It’s the night before rehearsals are set to begin for Titanic and I can’t sleep. I feel like a little kid waiting up for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. In less than twenty-four hours, I’ll be meeting with some of my best friends to board the ship of dreams. Along the way, I know there will be a lot of hard work, but there will also be new friendships, strengthened relationships, laughs, late nights at Noon Hill, a few refreshing tears, and so much more. The cast and crew will unite on a journey toward what we hope will be Woodland’s most successful show yet.
As I lie in bed dreaming of the weeks to come, I can’t help but think that the people of the actual Titanic probably felt a similar way the night before their departure. Many of them, like my character of Kate Mullins, were dreaming of a better life in America, of a chance to create opportunities for themselves. Some were traveling overseas for the very first time. Some were visiting relatives. Many first class passengers were probably vacationing, and they were happy to show their power and prestige by securing a place on this particular ship. All of the passengers, including the crew, were boarding the Titanic for its maiden voyage, and they knew they were making history traveling on this ship of dreams. Boarding this vessel was a sign that they were among the lucky few who were able to arrange a ticket for passage. Their lives would be changed forever
But not in the way they had hoped. The incredible feelings of excitement and anticipation as they boarded Titanic only made the end of their journey all the more sad. This past week in rehearsals, we blocked both the opening number and the scene in which we all try to board the last available lifeboat. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the emotion was palpable in the room for both pieces. In the beginning, the majesty of everything just swept us all away: the stunning music, the unbelievable talent in the room, the passion, the potential. Then, we experienced the stifling feeling of helplessness as we fought for a coveted seat in the lifeboat. Granted, the musical spells out very clearly who will live and who will die. But in the moment, I found myself not caring. As I ran around the stage fighting through the crowd, I thought to myself, “If I ca n find a way, I am getting off this stage.” But no matter where I turned, there was another crew member to push me back, another passenger blocking my way trying to board the lifeboat themselves. I couldn’t help but get emotional when I thought about the fact that in real life aboard the Titanic, these people had everything to lose if they were unsuccessful in their attempts to find a spot in a lifeboat. Standing on the stage watching the last lifeboat “be lowered,” there are several moments of desperation that end in a frightening stillness. In those final moments, the distinctions of class go out the window, and the essence of humanity, of imminent death and unbearable sadness, shine through. This story is SO important, and I am grateful to be able to join this cast and creative team and tell the tale.
As actors, we have the all-important job of paying homage to the real people who lived and died on board the Titanic in 1912. It is certainly difficult to put ourselves in this precarious emotional position, but it pales in comparison to the horror that occurred the night of the sinking. My character is among a group of third class passengers that are locked below decks to keep order at the beginning. Not being able to board a lifeboat is one thing, but being denied the chance to even try is another thing altogether. To think that a higher ticket price lent itself to a longer life in many cases is more than one can bear. There is also a theme of relationships that pervades this story. When the ship was sinking, did you abandon your loved ones and focus on saving yourself? Did you give up your seat in the lifeboat to someone older or younger? Did you give preference to first class passengers over the few third class passengers that made it above deck? How do you look someone in the eye and essentially give them a death sentence?
These questions and so many more will be explored in Titanic: The Musical. We will be going on a journey through this process and relying on each other to help the vision for this show to be realized. You may not get to hear Celine Dion sing “My Heart Will Go On,” and the old lady may not drop the necklace into the ocean at the end. My apologies for the spoiler alerts. But I think you will be moved by the power of this story if you are brave enough to sit through it, and I know you will be glad you did. It will make you hug your loved ones a little closer and re-examine the things in life that are important. Come and see Titanic and watch our journey as a cast and crew come to fruition. I promise the performance won’t tank =)