Being Amalia Balash: A reflection on “She Loves Me”
Balash. Amalia Balash.
The first time I received my script for “She Loves Me” and read that ever-famous line, I had no idea the impact that such a name would have on me as a performer, and as a person. Every fall, students in the Music Theatre Workshop course put on a full length musical in a blackbox style space. We work on character development, production standards, and simply gaining the ability to do a full length show.
When it was announced that the fall course would be performing “She Loves Me”, I was happy, but not particularly jazzed. The style of music that is prevalent in She Loves Me is not my usual strength, but I was ready to be involved in any way shape or form. I was surprised and a bit terrified however, when the cast list said my name next to the leading role.
The show centers around Amalia and Georg - two employees at the same parfumerie (a boutique of sorts). The two have horrible first impressions of one another, fighting constantly and always getting in each other’s way. It is clear from the moment Amalia walks into the store that they are enemies, not friends. But, they are secretly lovers, writing anonymous letters to each other through a Lonely Hearts Club. As the tale unravels, Amalia and Georg slowly become closer, until finally it is revealed that truly - they have been in love all along.
I had no idea how much the character of Amalia Balash would mean to me when I started the process. Very early in the process for the show, I had a voice lesson with my teacher from home. I am not used to singing so high in my range, or with the color of voice that is required for Amalia. We were working on “Will He Like Me?”, one of the beautiful songs Amalia sings in the show. I sang through it once, and the first thing my teacher said to me was: ‘don’t make yourself small.’ And that is precisely what I was doing. I was fitting my voice, my body, my personality into a much smaller package, because that’s what I thought Amalia needed to be. A love interest who is cute and small, someone easy to fall in love with based on society’s standards. But I was wrong about her.
On paper the character is light-hearted, feminine, and persistent. A typical leading female in an old show such as this is quite frail, thin, and has a light and airy personality. If I’m being frank - that is NOT me. I, Caitlin, have a low speaking voice, I’m loud and outspoken, and I have some sass to go along with it. After I realized that she could not be put into any sort of box, I became determined to bring my own color to Amalia and fuel her with the strength she so clearly holds.
Amalia is an absolute risk-taker, and she taught me a lot throughout the journey of the show. She has to fight against a man in order to keep her job and be successful. She has to fight against her own fears in order to meet the man she loves. She has to fight against the way society views her for being a single woman at her age. And she does it all with grace. That aspect of the character was incredibly important to me - and I loved creating a character who is above all else, strong.
My favorite scenes in the show were those in which Amalia really spoke her mind. From the moment she walks into the story she is persistent and fights for what she wants. She won’t back down from getting the job, she won’t back down from kicking Georg out of her dinner date, and she definitely won’t back down from defending her choice to write to someone she barely knows. All of these moments were when I felt most like a woman while playing Amalia. Her commanding feminine energy is inspiring and electric, and as rehearsals drove into performances, simply putting on the costume gave me a new sense of confidence I may not have had the moment before.
In the end, of course, Amalia gets exactly what she wanted. A man to marry. And though she now fits into society’s view of a proper woman for her age, the fight and grit that is inside her does not fade. She is strong - with or without Georg by her side - and I think the most important aspect of the story, from her perspective, is that she got what she deserved. Because each and every one of us deserves to be loved for exactly who we are.