Once a week throughout the month, a different member from Team StarKid will share behind-the-scenes insight and backstage scoop with Playbill.com in the exclusive blog "A Summer With the StarKids." Here is the second blog from Robert Manion, an actor from the company of Twisted.
Click here for the first blog from lyricist Kaley McMahon.
Hello! I'm Robert. I'm one of the newest, youngest and Australian-est cast members of Team Starkid's Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier.
At the moment, we're all pretty tuckered out from tech rehearsals and the first week of audiences — but it's that goofy/happy kind of exhaustion that comes from knowing you've accomplished something really special. Every show is such a pleasure to perform, and while I'm enjoying our days off and getting reacquainted with my good friend "Nap Time," the rest of the cast and I can't wait to get back into our acting hats, dancing shoes and singing onesies and continue with the run.
The atmosphere backstage with the StarKids is like one I've never experienced before. It really is like one big family, and it is immediately obvious why this group keeps coming back to work with each other time and time again. The enjoyment of a StarKid show doesn't just come from the performance itself, but from the collaboration and input of the entire creative team onstage and offstage during the preshow and post show (it's also a super cool gang to hang out with). Everyone's complete trust with each other really allows for maximum artistic fluidity and a complete sense of comfort when throwing ideas out into the open. It's an imaginative and productive process, which is really exciting for a performer.
Part of the production's enlivening nature is also due to the fact that it's an original work, naturally generating a lot more freedom to launch into the text and music with no preconception about how the show should look or sound. While it is a parody, the characters are written with sincere motivation and originality, providing lots of surprises for the audience and fun challenges for the creative team to reinvent this classic story of Aladdin.
It's such an energizing and incredibly inventive environment, and it hasn't been until these few days off that I've had the time to stop and realize what a whirlwind of adventure I've been lucky enough to fall into and really appreciate the amazing people I've been able to work with on this project. This talented group of writers, directors, actors and designers are damn good at their jobs, and I'm so grateful that fate threw these guys — whom I've grown to love so much — into my life!
I'm originally from Tasmania, a lonely piece of land shaped like a broken heart that lies just off Australia's southern coast (literally, the opposite side of the globe to the cornflake-shaped Illinois). So, while I had seen StarKid's work online before, even just from a geographical standpoint, I never considered the possibility of being involved with the University of Michigan-originated group.
Last year I began studying screen acting in Los Angeles, and I was going to America quite frequently. During that time, the StarKid members involved with A Very Potter Senior Year at LeakyCon 2012 heard some of my song writing, and we kept in contact over the winter. We admired each other's work, and that ultimately led to my audition and casting in Twisted.
Having no preconception about what the creative process with this company would be like was both relaxing and mildly terrifying. I didn't have any expectations of how the development of Twisted would compare to my theatre training and experience in Australia and whether there would be any sort of international barrier or clash of preparation technique. Fortunately, the main focus of a StarKid production is to guarantee that everybody is enjoying themselves, even if sometimes that means being a little silly.
The greatest jokes and characters in the show come from mucking around with voices and joking with each other. The real gift that Team StarKid has is being able to create a level of comfort in a rehearsal and performance space where everyone feels like they can be as inventive as possible and not feel embarrassed about the wild characters or ideas. It's such an invigorating performance experience and has made me 100 times more comfortable with myself — not only as a performer, but also as a human being embracing my individuality.
Less than a year ago, I was just an audience member and have somehow jumped the fence into the other paddock and am performing with people whose craft I respect so highly. What's even more awesome is finding out that they are just as wonderful and inspiring off-stage as well as on.