The Little Isaac Chronicles: Calculus Characters

So today instead of talking about all of our experiences on the road, I thought I would rewind a little bit and talk about how my characters in the show came to be.

We had about three and a half weeks of rehearsals until we began the touring process of the show. In actors terms,  I think that’s a pretty good amount of time, especially when you are not just acting, but also accompanying and teching the show.

The rehearsal process is always different depending on the theatres and directors you work with. I found this rehearsal process to be extremely encouraging and open. This kind of environment is the perfect atmosphere to develop and bring new ideas to the table.

After reading through the script it was decided that my role in the show would be mostly a multicharacter and Sean would play Issac Newton. I determined that I play about ten characters including myself, so I had quite the work cut out for me.

To be honest, I was so excited to play a multicharacter role. During our honeymoon, Sean took me to the west end production of The 39 Steps, in which four characters play out a murder mystery as multiple roles. This show was absolutely amazing and really helped me with preparation for Calculus. I found that it is a paradigm that a small cast show must have big and radically different characters in order to capture an audience. Usually the mantra of musical theatre is bigger, faster, funnier so I know that I’m not making some life altering discovery, however I did realize that each of my characters had to be drastically different from one another.

I also had a little added pressure because we watched a former tour’s performance of the show, which was extremely helpful in viewing the overall flow and concept of the show, but created this little voice in my head telling me “don’t copy another actor.” I am living with these characters for the next 8 months and I have to love them!

So I proceeded to start bringing these characters to life. Usually in my development process, I start with my characters voices. I think my strength is voice so therefore I do the easy stuff first and then work on the physicality. I tried to add females into the show wherever possible, since most of the historical characters in the show are male. Sometimes when you are developing characters, the character just comes to you on the first try. You just have this mental picture of
what the character should be. Other characters are more difficult to discover. I found my most difficult character to form was Archimedes. I was just confused as to how this guy should sound, what his attitude was?  So I worked on three different choices for him and just took in my first choice to rehearsal. Luckily, that was the winner!

Something that has really changed my acting life, is a piece of advice my senior acting teacher gave me in college. She said, “always make three big choices for your character in the rehearsal process.”. The theory is that your director might love some or all of your choices and the worst case senario is that they hate them all, but at least you are doing the work. I find myself to be a very analytical and focused personality type when in the rehearsal process, so making three big decisions for my characters really helps me get out of my head as an actor because I’m no longer thinking about what others are thinking of my performance, but instead I am focused on my choices and sticking to them.

So that’s how my characters came to fruition. I find that during the show, I get so excited when I changing costumes from one character to another. It’s also really great to see which characters the audience really reacts to. I love to play up my characters even more when I know the audience is captivated by them. It’s just fun.

So that’s how I did it. I’ll let Sean tell you about his process when he wakes up:)


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