Q&A: ‘Beauty’ Rosie Spring enjoys Kabuki aspect of NYSTI role

Landing the title role in a theatrical production can be a challenge for any actor. So when Rosie Sp
Rosie Spring plays the title character in the New York State Theatre Institute’s production of "Sleeping Beauty."
Rosie Spring plays the title character in the New York State Theatre Institute’s production of "Sleeping Beauty."

Landing the title role in a theatrical production can be a challenge for any actor.

So when Rosie Spring was called to fill the role of Beauty in New York State Theatre Institute’s “Sleeping Beauty,” she was a bit on edge. Then she found out that she had no singing part and only two lines to remember.

“I was nervous until I saw what Beauty has to do,” said Spring as she sat in the theater waiting for tech rehearsal to start. “She pretty much shows up, does one dance, pricks her finger and falls asleep. I don’t work nearly as hard as the other people in the show.”

Like most fairy tale princesses, Beauty is modest. The 27-year-old singer/actor/dancer from Saratoga Springs is an accomplished artist who could likely pull off any role she was handed.

‘Sleeping Beauty’

WHERE: New York State Theatre Institute at Schacht Fine Arts Center, Russell Sage College, 5 Division St., Troy

WHEN: 2 p.m. today, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14

HOW MUCH: $20, $16 seniors and students, $10 for children age 12 and younger. For evening performance, buy one ticket and get the second one free.

MORE INFO: 274-3286 or www.nysti.org

Spring, who grew up in St. Louis, is a graduate of New York University’s musical theater program, in which she concentrated in voice and piano. After graduation, she spent eight years on the road — moving from show to show. She met her husband, Rob, a tap dancer who has since turned photographer, on the first national tour of “42nd Street.” She also toured with “A Christmas Carol” and performed regionally in “George M!” at Goodspeed Opera House and “Gypsy,” “The Sound of Music” and “Footloose” in Stages St. Louis.

She moved to the Capital Region a year ago with her husband, a Glens Falls native. He has opened a photography studio and she continues to perform with such groups as NYSTI and Tango Fusion. She is also teaching ballet at the School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance.

Something for everyone

She is particularly excited about this Richard Shaw version of “Sleeping Beauty,” as it is Kabuki. The story is intact. But she said the design is uniquely Japanese, clean and sleek. “It’s beautiful” she said. Besides she added, “It’s a family show. There is an evil witch, samurai sword fighting, a funny magic frog. There is something for everybody.”

Q: How did you come to NYSTI?

A: I sent them a résumé when I first came here. They were looking for someone to help out with their summer institute for high school kids. They called me and asked if I could help choreograph “Willy Wonka.” I worked with 30 high school students for 40 hours a week. At that time, I worked with John McGuire. He’s co-directing “Beauty.” It’s easier to do “Beauty.” I just get to show up and walk around with a fan.

Q: How does the Kabuki version of “Sleeping Beauty” differ from the French fairy tale?

A: The story is really right on. Most people know the Disney version. There is still Flora and Fauna and Merryweather. Our fairies are called just spirits. There is an evil witch. In the Disney one, there is a dragon. This one has a sea monster. It is just what you think the story is. She grows up and pricks her finger on a spindle.

The difference comes in Kabuki. In Kabuki, they perform stories that everyone already knows. The point is to impress the audience with a story they know. The same is true here. We are not adding any elements really. It just looks different. A way to remind you of an old story.

Q: What did you think about being cast as Beauty?

A: I was excited. I didn’t know what to expect. I have never done Kabuki-style theater. I didn’t know how involved my role would be, if I had to sing. I was just really excited. It turns out to be a dancing role. Every part I tell is through movement. It’s more like mime than traditional dancing.

Plus we have 10 pounds of headdress. It’s heavy. It dictates how you move and how you can be expressive. The costume covers everything. The only thing showing is a little part of my neck, my face and my hands. Everything else is covered.

There is not a lot of freedom of movement. The expressiveness comes from little things like how you hold your fan. You’re limited. It’s interesting. You have to be more specific. It’s a fun challenge as a dancer and an actor.

Q: How does your dancing background help?

A: [Co-director] Anny DeGange wanted me to come up with a lot of my own movement. My dance background was very helpful because I was doing what felt good to me. It doesn’t look real dancy, but it comes from dance. I probably would look more dancy if I wasn’t underneath all that stuff.

Q: Does the costume and makeup help put you into character?

A: Physically, it does in a lot of ways. When you think of traditional Japanese women, they walk with their knees bent and take small steps. We mimic that. But once you put the costume on, you have to walk like that. You don’t have to pretend anything because the dresses are so small around your ankles. You can only move a little bit. And everything you wear is so heavy it keeps you grounded.

Q: What about the makeup?

A: It’s an ordeal. We have three kinds of white base. Once you find the right one, it’s not that hard. The most important thing is the white. It’s all over your face, around your ears, down your back. On top of that, there is a little bit of lipstick and blush. It’s hard to get the white smooth. It takes about an hour to get dressed head-to-toe.

Q: This must be a luxury compared to touring.

A: Yes. It’s nice to go home after work. If you are a New York-based actor, you spend most of your time on the road. It’s so nice to go to work, do what I love and go home, not to an apartment or a hotel. And to cook. It’s a total luxury.

Categories: Life and Arts

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