The Orchestra Pit
June 2002 — regular reporter Deb Walz;
guest columnist this issue: Jan Bordeleau
Here's a "pit view" of Camelot:
Camelot was a delight -- our Guenevere was lovely,
Mordred played his character so well I feared he truly
was a bit evil (but was reassured by many a cast member
that he was quite a good sort), King Arthur's voice was
so strong I feared for our sound board, and the orchestra
was *wonderful*. To add to my delight, the orchestra column
features a guest writer, Jan Bordeleau, who played keyboard
in the pit. This was Jan's first show with Actorsingers and
we hope to see her back again real soon!
IS IT LIVE OR IS IT MEMOREX?
The house lights darkened and a hush overcame the audience
sitting back in their seats to enjoy the evening's production of Camelot;
as the Overture commenced, Diane-the-flute-player's husband did a
double-take. Was that a recording, or his wife's orchestra? He opened the
program and scanned the personnel listed
only to read ten names. Whoopsie! The accidentally-omitted 7
other names were included in an extra insert page. That still didn't explain
the phantom bass player who played but was invisible and... oh, this WAS
confusing, wasn't it? Counting our fearless leader, Michele Henderson who
wielded the baton like a sword, that made a total of a 17 piece orchestra
who sounded like the soundtrack. We were QUITE the motley crew. (Not to be
confused with Mötley Crüe.) Although we did play so well together there was
talk of going on the road as the opening act for Cher at Verizon.
But I digress...
Michele had been nervously making jokes about the crack the techs made
that they didn't know how she would get into the orchestra pit and Sunday
evening of Tech Week all rumors were confirmed; although we could fit 17
pieces down there, there simply was no way to get in and out of the pit
because the stairs at either end had been blocked by one helluva PA system.
I looked at the pit, then at the faux castle stone walls lining the stage
and drew the only logical conclusion possible; we weren't playing in the
pit, we were playing in the castle MOAT. The only way to get the orchestra
members in and out was via drawbridge.
BRADLEY WANTS A DOGGY TREAT
William's character, Pellinore, had a traveling companion named Horrid; the
actor's Real Life name was Bradley, and he appeared incapable of learning
either his stage name or his lines. He didn't take direction very well
either, unless it was from his own people. During rehearsal, William even
tried luring Bradley around the stage with doggy treats, but finally wound
up keeping "Horrid" on his leash. Well, Bradley may not have remembered his
blocking, but he remembered there were people who would give him doggy
treats, if only he could find them. Sunday night of Tech Week I felt water
dripping onto me (a bad thing when you're in a pit surrounded by wires and
electrical outlets) and I looked up right into "Horrid's" face. Bradley
apparently had just had a drink of water and now was trying to locate
someone to give him a doggy treat. NO BRADLEY, DON'T JUMP INTO THE MOAT!
Friday's performance went well. Saturday's performance went well. Sunday,
however, Bradley apparently heard a rumor that there were doggy treats in
the top of Nancy's bassoon and managed to get loose and came over to the
orchestra moat again. The little scene stealer proceeded to look right out
into the audience while the rest of the actors continued the scene; I kept
waiting for him to whip out a top hat, jump up on his hind legs and start
dancing. That's what happens on Bugs Bunny, right?
THE JOKE NOBODY GOT
We are the orchestra; we accompany. That's our job. The actor does
something, we make sound. It is our mission in life, our raison d'être.
Saturday night's audience got all the jokes, except one. In fact, none of
the audiences got the joke when Guenevere's character got nervous and said
she was glad the Aberdeen Angus had won because the cow had tried so hard.
We didn't trust the Sunday audience to get it either, but we didn't want
Nicole to be disappointed again, so we agreed before Sunday's performance
that the entire orchestra would laugh at this joke.
We were STILL the only ones that laughed. And Nicole, if you're reading
this, now you know...
ALWAYS PRACTICE SAFE SIGHTREADING
There were two female french horn players -- Suzanne and Trishadee. There
was one female english horn player -- Sharon. Both french horn players were
pregnant. The english horn player was not pregnant. I can only conclude that
playing french horn gets you pregnant.
WHAT KIND OF CLEF LOOKS LIKE A HORSEFLY?
There is a legend about a musician who sight reads so well that "if a fly
landed on the manuscript he'd play it." Well, I can tell you for sure it
would have to be a guy because my natural reaction to a multi-legged
creature crawling around in my book has always been to scream and run. King
Pellinore's character in Camelot quests after The Beast with the head of a
serpent, body of a boar and the tail of a lion but in 18 years of living
outside in his suit of armor he never could find it. Hey William, I have
news for you-- it was in the moat all along, terrorizing members of the
orchestra. On Wednesday of Tech Week we had just begun Ariel's entrance as
Lancelot and Michelle-Our-Fearless-Leader-Who-Wields-The-Baton-Like-A-Sword
hit The Beast with a mighty *WHACK*... and didn't even know it. I, however,
because I saw her baton sweep up as The Beast was flung into my book, quite
stunned but still moving its many legs. William left a few details out of
Pelly's description of The Beast... it also has 6 legs and great big huge
fangs. AND IT WAS BUZZING IN MY BOOK! My gut reaction was to bolt up onto
the stage, but my many years of extremely costly music school training
forced me to continue playing with my right hand and turn the page with my
I could kill it by pressing (don't miss a beat) the page on it but (don't
miss a beat) then it would squish and crunch (eww gross!) and then I'd have
to (don't miss a beat) pay for the danged book with a splattered horsefly in
it (don't miss a beat). OK, page turn. Good, (don't miss a beat) now return
my left hand to the keyboard (don't miss a beat) put more distance between
The Beast and my hands and OH DEAR GOD IT'S THE ONLY PIECE IN THIS DANGED
SCORE THAT HAS A REPEAT AND I HAVE TO TURN BACK TO THAT PAGE!!!!
I flipped two pages back to the repeat and the now-enraged Beast buzzed
itself off my music stand and onto my keyboard. Again, I forced myself to
continue playing with my right hand -- $20,000 I paid for this training at
Berklee -- while I grabbed my pencil and tried to duel The Beast off my keys
below middle C. Ariel, meanwhile, continued singing unaware of the drama
with The Beast in the orchestra moat. I might add at this point I was
totally oblivious to Michele's conducting. The Beast was threatening to
devour me and I had to destroy it. It reared up and leapt at me only to be
foiled by its own wings, rendered useless earlier when it was beaten by
Michele. The Beast was now on the floor on its back.
Ariel finished the piece. I finished The Beast -- with my shoe.