Spencer Beckwith

The Cannibal Diaries - Reflection

Published November 24th, 2023

If I don't do this reflection now, it's gonna be too late soon. What I'm gonna do is spend some time analyzing how Cannibal Diaries went for me - things I'm proud of and things I think I could've done better. Overall, it was a pretty fun process and it was great to meet some new people. The theatre scene in Phoenix isn't terribly large, so everyone already seems to know everyone and it's fun to make friends. Honestly, it's the people that really draw me to the theatre, and I've realized lately that theatre people and artists are so much more invigorating to me than others. I don't quite know what it is - maybe it's the passion for the craft and the willingness to play and be vulnerable that makes them more interesting. Or just the fact they have a sincere passion in the first place, and you know that their passion probably doesn't come from their paycheck.

Even though B3 is small, everyone was super nice and I'd be happy to work with them again. I felt especially respected, and it was nice to have a very thoughtful director. Other directors I've worked with recently haven't really required much if any sincere character work or "homework", but for this show, one of our first jobs was creating a Pinterest board and a Spotify playlist for our characters. We then did some work with Viewpoints, which I've done many times, but it's always nice for a refresher. Having director-sanctioned warm-ups was very nice, because I feel like lots of directors and actors I've been around haven't been too concerned with warming up, but I realize it helps tremendously, especially when everyone does it together. Compared to when nobody else warms-up, it's just awkward. Though I definitely think the argument could be made that warming-up is the actor's responsibility before they even arrive. Even though it takes up time in rehearsal, I feel like it can be worth it still because 1. it helps everyone loosen up with one another and stop judgement and 2. some actors have to drive far, or they come straight from work, or any other situation that could prevent them from really getting an adequate warm-up ahead of time. Anyway, I liked how this process was run and I appreciate the tact, care, and respect that was given to the cast.

So. I had a lot of roles in The Cannibal Diaries, but the biggest ones include:

  • Schoolgirl 2
  • Neighborhood Cannibal Watch
  • Julia Cannibal
  • Archeologist 2

And like 10 others, but they only had one or two lines and less than two minutes of stagetime each. I was constantly jumping on and off stage, switching costumes, and finagling props so even though these roles weren't nearly as big as the leads, I was still plenty busy, almost constantly. I like that in shows, because I'd rather be up and active and engaged than waiting for hours to do anything. But every play is different, and waiting is part of the trade, so I appreciate the chance to be very busy. Even when it's exhausting! It's just so rewarding to me.

Things I am proud of:

  • I think I made a lot of fun character choices. For example one of my characters was the doorbell, and honestly it was kinda one of my favorite parts, even though it only lasted a few seconds. Rather than just yell "ding dong!" from offstage, I decided early-on in rehearsals to become the door. Can't say I've played a door before! And I wasn't just a boring door, I was engaged and involving myself in the scene (to the extent a door even could, and without being disruptive of course) and doing some fun movement on the ding-dongs. But my favorite was when the door opened, I did a little step back and made a creak sound. In one case, I went straight from the door into another character and just kept it going.
  • I think I did well vocally. Granted, our performance space was pretty small so it wasn't hard, but I don't think the audience ever had a problem hearing or understanding me. I did a lot of different voices as well - especially for Julia Cannibal. I spent a lot of time studying the actual Julia Child, and tried to replicate not only her dialect but her inflection as well. One thing I picked up on is how she tends to breathe between words, and I think that made a bit impact.
  • My memorization and "logistics" was pretty good. I don't think I ever forgot a prop or a costume change (on purpose) which I'm proud of, considering how many I had! There were a few nights where some lines just eluded me, but otherwise I was very close to perfect.

Things I think I can do better next time:

  • I let outside stuff from my life affect my mood in rehearsal. One of the biggest pieces of advice I got, way back doing theatre in high school, was the classic "leave your garbage at the door" and I think I'm pretty good at it, but sometimes it's easier said than done. But here's the thing - when I'm in a show, rehearsal is the highlight of my day. As soon as we pick up and start rehearsing, my attitude improved drastically almost every time. I want to focus in the future on making sure that my attitude is palatable if not upbeat, even on bad days.
  • I want to get more serious about rehearsal intentions and reflections. I started off strong but it fell out of order with me once we got into tech.
  • While I did some good improv, I think I might have taken it just a little bit too far at some points. We had a lot of leeway in this show, but I realize that won't always be the case and improvising too much can be extremely destructive and hard to work with.

All in all, I'm proud of my work here. I can't say I've been proud of much of my other work lately, though it has been a little while since my last major production. I think it stems from a lack of focus and process, so that's part of what I want this blog to accomplish. Last thing I want to do is become stagnant - I want to do well in all my shows, and that takes time, study, practice, and reflection.

Little tiny side note I want to put out there: I liked the writing of this play a lot, it's very unique. If cannibalism is an allegory for political violence - just because I realize it's wrong and I decide to stop eating people, that doesn't mean other people will not eat me. Nor does it do it anything to help those already harmed or killed. It relies on a mutual agreement, and that assumes there isn't maliciousness inherent in the belief system... Just some food for thought.

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