Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Les Miz Act I, scene 3

It’s like falling in love.

I finally realized the metaphor for my involvement with Les Miserables. The euphoria. The anticipation of being together again. The sense that everything is perfect. That’s why I’m having so much trouble putting my experience in Les Miz into words. Who can describe falling in love—besides poets—and not sound like a raving fool?

The rehearsal schedule ran from Jan. 7 through opening night on March 21 three to four times a week. I was sure that by mid-February I’d be lingering at the dinner table reluctant to go to rehearsal “again.” Au contraire, mon ami. Instead, nights we didn’t have rehearsal, I missed being with everyone. I never didn’t want to go.  See, I’m even using double negatives… It’s like falling in love.

Rehearsals were always an adventure. On National Pistachio Day we all dressed in green. Carol proclaimed one Friday as Superhero Day. I used a clothespin to clip a towel around my neck and wore my swim goggles. I made an Old English A, colored it a faded red and pinned it to my chest…bosom… and wrote “The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword” across it—voila—super-author. I am pretty conservative and don’t usually purposefully put
Carol really IS a superhero!
myself in embarrassing situations, yet I went to rehearsal looking like that. I hoped at least one other person would dress up, so imagine my relief (and delight) when Carol showed up in a Superman costume. Others dressed up or at least wore a superhero t-shirt. Something happened inside me that night. An awareness that these people accepted everyone, no matter how goofy. Seriously, I knew I could trust them all.

At Rainbow Day rehearsal, I wore items of clothing representing every color of the rainbow. Ron asked me, “Where do you get these costumes?” I replied, “From my closet?” He gave me a hug. It’s like that…love, acceptance, fun, shared times.

Rehearsals were serious business, too. Carol’s commitment to a deep understanding of our characters was contagious. She encouraged us to write a back story for every role we played. What was our name (if we didn’t have one, we selected one), how did we get to be who we were? How were we related to other characters in the cast? To others near us during a scene? How did we feel
Photo by Tawny Nelb
about what was occurring in that scene whether we were active in it or simply on stage during it? At one early rehearsal as we were exiting after “The People’s Song”, she stopped us and asked where we were going. “Not to the Green Room to have a snack,” she laughed. Instead she wanted us to be in our character and think: How did we feel as we left this scene? Did our character support the revolution? Think the students were crazy? Want to profit from this? Want to help? One night during "The Beggars" scene, she circulated among us and asked us, “How poor are you?” and she expected an answer. She wanted us to feel it. She brought us to a deeper understanding of our part in this story and that depth came through in the performances.

Like a lover, Les Miz seduced me into thinking about it all the time. The music weaved through my mind and wrapped me in its embrace every waking minute…and often in sleep. The email alert on my phone sounded like the first two notes in Fantine’s song as she lay dying, so every time it went off, I would start to sing, “Cosette, it’s turned so cold…” I wanted to be with Les Miz all the time. I wanted to talk about it to everyone I met. It made me smile. It made me cry. It made me long for our next time together.

It was like falling in love. 


  1. Golly, golly, I wish I had your writing skills! Again....a wonderful summation of so many of our feelings and experiences. The Locket Crone, Villager, Desperate Beggar, Hopeful Beggar, and Aristocrat Tawny

    1. And so much more! I think of one aspect of this experience and several others come to mind. Just look at the list of characters you played, Tawny! That's a feast of emotion, dedication and love.

  2. How I wish I could have seen this in person - and you! Thank you for a wonderful piece about falling in love with the creative process.

    1. Your're right, Deborah, it was falling in love with the creative process. And doing so transforms us because we allow the possibility of both failure and delight.

  3. I was enthralled by your description of this experience for you, beautifully written and evocative.

    1. Thank you, Joanna. It truly has been one of the highlights of my life.