Beth Noelle.com Pure of Heart. Fiercely True. Radiantly Alive.

R.I.P. Addams Family

Beth Noelle
Musical Theater
“Life is a tightrope, my child, and at the other end... is your coffin.” ~Morticia Addams

Addams Family cast

After a sold out and successful run of the Addams Family at Beaverton Civic Theatre last October, our show was entered into the American Association of Community Theatre’s annual competition, starting in Salem, OR, with the possibility of heading to nationals in Minnesota in June. Yesterday was our time to share our offering in Salem. And... drum roll, pleeeease... pause... Minnesota is not to be. Although we were acknowledged as ‘outstanding’, a two-man duo from Salem will move on in the process. Kudos to them.

Now, a word about competitions and then I’ll spill more....

I think competitions, particularly having anything to do with the arts, are silly. It’s all so much apples and oranges to me and I like apples and oranges! Well, I actually don’t... I’m more of a donut girl myself. So in my case I’d be comparing a basic old fashioned to a vanilla frosting filled, powdered sugar covered. Anywho, I think I’ve made my point. When you’ve got, usually, three ‘judges’ deciding to pick who’s ‘best’? I’d just rather not go in that subjective direction.

In this particular case, entering into a competition as matriarch of the Addams Family, I played along. Why? Even though the idea of pitting the ethics and principles of community theater oxymoronically against the paradigm of competition, the requirements of the event were interesting to me. And, I always love an opportunity to travel, via work rather than as just a tourist. And, at the end of the journey was the possibility of taking in some of the best community theater in the nation. Sounded fun to me.

The requirements? Each company is initially required to wrangle and configure their set into a taped off, 10 X 10 box. At the start of the clock, they have 10 minutes to get their set on stage, ready to go. They then have 60 minutes to perform their show. Lastly, they must wrangle their set back into the 10 X 10 box, within 10 minutes. One second over these time contraints follow with disqualification. Other rules apply that make for a sense of we-really-have-to-have-our-shit-together-to-pull-this-off.

Our set? A monstrosity! Pun intended. So, what have we been doing since mid-February? Unloading our entire set from a U-Haul into a local community center, putting the pieces together into a few larger pieces, putting those large pieces together and wrangling that into a taped off box of appropriate dimension. Over and over again. Our goal? Get ‘er done within 10 minutes. My particular task was to co-assemble the stage R and L, head high, scaffolding... put the frame up, climb up top it, zip-tie the front piece, hold up the back piece while others zip-tied, slide the sliding doors on, and put in place. Done. All while other comrades are assembling the rest of the set. Together, we did the job. Key word, together.

Load in at the Grand Theatre

Our show? Most shows, usually straight theater as opposed to musical theater, will opt to perform only one act of a multiple act show and call it good. Not us. We wanted to tell the whole story as best we could. So, our beloved directors, set upon the script and music with the sharpest of scalpels (with blessings and final approval from the powers-that-be) and meticulously cut bits and pieces out, leaving one, condensed, impactful story. Heartbreaking, was the cutting of our ancestors, leaving the immediate families to tell/sing the story. So, what have we been doing since mid-February? Rehearsing our abridged script to bring it in under 60 minutes. Together, we did the job. Key word, together.

Mix, stir, bake, and what do you get? A show, ready to take to competition.

Saturday, March 18th was the day.

Up at 5am. Load the car. Drive to Salem, to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Grand Theatre. 7:30, unload the truck and place our set pieces along the sidewalk. Backstage doors open at 8 and, go! Get that set assembled and in our box within 45 minutes. Check. Have a production meeting with the organizers. Check. Receive a tour of the facilities. Check. Then, 80 exact minutes to rehearse our finely-tuned choreography. Set up in 10. Check. Show run in 60. Check. Set down and boxed in 10. Check. We did it with time to spare, thanks to all our practice and team efforting. Bam.

Lunch. Sweet lunch.

Then, back to the dressing room to crawl into the skin of our characters and ready ourselves for our show time of 3pm.

We. were. solid. Our audience and our adjudicators agreed. We were the best vanilla frosting filled, powdered sugar covered donut we could be.

After show, our three distinguished adjudicators had 7 minutes each to share their thoughts with us. All validated our efforts and the things that matter most, to me. Most important of all, we were recognized for walking that fine line between the schtick that is ever-present in the Addams Family musical and also, for successfully transmitting the sincere, loving and deep relationships that the Addams Family share and how they come to love and embrace the ‘normal’ family of their daughter Wednesday’s love, Lucas, and his parents, the Beinekes.

Relief. Sweet relief. We did it!

Tear down and put everything back in the U-Haul.

Dinner. Sweet dinner.

Then, back at the theater to wait for the results. We waited a while. The judges took their good, sweet time. Oh, to be a fly on those walls.

As I previously indicated, we weren’t chosen to go on to Idaho for regionals. I could spin my wheels forever to try to figure out why. But I won’t. It doesn’t matter.

As I gathered with my cast and directors and crew before we all left for home, I was abundantly clear that the tears I was shedding were not because we didn’t ‘win’, but for the fact that I wouldn’t be playing, together, with these wonderful people, in this particularly sweet configuation, as Morticia Addams ever again. It was a viscerally felt farewell.

Drive. Home by 11pm.

A succulent, 18-hour day.

It took me negative minutes to fall asleep.

I woke up this morning... feeling like I’d been run over by a train. My body is sore. My brain is slow. My heart is tender and I’m still leaking tears out my eyes. I know I’ll never look at a U-Haul truck in quite the same way.

As a performing artist who typically works my set and stage with great appreciation, yes, I was humbled into full understanding... I am left in awe, having been deep in the guts of my Addams Family set. The bulk and weight of it. The wood. The metal. The screws, velcro, eye hooks, and hinges. The paint. The tape. The designers who so elegantly fit all those puzzle pieces together to make Morticia’s magnificent mansion.

As part of the ensemble... to have this added layer of hauling around and assembling and disassembling our set together... to have the tight time parameters to operate within... we laughed, we cried, we argued, we worked together... key word, together... on steroids.

As Morticia... to be thrust into a situation where I did not have the normal pages to build the arc and develop the story, but mere lines. Nothing like it. Challenging. Thrilling.

Beth Noelle as Morticia

I’ll miss her most of all. I’d never seen her move in a full length mirror before. In our fully mirrored green room, waiting to go on, there she was. I walked with her, in her velvety dress, slithery tentacles moving underneath and behind her. How delightful. How her voice drops into sultry, bottomless tones. Her passion. Her truth. Her stubborness. Her hurt. Her love for Gomez and her children. Her songs. Her dance...

As Morticia says to her ‘little cockroach’, Pugsley, in an effort to ‘cheer him up’... “Life is a tightrope, my child, and at the other end... is your coffin.” I feel the poignant truth of this, as it relates to the ‘creepy and kooky’ tightrope I’ve walked upon these last many months.

R.I.P. Morticia.