When I ponder what I did to make new friends, the first thing that always comes to mind is the times I stepped outside of my comfort zone. None more so that when I started doing outdoor theatre nearly 6 years ago.
And it changed me. New friends, more confidence and different challenges that made me become a better person. Here’s how you can do it too.
20 years ago
What started as a play in 1996, grew to the popular and enthralling event in Melbourne, recreating the greatest story ever told – the passion of Jesus Christ. As outlined on the website, “It all began when Melbourne businessman, philanthropist and Senior Australian of the Year 2009
, Pat La Manna OAM
, experienced an overwhelming desire to make available to the people of Melbourne, a FREE, simple, costumed, outdoor re-enactment of the story of Christ.
The task ahead was enormous, but within a few months, the production started taking shape. Subsequent seasons would go on to become events eagerly anticipated by literally thousands of Melbournians from all walks of life. The Play is non-denominational and non-commercial. ALL WELCOME to come along and enjoy a most wonderful Play professionally directed.”
2016 – A Tough Personal Challenge
Whoever knows me, knows really well that I am a fun loving guy without a mean streak. That is of course until you cross me then…Well, let’s just leave it at that. When the call came to take part last year, I was surprised to be given the role of Pontius Pilate. Having only ever played minor talking roles like Lazarus or the Good Thief, it eventually evolved into a bigger (and an amazing) role of Simon Peter. All these roles were, in my opinion, on the “good side”. Not a stretch for someone like myself. It’s easy to get upset about injustice than it is to create it.
When Pontius Pilate was placed before me, I initially hated the role and didn’t want to take part. Why would I? To me, he is the epitome of a coward. A man who could have made a difference and yet chose to be swayed by peer pressure. Just wow. Everything that I am against. Yet, the director, Robert Durai, wanted me to take on this role? In the lines of the famous Australian movie, The Castle, ‘tell em they’re dreaming’.
But then, how much does the role imitate my own life at that time? I was choosing to stay in unhealthy environments because of the comfort and false security they provided. And choosing not to face them, aren’t I too, being a coward? I had to chuckle when I realised this for myself the first time. Reading the script and contemplating that Pontius Pilate too was just a man, trying to make ends meet, made me see, perhaps for the first time, that though times may change, some conundrums stay timeless.
Countless hours of research went into the role – What kind of man was he? How did he do what he does? Why did he do what he does? And how can I best portray him? And portray him better than the previous actor John (whom, in my opinion, sealed what Pontius Pilate would have been in those times). Surprisingly, Pontius was a military hero, known for his strategy and quick thinking. He was fierce on the battlefield and his shrewdness and tenacity made him a better strategist than a soldier. Julius Ceasar, realising this, knew that he would do well to serve the empire by rallying his troops and quelling the sparks of the Christian rebellion that had tensions simmering and ready to spill over at any moment.
Pontius preferred to be on the battlefield to being in the camps providing strategy but once he settled down with his wife Claudia, the domestic life and opportunity to see her every night had made him comfortable. A security. At that precise moment, so much overlapped with my life through the research that I had to step away from the computer for a while.
And on the day, there were plenty of unforeseen issues that popped up. And this is where you get to experience the other side – you learn how to deal with all of this. When you take a chance and step up, you not only do it for yourself but then allow everyone else to become the best versions of themselves – forgetting lines? Someone else will chime in and prompt you! Microphone not coming online as expected? Either you repeat yourself or show as if you are pondering. Adlib?! Better not throw the other actors off. Dealing with all of this, I will never again think that an Actor’s life is easy.
The continuous performances, keeping up the energy and passion, the consistent delivery and perhaps even inspiring the other members to step up! To top it off, you still need to keep your skills sharp. Work on exposure through various other gigs. It’s definitely another job in itself. Add to the fact that you still need to make ends meet and I’m in awe of how actors do it. To all my friends that are pursuing any kind of creative roles, you have my full support. If I could, I would personally support all of you if I could.
In 2016, the play was amazing. A lot of people were touched by the way the actors brought the story to life. Heck, I was impressed that someone came up to me after my part was done and sneered “coward” in disgust at me. Ironically, they weren’t expecting my cheery and heartfelt gratitude of thanks! As an actor, that’s how you know you’ve pulled it off – someone is moved enough to admonish you.
In 2016, we wrap up the play in Ruffey Lake Park. There were too many issues that couldn’t be compromised. I will miss the place, but I believe that the great group of actors that are currently performing it are what makes it best. They become like a second family to you.
What You Will Learn
If you’ve ever had the itch and wanted to give it a shot, why not try it out in a totally supportive environment? We have some great costumes and the fun we all have backstage is worth the practice.
10 Things I Learned From 6 Years In The Play
1. Slow down when you speak – everyone wants to hear you and are cheering for you
2. Make sure your actions are big – in an open theatre, no one can see subtle nuances. Think musicals, not movies.
3. Blocking – knowing where to place yourself is important. You do not want to obscure your scene, the main characters or yourself!
4. Learn to master your energy. Over a long performance, you do not want to go too hard too soon.
5. Need to chime in to help with a crowd song? Add your voice (where appropriate. You can’t be a disciple calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. Or can you…)
6. Interact with the crowd and stay in persona. You can have so much with this! And don’t be afraid to let go of the other actors you know and huddle away. No! Choose to interact and flex your acting muscles.
7. Nervous? Good! Channel and concentrate all of that into your performance. Nervous energy add tone to your voice!
8. Research, research, research. Take everything you learn and make it your own. Practice in front of a mirror, practice your poise when on the bus. Every free moment is an opportunity to practice and sharpen your skills.
9. Always help others when they struggle with their lines – sometimes, a simple word prompt might help. Better yet, ask them their line as a question!
10. The microphones pick up everything! And whilst our microphone guys are amazing, you need to stay professional too to not give fodder.
I wish you were there. Maybe next year, I will be standing with you as we embark on making the play the best one yet.
Want To Know More?
So if you’re intrigued, get in touch via the website www.passionplay.info
or find them on Facebook
. They are starting up soon and you should come to the next rehearsal.
*Featured Image courtesy of Gino Gammaldi, all rights reserved.
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