We’re coming up on “hell week” at our house, and I’m trying to stay relaxed about it. Since the beginning of January, Douglas has been rehearsing almost every Saturday and Sunday, all day, for the upcoming production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the New Surry Theater in Blue Hill. The show opens next Friday, April 21, so the heat is on.
Since he plays the protagonist, Tevye the dairyman, Douglas is in just about every scene. He’s had a slew of lines to learn, along with the nuances of delivering them. He has to sing and dance and interact with sustained physical and emotional vigor throughout the show. He comes home from his all-day rehearsals in a curious state, a combination of exhilaration and exhaustion. It takes him a few hours to wind down.
A couple of weeks ago, it became apparent that the production had crossed an important threshold, that the cast and crew were coalescing and the show, under the capable leadership of longtime director Bill Raiten, was in good shape. So, though Douglas’ anticipation and sense of personal responsibility is running high, he is actually very confident that all will be well. He’s looking forward to opening night.
That doesn’t mean he’s not still anxious and working out the kinks. I expect he will want to run a few lines with me at the kitchen table over the coming week. And I know for a fact that he’ll be working through the whole show, aloud, including all the great “Fiddler” songs, in the privacy of his car.
Meanwhile, I’ve been preparing for a performance of my own. In January, I transitioned from singing with the small but venerable Bangor Community Chorus to singing with the much larger but also well-established Bagaduce Chorale, which, like the New Surry Theater, is based in Blue Hill. It was a tough decision, driven by a leadership transition in the Bangor group and the terrifying opportunity to audition with Bagaduce. (I sang “Mira” from the 1961 musical, “Carnival.”)
I have some shabby feelings about bailing on the Bangor group and I miss the folks I connected with there, but I am deeply enjoying this new choral challenge.
We rehearse every Monday night from 7 to 9 p.m. I come home to Sandy Point all ginned up from the music and the fun of interacting with these talented choristers and their charismatic director, Bronwyn Kortge. It’s thrilling to feel our varied and nuanced program coming together. We’ll have just two performances, coming up May 12 and 13. So, with just four more rehearsals — plus an extra Saturday for those who can make it — pressure is mounting on us, too.
The theme of the spring program is “The Road Home.” Each piece we’re singing taps deeply into the emotional concept of “home” — the real or metaphorical place we belong, the one we’re leaving behind, the one we’re hoping to reach. As I learn these gorgeous arrangements, I find myself thinking of asylum seekers, the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, elders in nursing facilities, my two grown sons, loved ones who have died, the zinnias I plan to plant this spring. Home.
For both Douglas and me, taking part in community projects like these is an important part of establishing a sense of “home” in our lives. We enjoy collaborating, sometimes intimately, with a group of people we wouldn’t otherwise know or necessarily have much in common with, to create something beautiful. In some ways, the surprising, creative, interactive process of rehearsal is as much the point as the final product — my two choral performances or his 16-show run of “Fiddler.”
For the next week, in the leadup to his opening night, I’ll be monitoring my husband’s anxiety level and helping, if I can, to allay his worries of forgetting a line or losing his singing voice. For longer than that, he’ll listen to me warble through my alto parts at the kitchen sink and in the back bedroom, over and over, practicing my dynamics, my cutoffs and my breath control. Together, we’ll get through this exciting time and enjoy the satisfaction of fulfilling these commitments to ourselves, our communities and each other.
Read more of Meg Haskell at livingitforward.bangordailynews.com