by RoxyRegionalTheatre on March 16, 2011

Keith Panzarella’s past performance credits include INTO THE WOODS (Jack), WEST SIDE STORY, SWEENY TODD (Anthony) and THE MIRACLE WORKER (James Keller).  Keith is making his Roxy debut this season as Laertes in HAMLET, also appearing in BEA(U)TIFUL IN THE EXTREME, THE CIVIL WAR and ALMOST HEAVEN: SONGS OF JOHN DENVER.

On Sunday afternoon, my first full day off, I was relaxing by the Cumberland River watching the water roll along.  I had finished my first two weeks at the Roxy, opened Hamlet on the main stage, and finally had time to take stock.  Maybe, just maybe, I was starting to find some sort of comfortable routine to settle into… not exactly.  This week has been another filled with new challenges and exciting adjustments.

We’ve been performing Hamlet at 9:00 AM for the local high schools.  The mere fact that we have to get up at a normal time is a lot for me to take.  It’s strange to go from performing the same show Friday and Saturday night for the general public of Clarksville to Monday-Friday mornings for high school students.

It’s a fantastic challenge to perform for this age bracket.  The perception may be that for these shows you don’t have to try as hard or you can phone in a performance but it’s the exact opposite.  If you are not completely committed on stage you have no chance of connecting with the children.  Not to mention, if you give anything less it would be disrespectful to the students who, when you look at it, are giving us their time to support our play.  Some of them are chatty at first and don’t want to take the experience seriously but as the play moves on you can feel the façade fading.  The story of Hamlet is easy to get caught up in and, yes, that even goes for high school students!  It’s a testament to the work of Shakespeare and to the devotion of the entire cast.

I’ve also had to come to terms with the reception being a bit different after these performances; the façades are back up.  The truth is we’re not going to reach every single person in the audience.  You must understand that’s tough to take for someone who is so immersed in the arts.  But in this situation, if we reach a quarter, a handful, or even just one child in the audience it has been completely worth it.

Another change this week has been the preparation of Bea(u)tiful in the Extreme.  Hamlet closes Saturday night and by Monday morning we better be ready to hit the ground running for our next show.  Needless to say, it’s very different than Hamlet. This makes it somewhat difficult to perform one and prepare for the other.  I’ve found this actually helps me focus on each show.  I attack each of them knowing if I don’t put all of myself into each one there will be unquestionable mediocrity in both.

At school, I had a teacher who told me don’t get into this business for comfort.  The moment you are comfortable is the point you stop striving.  At this theatre, as in this business, there is always something new to deal with, things constantly being thrown our way.  All we can do is adjust and move forward.  The challenge of this is what constantly drives and makes every second of the work so exciting.

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