Friday, March 16, 2012

#15 - Lily

Sidekicks. They don't often get the attention that heroes do, but in many ways, they're better than the hero. With the protagonist, you can have certain expectations. You can be sure you'll be with hero through their whole quest. You can be sure that the hero will get to their destination - back to Kansas, back to 1985, to Mount Doom - and once there, they'll succeed or fail, no maybe about it. And in fairy tales, you can be sure of a lot more. But with sidekicks, there is more uncertainty. There are less archetypical story elements for them, thus, there can be many more surprises. They can tread off the hero-path and do the unexpected, and whether that's for the betterment of the quest or to its detriment depends so much on the kind of person they are. Robin (of Batman and... fame), Sancho, Hermione, even Toto - These characters are as important as the heroes they are attached too, and in fact, the hero would be lost without them. Truly great sidekicks are loyal and follow their charge to the ends of the Earth! Lily is just such a person.
Lily is the handmaiden to the Princess Scarlet. She takes care of every detail in the Princess's life, and is constantly keeping things from spiraling out of control (when she has any say in the matter, which she mostly does not, which means she spends a lot of time practically tearing her hair out, which can lead to patchy bald spots, which is a strange look on anyone, especially a lady). Lily is like that yippy puppy running circles around the big dog. She mothers Scarlet. When the Princess is showing reluctance to start preparing for her forthcoming wedding day, Lily is there to push Scarlet into the rehearsal-rehearsal dinner, force the dress over her head, and shove cake options in her mouth.

Lily is my favorite kind of character in theater. She can break the fourth wall, that invisible wall that separates the audience from the play. I love characters who can look right at the folks sitting there watching and say, "Hey, isn't this nuts?"; or shout, "You hearing things all right back there?"; or right at the front row and say, "Watch your feet, I gotta cross there in a sec." Being able to connect directly to the people is so, so fun, because not many get to do it, and in most shows, no one breaks that wall. It's a rare ability and makes for a special connection.
I was in a show in college where I was allowed to talk to the audience, and every night, I'd see what I could get away with. One night, in a scene that was scripted with my character blatantly interrupting the action to talk to the audience, I started convincing the whole crowd to stand up and slide to the left and right so that a path of empty seats was being created down the center of the seats. Everyone started getting up and moving, not sure where I was going with it all, but seeing as that I had been trusting them so much to talk to them throughout the show so far, they played along. The characters I was interrupting on the stage crossed their arms and encircled me annoyed (all part of the show, of course. I'm not saying I just went off book like some crazy person). I waved them off and laughed, "No, no wait, hold on. They're actually do it! Look at them! They think I'm doing something important! HAHAHAH!" And those characters chased me off the stage while the audience laughed at being fooled and returned to their seats.
Ferris Beuller, "As You Like It's" Rosalind, Our Town's Narrator, Zack Morris. Breaking that wall really is a superpower very few characters have, but so much fun. That ability can have the audience rooting for that character even if they aren't the protagonist. Iago in Othello is the villain, but he trusts the audience enough to talk right to them, and that is why he is so much more memorable of a character than the title one, if in the right hands.
In the right hands. Very important.
Many of the characters in the Princess Knight can be played by any type - young old, tall, or short, tone deaf or armless. Lily is just such a character. She has the most to do in the show, the most dialogue, and the most opportunity to improvise, but she doesn't need to look a certain way; she just needs to be played by someone with an abundance of spirit - someone who is ready to add more frosting to the cake. I'll be honest, this is the role I'm going to have the most trouble casting, because we need someone who can be that great sidekick to Scarlet, who can keep the audience rolling along with the plot, and who can find those genuinely spontaneous moments to bring the audience in on the joke without upstaging the tale. It's a juggling act that will be a fantastic challenge to the lucky one brave enough to take it on.

Princess Scarlet! Where are you? I am beginning to worry... about my safety. Not yours. You’re the one running into scary woods. I’m the fool chasing you. And I don’t care if you get eaten just as long as I remain in tact!
Quickly! Hide! I have an idea!(The two LOVERS duck behind the trees as LILY enters from the audience shouting for HER charge. LILY turns to the crowd.)
Scarlet! Always running off. Always with the running. I swear, she does this just to get me going. You know what I mean? Oh, and I actually do care what happens to her. I don’t want any of you to think I don’t. What kind of handmaiden would I be if I wanted my Princess injured or worse? Not a very good one, let me tell you that. (Looking under the rows and in the aisles.) It is those stories she reads. That’s what it is. Gets ideas in her head. This one time she ran off in search for - oh what was it? It was something crazy. Oh! I know! Seven midgets! Can you believe that? Seven dwarves? (Asking an audience member about another.) What would you do if she ran off with seven dwarves? Well, It took me almost four hours to find her, and when I did, all she had managed to find was a short guy named Carl and a miniature pony. Strange pair Carl and that pony.(LILY gets to the stage at HER wits end.) The wedding is practically here. She’s tricking me with pies - which I got by the way - And on top of everything...I gotta pee.
(From the tree CHESTER growls like some beast.)
(LILY freezes and goes wide-eyed.)
A-ha-ha-ha... Well, that’s alarming... Even more so since I have to tinkle...
I am a bit frightened right now... Yup... scared... scared... scared... I mean, this is about the time we should be introducing the villains to you guys, right? Can’t have a good story without the bad guy. And that must be it, thus: scared. Me...(And then an idea strikes HER.) So scared in fact... (A grin forms.) That a song might just do the trick! Maestro! (The music begins, and just as LILY takes a breath sing...)
(Leaping out of hiding like two monstrous beasts.)
(Runs for HER life back out through the audience like a bear is chasing HER.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

#14 - the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candle Stick Maker

In addition to the main cast, throughout the play, there are several moments with lines for "Random Guy #1" or "Random Lady #3" - just those moments where someone else on stage gets to say a few words. I was going over the show for the millionth time one day, and I realized that there was a pattern. In those scenes with random lines, there were always three pieces of dialogue that would need assigning. I started to imagine that these lines could be delivered by the same three company members every time and thus giving the show three more characters. I dubbed these players the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candle Maker. They act as narrators without being too obvious. They are like Sampson, Gregory, and Abraham in Romeo and Juliet, Act 1. Scene I. The trio gives the audience information without looking right at them and saying "Hey, this is the context. Pay attention." In the Princess Knight, the trio have moments like this:
There you two are! Hurry! I need those supplies in the town square! Some crazy lady just ordered 500 hundred “Wedding Pies”!
What a queen the Princess Scarlet will be!
Yes, she will be a fine wife. Beautiful and charming. Didn’t you two hear me? 500 pies. 500 “Wedding Pies”! And I don’t even know what those are!
Oh certainly. She is quite beautiful.
One of the most beautiful - elegant even! Bewitching and divine.
Yes, she is a knockout. Moving on.
Any King would be proud to have such a lovely woman.
Yes... but... (Looking around as though what HE would say would be treasonous.) I have heard that she is some what of a lofty dove.
(Like some dirty word.)
A dreamer.(THEY all make knowing nods and “ah’s” as though this revelations is of some illness.)
Well, come on! The wedding feast will still be spectacular. As long as we get there with everything on time.(They vanish into the woods.)

Exposition! This trio does this throughout, and as it is with every character in this production, they could steal the show.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#13 - King Rose Petal and Emperor Prickle

Ah parents. The great scholar Willard Christopher Smith Jr. once said:
"You know parents are the same
No matter time nor place
They don't understand that us kids
Are going to make some mistakes
So to you, all the kids all across the land
There's no need to argue
Parents just don't understand"

Wise words. True in this life and in fantasy. And parents in fantasy often play crucial roles in the rebellious nature protagonists tend to have. The overbearing parent can tell a child "No" and that just causes them to do the very opposite. I wonder if Juliet would've been all that interested in Romeo if he were just Romeo Brown, the dude from the next kingdom over. Her parents had to be all forbidding and she was all ready to show them what she thought of that. Teenagers, dey tink dey know everyting. The outright "No, My Way Or Else" attitude has caused Pocahontas to take the rapids around the river bend to seek out the strange John Smith; Mulan to take up the sword of her father to protect her family's honor; and of course, Ariel's desire to be part of our world. We all have that natural fire of curiosity that is only fanned by "No!".
And if it is not the outspoken, the silent fear of parents who carefully hide the world from their child can be an invisible guiding hand as well. The fear that the child will go astray can cause a parent to hold on too tightly and only cause more desire to escape. Kala couldn't keep Tarzan from his humanity forever; Mother Robinson had to help her husband let go when Fritz and Ernst started becoming men; Arrietty was shocked to find that there were other Borrowers out in the world. How do parents find that balance of protector and observer? Often the parent - more often the stepparent - can be that villainous force that holds the hero back. But I prefer the parents who simply fear the world and what it could and will do to their little ones. Those parents have heart.
The fathers in The Princess Knight are the same as many fathers in fairy tales. They care, but they hold their offspring back too. They take too much control of their child's life. Rose Petal has carefully raised his adventurous Scarlet by keeping her interest in the great big world and its possibilities satiated with every story, play, and poem that the kingdom has, but he is determined to have her marry the correct prince. He says in the opening of the show:
"I protect Scarlet and I keep her close,
And let her dream at her behest.
But dreams are only that.
They are not the way of the world.
I'll choose the right life for my daughter.
Before being king, I'm her father."

He knows she is a dreamer, and he let's her have those, but in the end, he knows what is best for her.
Emperor Prickle has been preparing his first born to become a ruler since the day Sandstone was born. He has given the boy ever bit of training and skill so that when the time comes, he will be a great and intelligent King. Unfortunately, all that time preparing Sandstone meant less time was spent on Chester. Prickle does not understand the younger prince. Maybe Prickle never had brothers; he simply does not know what princes who will never be king do. So, he encourages Chester's imagination. He let's him play, pretend, sing, and roam about, but he doesn't put much thought into what Chester thinks is important. He says honestly, "I have only ever wanted the best for my sons." But he just doesn't get his second born.
Neither of these men are bad fathers. They both are doing their absolute best to raise children while they lead kingdoms. But Rose Petal's decision to see Scarlet married and Prickle's impatience with Chester lead to the adventure the two lovers go on. What that makes them to the audience is a matter of perspective. I myself do not see them as villains in any fashion, but that might have something to do with my own parents.
I don't mean to brag... well... actually, I do mean to brag a little bit, but my mom and dad did a pretty darn good job raising me. They always encouraged my creativity. They always supported my decisions (even if they didn't agree with something like, say, moving across the country), and they still want to know that I'm doing okay. My sense of humor and leadership came from my dad. My stubbornness and determination came from my mom. They disciplined me enough that I have a strong sense of right and wrong - stronger than many my age, but they let me fly high even if I got a little too close to the sun a few times. I might be a bit... odder than my siblings, but all of us turned out pretty well. They might not have, as the Freshest of Princes said, understood me, but they loved me, and that's what parents should always do in this life and in fantasy.
One last thing: I realize that I seem to have followed suit with a supposed classic trope of the Disney animated movies by not having any mothers in this show. Mothers seem to get the short end of the stick in the Disney animated library. In many of the films, the hero is motherless (Little Mermaid, Chicken Little, Lilo and Stitch, Pocahontas, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Sword and the Stone,), or the mother has died and a wicked step mother has shown up (Snow White and Cinderella), or the mom is actually whacked right there for us to see (Hunchback and Bambi). Walt Disney himself loved his mother very much, and didn't have a step one to base the evil ones on. So why is this common in the films? Well... seemingly common. It is not as prevalent as some think. There are many Disney moms alive and well (Mrs. Dumbo, Mrs. Darling, Sleeping Beauty's Mother, Perdita, Mulan's mother AND grandmother, Duchess, Sarabi, Ms. Hawkins, Repunzel's and Tiana's mothers too). So, the curse isn't as big of a deal as some make it out to be. It probably only seems that way because of those classics like Snow White and Cinderella that make it appear that mothers don't stand a chance in Disney movies. As far as Rose Petal and Prickle are concerned, I am not against casting mothers instead. Their genders are not as important as other characters.