Sunday, June 12, 2016

Getting to know South Pacific's Emile

Getting to know South Pacific's Emile
Rich Beans

What is your favorite part about this role? 

RB: My favorite part is capturing the passion and vulnerability of Emile de Beque. He is the prototypical strong and sensitive male.  Emile has clearly let his passions get the best of him in the past, but he has not let his failures embitter him. In some ways, he is looking for a redemption of sorts, and Nellie is his chance for that redemption. Wooing her and then seeing that love returned brings him great joy. 

What has been the biggest challenge during rehearsals?

RB: Creating the illusion that a young woman as beautiful as Nellie would be attracted to me has been my biggest challenge.  In order for this romance to work the audience has to want to see the two of us together.  They have to believe that Nellie would be attracted to a man like Emile. They have to fall in love with this May-September romance, as they follow me somewhat awkwardly trying to work out this relationship.  Sara Goeckner (the young woman who plays Nellie Forbush) and I have worked hard together to make this attraction believable.  

At times this romance can lapse into melodrama, and when that happens it can elicit groans and chuckles instead of the emotions we intend. The audience can be embarrassed by the intensity of the emotions displayed, and our role is to help them experience these emotions. It is a delicate balance finding that sweet spot each night.  Sara makes it so much easier to accomplish this task. Her ability to emote convincingly on stage raises the bar for everyone in our cast, and just brings out the emotions in me. I am blessed to have been paired with her in this production.   

What has helped you to get to know your fellow cast members and gel with them? 

RB: The rehearsal time is obviously key to getting to know each other, but to be frank, all rehearsals remind me of that old army joke where soldiers say that that they are always being told to “Hurry up and wait.” Sara and I have made good use of that down time during rehearsals by practicing our scenes, talking about our motivations, and just getting to know each other better. Anytime a romance occurs on stage the actors must feel safe with one another. We have established a good relationship of trust and I hope that shows in our performance.  

With respect to the other cast members, since I am in the wings a lot, I have the pleasure of getting to watch all of these Seabees and nurses perform and interact.  We have so much youthful energy and vitality in our cast. They are all wonderful people who make this process, which can be arduous at times, a lot more fun.   

What's your favorite song and why? 

RB: My favorite song is Some Enchanted Evening. It is a classic romance song. Whether instantaneous love is advisable or not, this song speaks to our cultural ideal of “love at first sight”, and it reminds many of that thrilling experience from their youth. The way that the song rises and falls and builds to a crescendo is masterful. It is an absolute pleasure to sing it every night.  

How did you get involved in Muni, and when? 

RB: Well, that's kind of a long story but here goes. When our four children were very young, each summer, my wife Marty would plan a trip to the Muni to see a show. We would travel up from Greenville, IL where we live, and would often spend the night in a hotel. It was a wonderful family outing to Springfield.  Our children enjoyed this very much, and two of my children, Owen and Hollyn, were particularly enthralled by the shows and felt drawn to the stage. Years later, in 2011 we took a leap and the two of them, along with myself auditioned.  I will never forget how nervous I was.  We were absolutely thrilled to all three be cast in a show (Guys and Dolls and The Wizard of Oz).  That began several summers, including one with my daughter Noelle, as well, that were wonderful experiences for our family.  It was challenging, but I was able to act, sing, and dance (barely) with my children on stage.  That is an experience I cherish.  My two children have now studied musical theatre in college and are now both working professionally.  I am so grateful for the early experiences they had on the Muni stage.  Since then I have been in several shows at the Muni and I haven’t looked back.  

What is it about Muni that keeps you coming back? 

RB: I know it sounds cliché, but it is the people. When I began at the Muni, I was very anxious. So many people came along side of me and said, “You can do this. We will help you. You are doing a good job.” That makes an impression. The Muni welcomes newcomers. I came to the Muni as a stranger and now I count so many people here as dear friends.  The Muni is filled with real people, with all their foibles and faults, but each summer they put aside their differences and create something special, and just for a moment the world seems a better place for it. That's what keeps me coming  back. 

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