Being a Winkie is not all fun and games — it’s more of a sport.
Title: The Sports Expert Who Keeps it Real
Blogging since: 2011
Post Date: April 14, 2013
I have found, through firsthand experience, several similarities that connect sports and musical theater. Yes, I have participated in the world of show tunes and dramatic dance numbers. I have been a Winkie, a brother of Joseph, a Roman soldier, and an enchanted rug, just to name a few. And I’ll tell you this: like sports, musical theater is not for the faint of heart.
I grew up loving sports and I still do. For a while, it was all I knew or cared about. As far as I was concerned, doing something like musical theater was way too lame and wimpy for my lofty standards. But my mom felt that I needed to broaden my horizons beyond sports. So I was coaxed into this new world that changed my perception of musical theater forever. For one thing, there is so much prep! Memorizing lyrics, lines, choreography, music; knowing where you should be in a scene, etc. One summer, I was in Beauty and the Beast. Me and another guy were enchanted rugs. We had to learn how to do a two-man somersault. On concrete. We had little foam noodles on our backs to cushion the impact, but it was still not fun to see concrete rushing up toward your head that quickly. We had to practice and adjust and practice and practice some more until we were in perfect sync. I’d love to see Kobe and Lebron try that.
One of the shows I did was an adaptation of the movie Ben-Hur. There’s a scene in the movie that shows an opponent on his deathbed after being severely injured in the chariot race. The way we did it was by having him on a stretcher that was held by two soldiers, one of which was me. Now this guy was not light by any means. Plus, every night he squirmed more forcefully and added more fake blood which made it very hard to get a firm grip on the stretcher. But I looked across from me to the other soldier who silently encouraged me to hold on and helped me believe I could do it. It’s like a player who has been struggling offensively but is being constantly supported and encouraged. Sometimes that’s all you need to succeed.
Have you seen a flawlessly executed alley-oop? YouTube these combos for examples: Blake Griffin/Chris Paul and Lebron James/Dwyane Wade. No one has perfected the art of the alley-oop like these guys have. You can practice these to a point but you can’t really prepare for the in-game obstacles that present themselves. You have to improvise. And because of that, it’s crucial that both players are on the same page. I was doing Wizard of Oz as a Winkie, and one of the scenes I was in was a big fight scene. With real daggers. They had been dulled but were still no less dangerous. This scene consisted of quick movements and fight choreography. A piece of cake in rehearsal. But when those lights come on, you hear the audience, and the adrenaline starts pumping, you have to be much more alert and focused in that scene and make sure the timing and everything else flows seamlessly. One misstep can be the difference between exciting entertainment or embarrassing disaster.
Halftime. Intermission. Two different words that have a universal meaning that says, break time! I always enjoyed those times between Act 1 and 2. It was a time to rest, go over lines, eat, change costumes, socialize, or in my case, hop the fence at the nearby Christian school and shoot hoops with some like-minded cast members. Many athletes use this time to go over film or plays, or retape a stubborn ankle that refuses to heal. And it’s an opportunity to bond with your teammates. Musical theater is no different.
And after the 2nd half or 2nd act, when the bright lights have been shut off, you still have your fellow actors, your teammates. You all become a second family and make memories that will keep you connected well after the last note or sound of the buzzer has pierced the air.