Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road with The Beast: Justin Glaser

Justin Glaser, who plays The Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on tour found some time to sit-down with us for a Q&A! Here is Justin’s blog entry.

Name: Justin Glaser

Role in Beauty and the Beast: The Beast

What procedure do you take to get ready for the show?
My call to go to make-up and wigs is at an hour and a half before curtain. Ideally, though, I like to get to the theater at least two hours before curtain. I like to have the extra half hour to use my personal steamer, have a cup of throat coat tea, listen to some classical vocal or jazz music, do some stretching, and focus on relaxed, supported breathing. I also use this time to think through my last performance and make myself aware of things that I feel could be improved. Then, at an hour and a half I go to make-up and wigs. This process takes around 35 minutes. Afterwards, I go back to my dressing room and get myself into as much of my costume as I can on my own. Around 45 minutes until top of show, I begin my vocal warm-up. I sing the same basic exercises each day, which makes me aware of how my voice is feeling that day. At 15 minutes before the top of the show, my dresser comes and helps me into the rest of my costume, which takes about another 5 minutes. I do some last minute stretching and vocalizing in full costume, and then it's time to go to places for the top of the show.

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
My favorite sequence in the show is the title song, Beauty and the Beast, and the scene that immediately follows it. Our Mrs. Potts, Sabina Petra, sings it so beautifully and simply. It's a wonderful moment.

Any memorable tour moments (on or offstage) you can share?
Traveling the country, playing a role I love, in an enormous costume, has provided me with many, many memorable moments.

I take my job seriously, so I never intentionally mess around on-stage during performance. However, when unexpected things happen with costumes, sets, or from audience response, I do get the impulse to laugh. Most of the time I'm able to control myself, and I can use the impulse to turn an involuntary smile into the Beast gritting his teeth. Everyone on stage can see it in my eyes, though, which then makes it more difficult for all of us. Most of the time the problem arises from the eyebrows which are glued to my forehead. When a venue is particularly hot, I'll sweat a lot, and the eyebrows will begin to slide down onto my eyelids. Sometimes I'll be rendered immobile when someone is unknowingly standing on my tail. Sometimes my tail will get stuck in the West Wing set piece, which is always unfortunate, because if The Beast is in the West Wing, something dramatic is going on. Frequently things go wrong during the staging of the Beauty and the Beast number. At this point, Liz Shivener, who plays Belle, and I are both in enormous, lacy costumes. Our costumes and wigs get stuck to each other, we step on each other, her feet get stuck in her dress, and I trip over and step on my tail. We've sort of developed different ways to play the scene depending on what's going on costume-wise, and how our characters have grown together during a particular performance. Sometimes we act the number more playfully and just have fun, and sometimes we take a very serious, passionate approach to it. Both work, but if we're having a particularly difficult time, costume-wise, nine times out of ten the scene will be done more playfully.

One time I had a very difficult time keeping it together during the Beauty and the Beast scene. Near the top of the song there's a sequence where The Beast mimics Belle's actions at the dinner table. Right at the top of this sequence the bow fell out of my wig. I did my best to keep up with the business at the table, and at the most opportune moment, I quickly grabbed the bow off of the floor and put it on the table. However, when I went to pull my arm away from the table to continue the business, I couldn't. The lace on my coat sleeve had gotten stuck to something on the table and I couldn't get it free. Just then, Liz got up to come to me for the dance. Panicking, I pulled my arm away from the table as hard as I could and heard something rip. I looked down at the table, and where my arm had been stuck, was now just a strip of velcro. Very confused, I looked at my arm. There was a fork dangling from my sleeve. In order to keep it from moving during the set change, the fork had been attached to the table by velcro. By this time Liz had made her way to me and asked me to dance. I continued with my dialogue, while trying to free my sleeve from the fork, but had no such luck. She pulled me center stage to dance and I was swept over by a feeling of overwhelming dread and embarrassment. My mind raced as I imagined myself doing the entire number with a fork dangling from my sleeve. How would Liz react when she saw it? What if it were to fall onto the stage where one of us might step on it or trip over it? What if it were to get loose from me and attach itself to Liz? Or her wig? I'd never be able to keep it together and play the scene with a fork stuck in Belle's hair! It was too much for me. Just as we reached center stage to set up for the dance, I quickly turned my head upstage, let out a brief burst of laughter, and returned to do the scene as best I could. By the end of the number, I realized the fork was no longer attached to my sleeve. I didn't see it on the floor, either, so I just went about doing the scene. Later, I found out that it had fallen onto the table just as I'd gotten up to do the dance. That was a rough one.

What do you like to do when you're traveling between tour stops?
On travel days, I mostly just listen to music on my iPod or read.

What are six items you can't live without while on the road:
1) My phone: Used to keep in touch with my family and closest friends, this reminds me of my life outside of the tour, which I'll return to once this amazing experience is over.
2) My computer: Used for staying up to date on email, watching movies, and keeping up with what's happening in the movie industry.
3) My tour DVD collection/ Netflix account. I'm a huge movie buff. With the exception of the show, Mad Men, I watch no TV, so movies are my number one source for entertainment.
4) My iPod. For those long travel days.
5) My Beauty and the Beast actor work book. This is a book I made to prepare for the role. It's full of quotes that inspire me, character notes, show notes given to me by the creative team and stage manager, and many images of people, characters, animals and places. I revisit this from time to time if I ever start to feel stuck in a performance.
6) My friend, Keith Kirkwood, "Cogsworth." Though he's not an item in real life, he does play one on stage. He is my confidante on this tour and supplies me with endless hours of witty banter. I also count on him to tell me when I'm wrong or overreacting to petty issues.

What have you learned from your entire experience with Beauty and the Beast?
I have learned much from my experience with this show. I tend to be a bit reclusive, by nature, and made somewhat anxious when in large groups of people. My involvement in theater over the years has really helped to bring me out of my shell. Specifically on this tour, playing a role that puts me in front of thousands of people each week, and dealing with weekly interviews with the media, has forced me to relax considerably under these circumstances.

I read reviews of the show, regularly. Many people in the performance industry have just as many theories on why one should or shouldn't read reviews. However, what keeps me interested in performing is the fact that I feel that I've not even come close to realizing my full potential as a singer or an actor. Most of the reviews for this show have been very positive, but we occasionally do get mixed or negative reviews. I know that the creative team is pleased with this production, as a whole, and with my performance. I am mostly pleased with my performance. Audiences respond favorably to the show, and to my performance. When we get a review that is completely negative, I can immediately dismiss it. Sometimes a reviewer won't like something about my performance that I've been specifically directed to do. I can dismiss those, as well. The reviews that discuss my abilities as an actor are the ones I pay closest attention to. I think about what they have to say, and if it's something I've been criticized for by a director or a teacher in the past, I really reflect on it and try to think of ways that I can improve the issue in the future. I can't please everyone, but just because I'm pleasing most doesn't mean that I can't keep improving and growing.

I've also learned a great deal about my voice on this tour. Through all of the growling and yelling that I do over the course of the show, I've learned what it can withstand, or maybe more importantly, what it cannot withstand over an 8 performance show-week. Though one of my goals for each time that I step onto the stage is to deliver a perfect vocal performance, I've learned not to let myself get too down when unavoidable vocal mishaps occur. I've learned the importance of a full night of restful sleep, to avoid alcohol entirely, and not to drink caffeinated beverages on performance days. I can take all of these lessons with me and apply them to each show that I do in the future.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite scene in Beauty and the Beast is the objects are thrilled, because if she and their master, the Beast, fall in love, they will all be freed from the enchantment.