with the arm of the ever charming Mr Bingley curled around my waist on another.
At high school, it was musicals and operas composed by Allan McFadden left, right and centre, costumes and bright lights. Crooning Over the Rainbow in a sexy long black dress at the Enmore Theatre was an amazing honour. I sailed the seas with Jason and the Argonauts in quest of the golden fleece as the Greek demigod, Pollux. I learnt the power of silence in the cessation of radio communications when narrating the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart. I eulogised the great Julius Caesar with Shakespeare’s immortal words “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” At the 2012 General Insurance Seminar, I channelled a long line of greats including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Etta James to sing “Lover Man (Oh Where can you be?)” with a very talented band of musical Actuaries.
I have taken singing lessons and stood for singing exams for many years, but this year I decided to take it a step further and indulged in a two day Adult Acting Introduction course at NIDA. Working in consulting, I wanted to boost my confidence that little bit further, without the song and dance, and 60-piece orchestra. I wanted to learn to think on my feet and speak up a little louder. I wanted a greater connection with the character behind the aria. I was amazed. I spent the weekend grinning from ear to ear. I had so much fun playing improvisation games and working on a character and script. It wasn’t enough. A dear colleague, very much involved with acting and directing at the Genesian theatre, suggested I audition for Jane. After three gruelling and incredibly fun auditions, I got the part!
On the stage, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. You’re telling a story that’s been told so many times, by so many people throughout history before you – and not only are you a part of that, but you get to add to that history. Whether the performance is for one night or three, or twenty or more! The character has woven their way into your life and you into theirs.
For the ACTuaries aspiring to swap their latter letters for ‘ORS’ and try their hand at the stage, even for just one night – I highly recommend it! Here are my on-stage tips:
- Think cool thoughts. It’s mighty hot under those bright lights!
- Remember your lines and when and how to say them. But you’re actuaries right? Memorisation should be a cinch.
- Don’t fall over the furniture.
- Stay in character. Jane Bennet doesn’t think about spreadsheets and SAS code, GLMs and liabilities. Jane Bennet thinks about Mr Bingley; her dearest sister, Elizabeth; Mr Bingley; embroidery; oh and Mr Bingley again. Swoon much?
- Learn how to dance in your costume. You wouldn’t wear your board shorts to the board meeting. If your character dances in a skirt with a train, practise in the train. If they brandish a sword (hopefully blunt), get used to swinging it and not connecting with force enough to actually injure your opponent. Your partner (dance or fencing) will thank you for it.
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