As my class was starting to reach our third year of our esthetically oriented upper secondary school education we were going to start our final production, a mix between a theatrical play and a dance show. We were assigned the play The Jungle Book by Alexander Mørk-Eidem, a take on the classical story by Rudyard Kipling from 1895. The play is set in the year 2117 in Stockholm, and the animals in the original story are represented by different classes and groups in society.
The first suggestion we got for a manuscript was Girls will make you blush, by Åsa Lindholm. I liked that script because it was an interesting concept. With The Jungle book, we had less freedom, especially with the dances, many of the people I have talked to about the show has said that the ratio between theater and dance felt a bit uneven. Despite this, I liked the script, it had its shortcomings sometimes but overall it was good.
Basically the very first thing we did was a full-class manuscript analysis, we also worked with self-esteem, we said things we want to improve about ourselves, but above all things we are good at, to become more comfortable as a group.
I was assigned the role of Bagheera, it was the one I wanted from the first time I read the script, so I was very pleased with it. I very quickly found a version of the character I was pleased with, I tried to change small things even when I felt satisfied and I took all the notes I was given into consideration. At the same time, I always stayed in my safety zone, it was important for me to stick to what I felt safe and comfortable with, otherwise I probably would have been more stressed.
When we started rehearsing we talked about wills and different ways to do the same scene, then Emilia - who played the role of Baloo - and I tried to a scene with different wills and motivation. We also did an exercise to determine relationships between all characters, both what we think about each other and our differences in status. In one scene I had two long monologues that I had basically written myself, based on the pre-existing manuscript, when we rehearsed it, it felt difficult to wrap your head around it because it was long pieces of text. We then rehearsed the text while doing physical activity at the same time, felt rewarding and easier to learn.
I was in the production group working on costumes, we divided the work by appointing everybody to different characters, and I had Bagheera and Shere Khan. I was also appointed financial manager, we chose to primarily focus on not spending any money, but then we bought both dresses to a jazz-dance and different things for characters.
When we started analyzing our characters a bunch of us actors decided that we wanted to do so called “mood boards” on Pinterest for our characters to be able to help each other grasp the characters more. My inspiration for Bagheera, her character and her look came mostly from the term “heroin chic”. In my head she was a victim of human trafficking when she was younger, living with the “humans”, she broke free and fled to the jungle, there she worked as a prostitute because she had no other source of income. She took drugs to be able to cope with her issues and pains, I wanted it to show in her face so I made dark circles under her eyes and really chiseled cheekbones. Her clothes were mostly black to represent her being the “black panther”, her corset was red. Red symbolizes fire; power and passion, traits that Bagheera wanted the rest of the world to see she had, even though she had a softer and weaker soul.
What I've learned from the experience working with costumes is primarily to evaluate which fights are worth it or not; Olivia and I had very different visions for Shere Khan so we discussed it and came up with something she could be pleased with while maintaining my slight power of authority. When the same conflict occurred with other characters, the group instead had to let go of the fight and let it be, even though we were not 100 % satisfied.
It was a different experience each time we performed because of the different audiences. We had the absolute best audience on the premiere, they cheered and really supported us, and it couldn’t have gone off to a better start. The shows we had during the evenings were also really good, they were really polite and applauded and laughed at the right places. The worst audience was one of the school-shows for different classes on the school, they talked over us, didn’t applaud or cheer a single time and were just really disrespectful. Also the shows we had for the younger people on Tegla and Djäkne were a bit harder, because they were a bit rude and talked a lot, but it was better than not getting any response at all.
Overall I had a good experience, the pre-work was fun even though it was stressful, and it really brought us closer together as a class and as friends. The result was something I felt that I could really be proud of.