Saturday, May 5, 2007

Supernumerary or 'Cractor' ?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary ( defines supernumerary as [noun] “1: a supernumerary person or thing” and “2: an actor employed to play a walk-on.” I coined a slightly different term for my dual responsibilities on The Juilliard School’s production of La finta giardiniera: 'cractor'.

What exactly is a cractor? Simple: A cractor is a hybrid of stage crew and actor. How did I become one? Please read on.

My association with The Juilliard School began in late-August 2005, as a participant in the school’s Professional Intern Program (props: Upon completion of my internship, I immediately began to “over-hire” (or freelance) with their scene shop on run-crews for various productions. Amongst those productions have been three operas, two of which found me in costume on stage.

The first, in November 2005, was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Briefly, I appeared on- stage and assisted the performers in placing a small-scale stage curtain attached to two poles into the deck. The second, La finta (April 25th, 27th and 29th, 2007) was a more prolonged experience; I was on stage in numerous scenes within all three acts in addition to moving scenery in-between.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the experience. However, actor / performer have always ranked relatively low on my list of aspirations; I can be somewhat introverted. You can imagine my horror, when, dressed as a 19th century Italian servant, I was directed [along with my fellow valets] to march around the stage while ‘playing’ instruments (I was assigned the Double Bass and the music allegedly eminating from the instruments was supplied courtesy of The Juilliard Orchestra) and then flank a door for six to eight minutes.

I developed a device to make it through what could have been an excruciating length of time for me – one that I later discovered was not as unique as I had originally thought. During rehearsals, I looked for my “fourth wall,” a place where I could focus my eyes while I stood there. It came in the form of a railing, about mid-orchestra section out in the house. Ironically, after the second performance, I was watching a program later that evening on PBS in which the late actress Uta Hagen was teaching a younger generation of actors the exact method I was using. Maybe this acting thing isn’t so bad after all...
[Note: I'm second from left in the background of the above photo]

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