Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 12:00:00 am
Bruce Rebold, (left.. with The Captain & Frau Schmidt) plays the role of 'Franz', butler to Captain Von Trapp, in our production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC at WBT. He shares with us:
"Working with such an extremely talented cast, creative team and crew on this production has made it an incredibly enjoyable experience. It is truly the lucky actor who finds himself/herself involved in a project with people who motivate, support and enhance the creative process, and this production has ALL these elements present, many times over.
Whenever I am cast in a 'concept' musical, one in which a story is presented which is secondary to a central message, or in a musical
based on an actual historical event, I do my research into the background of the time and place, the people and the culture of that particular period in which the show is set. A central issue in THE SOUND OF MUSIC, as those who are familiar with piece know so well, is the early years of the Nazi regime in Europe, as the ugly hand of the Third Reich started to extend itself over a large part of the European continent, and the reactions of those who were faced with the mandate to join this campaign of terror and hatred, or fight it. World War I left the Germans, and many of their nearby neighbors, including the Austrians, in a very depressed state of affairs. Many people were out of work, going hungry, and extremely unhappy with the then- current state of affairs, and the Nazi propaganda machine was hard at work, focusing on the middle classes-
hard working Germans and Austrians- and convincing them that their way was THE way back to making their countries great and powerful again. People were desperate for a change, for a quick fix, and for salvation from factors that they perceived as lethal to their nation and their way of life.
It was director Jonathan Stahl who, early in the rehearsal process, spoke with me about his 'take' on the character of Franz: here was a man who had served Captain Von Trapp as his orderly aboard a ship that the Captain commanded during World War I. After the war, Von Trapp enlisted Franz into his employ at his home, making him his butler, and thus continuing a long-standing history between the two men, a relationship characterized by a very traditional loyalty on Franz' behalf for looking out for his 'master' and the Captain's family. (Very similar to the relationships we see today on the popular TV series, "Downton Abbey" between Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, and his butler/valet, Mr. Bates!). And yet, when the time comes for the Anschluss, Franz adopts the Nazi party and takes on their cause, while his beloved master was so EXTREMELY opposed to the Nazi takeover. What Jonathan discussed with me was basically the answer to the question: "Why does Franz become a Nazi?"....in other words, "What makes Franz tick?". And the answer is basically that men like Franz were exactly like the majority of those Germans and Austrians whom I have described in the previous paragraph: for Franz represents the "everyman'-concept of that huge population of Germans and Austrians who were disgruntled with the conditions at the time, and believed the Nazi propaganda machine's claim that THEY would make things better.
And so, my tool for making the role 'fresh', and, indeed, what made the whole creative process that much more enjoyable for me, was to take the
'gift' given to me by our director, the 'gift' of his suggestion to approach the execution of the role always keeping in mind just 'who' Franz is, and 'what' he is feeling as far as his national pride and beliefs go: he is feeling the 'crush' of life after the First World War, and believes the lies and the poison spewed by the Nazis, as they created scapegoats for the life conditions, and offered their 'remedy' for the world condition: a remedy based on persecution, intolerance, hatred and murder.....and yet, people like Franz sadly bought into it.
As actors, we are called upon to portray people who are often completely OPPOSITE to our own selves when it comes to attitudes and
beliefs....this is the biggest challenge, and although it is difficult at times, it can be exciting and calls upon us to really use our 'actor's tools' to make it happen.
As far as the expression, "Never work with kids or animals"....well, the kids in this show, both casts, have been absolutely wonderful, and I am honored to work alongside each and everyone of them on that stage!
I am truly proud to be a part of this wonderful production, and I hope that we continue to have the large and supportive audiences we have
enjoyed during the preview week!!!"