Claire Hale, a Community Chorus member in The Grapes of Wrath, continues with her blog about the experience…
Quite quickly we’d all begun to feel part of an established company, and in the capable hands of Allie and Erica we were wading back to the dust bowl of the 1930’s one snippet of Steinbeck at a time.
Then came a small admission “Oh, I think we forgot to tell you about the Chicken Dance!” – WHAT? There was definitely no previous mention of a dance, I don’t dance, I can’t.
Immediately my mind filled with visions of the birdie song, and kid’s birthday parties from the 80’s – what followed felt (believe it or not) infinitely more ridiculous!
It came down to just four moves; Side Step, Running Man, Bow, and Nod – simple, right? Wrong.
Having proudly mastered the Chicken Dance, the following week we were introduced to the ‘Heel Toe’ sequence (four more simple-ish steps). Heel Toe was followed by ‘The Lawnmower Dance’, which was in turn followed by the ‘Irish dance and woo’, the ‘Soufflé’ and even the ‘Seaweed’. It felt as odd as it sounds, but as long as we concentrated, and someone with rhythm counted aloud – en-masse it looked fabulous.
Costume fittings were another hilarious chorus bonding activity – I was a little disappointed with my (apparently poo stained) dungarees until I caught a glimpse of the shell suits and slogan t-shirts I could have been clad in.
During tech we factored in various elements: the raked stage and dancing on an incline, scenery which moves us backwards towards a river containing several gallons of cold water (and ultimately beyond that the drop into the front row), some chorus members performing at height whilst others light fires inside giant moving boxes, new cues on which we move everything from toilet rolls to corpses, the addition of a second ‘Chicken Dance’ for some, and the small matter of it all now being in double time!
The professional cast and crew were lovely, welcoming us in and working around the inevitable chaos we brought to proceedings. Suddenly all the little pieces came together and made something bigger, something pretty magnificent, and dare I say it? I think we’re ready – next stop = opening night.
Image: Community Chorus members in rehearsal. L-R: Hannah Soar, Lesley Flounders, Chris Butcher and Claire Hale. Photo by Alan Fletcher.