Dr. Michael Boynton
April 15, 2018
A Golden Age Musical: JSU’s 2018 Production of Guys and Dolls
What’s your tale, nightingale? Jacksonville State University’s production of Frank Loesser’s renowned musical, Guys and Dolls, seems to tell a tale of life in the big apple during the 1950’s. This production was performed at the Carlton Ward Theatre, February 23-25, and March 2-4 of 2018. I had the tremendous privilege of working on this production, as both Assistant Stage Manager and Dramaturg. Being so heavily involved, I was able to carefully observe diverse acting techniques as well as the processes and work that the actors went through, not only during production but also during each night’s performance. After working and seeing this production from start to finish, I believe that the actors worked well on presenting this musical in a fun and innovative new way. The actors’ prodigious performance can be determined by the way the actors integrated the technique of acting, the truth of the moment, and by the way they tackled their objectives and obstacles that each individual role presented.
The technique that the actors used throughout their performance was reflective of what we read in An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski as well as A Practical Handbook for the Actor written by the students of David Mamet. This semester we learned that physical action and an actor’s preparation before a scene all play an important role in developing a character and performing that role to the best of your ability. I believe that Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played by Gavin Hayes, did a superb job in playing physical action. Of course, the physical demands of a musical are harsh, but you also have to play the character through your physicality. You’re telling a story through voice as well as movement. Hayes did this well, especially in Act One, Scene One when Johnson and Benny Southstreet, played by Philip Frazier, crept onto the stage to inform Nathan Detroit, played by Eric Wilkerson, about Mindy’s sales. The director, Carrie Colton, gave them minimal instructions for their blocking. For example, they had to enter from stage left, and it had to be senseless and entertaining. She gave almost free reign to their interpretation of her direction to be sneaky. This allowed each actor to make a choice for how they wanted to portray their character. This choice of their character’s personality allowed both actors to play their physicality full blast. Because of this, the roles were one of a kind and certainly left an impression on the audience.
The technique of physical action is just as important as acting out the truth of the moment. The technique of acting out the truth of the moment is talked about in A Practical Handbook for the Actor, a task that is by Sanford Meisner and is extended by these writers into a theory called the “Squeaky Door Theory”. A good example of this that can be seen in Guys and Dolls is the interaction between Nathan and Angie...