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Lights, Camera...Law?

Nov. 16, 2010

By Brittany Hardy

"I guarantee you that law school has made me a better actor," said Charlie Carroll, a third-year student at the Baylor Law School. Two weeks ago, Carroll marked the end of his finals, and he wrapped up his time with the Waco Civic Theatre playing Garry LeJeune in its production of "Noises Off!"

For this actor/law student the line between law school and theatre is not as defined as most people think. In the past two months of simultaneous dedication to both, Carroll has come to see the line is actually quite blurry.

"So many people think that the two have to be mutually exclusive. I was one of them for a while," Carroll said. "Both require an immense amount of thinking and analysis. Working with the law is all about problem solving, but so is the acting process."

"Noises Off!" was written by Michael Frayn. It is a play within a play, the story of a group of bad actors putting on a terrible show titled "Nothing On" Carroll and his fellow Waco actors each played two parts--the actor putting on the show and the character within the show "Nothing On."

Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the days of productions, Carroll traded his legal pad for the stage. As the curtain rose, the audience, which often included his parents, sister or about 25 friends who came out to see him, witnessed the final rehearsal of the internal play, "Nothing On."

"The play begins during the final rehearsal before opening night and its clear these actors don't know what they're doing," Carroll said, "They're missing lines, screwing up their entrances and exits, dealing with some offstage problems, basically, the show is a disaster."

Carroll said that "Noises Off" is a show dependent on comedic timing and physicality -- slamming doors, entrances and exits that overlap, misplaced props.

Five years ago, when the Baylor Theatre did their own production of "Noises Off," then-senior Carroll was in the audience.

"I had not heard of it before, but I was literally laughing so hard, that I was crying," Carroll said.

As he exited the Baylor Theatre production, Carroll placed "Noises Off" on a mental list of dream productions. Five years later, while on the Waco Civic Theatre website this past summer, Carroll realized this dream could soon become reality, even if it meant studying in costume and reading law backstage.

How has law school made Carroll a better actor?

On stage, he dives into the motivations of individuals and applies problem-solving tactics to understand the author's purpose. Actually quite similar to strategy applicable in the courtroom.

"It is always obvious when an actor doesn't understand why his 'character' is saying the line, the emotion is lost in translation and an audience can't connect to it," Carroll said. "That is where strong analytical skills come in handy."

Both law and theatre may find their place in Carroll's future. He is currently hoping to work in the film industry and believes that the creative and intellectual accomplishment achieved both on stage and in the classroom will help him get there.

It is not uncommon for community actors to be balancing several obligations and responsibilities. While Carroll said he rarely feels as alive with excitement as he does on stage, the balancing act has been rather exhausting.

"For anyone who does community theatre, most of us are balancing 'real lives,'" Carroll said. "We leave the theatre and have school, work, family and other responsibilities."

This time has taught Carroll to plan his days thoroughly. From about mid-September through the end of October, the production members rehearsed, built the set or performed the show, usually for about three hours per day. Carroll said he removed distractions, such as TV, and made it a priority to be healthy: sleep, eat well and exercise.

Although Carroll's last final was just in early November, he is already looking toward the future. He has been approached by the director of the spring production of "My Fair Lady" to audition for the show.

"Come that time, however, I will be in Practice Court and I think trying to balance a show with that course load is beyond anything I pulled off this quarter," Carroll said, "Still, you never know, I may have a few tricks up my sleeve."

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