So, I had a whole blog post written and ready to post before I left for lunch. When I returned, the power had gone out at work. Of course, I hadn’t save the blog post. So, lucky you! You will get the recreated blog post that is certainly shorter than the original. Here are the bullet points:
Review: I am acting again for the first time in seven years (In The Importance of Being Earnest at Good Company Players, through October 13th!). As a result, I am reminded of a lot of things about being an actor that I had forgotten. Directing and producing will do that to you, sometimes.
Things I’ve learned halfway through the eight week run:
1. When one or two cast member’s discipline and preciseness slides, it tends to affect their scene partners. No matter how hard we try, we tend to inflate or deflate in relation to those with whom we share the stage. This is why it is so important to not let broadness, lack of specificity, and falseness creep too far into our performances as we run. We slow everyone else down with us.
2. To keep things fresh, finding a tiny, new choice to focus on for your character helps keep me in the moment and keep things playful. At the suggestion of a friend (the wonderful Jennifer Stewart Sampson), one night I decided that Miss Prism had received a new set of spectacles that morning and she was still getting used to them. A small thing. It didn’t change my character intentions, objectives or scene work, nor was it big enough to throw the other actors. But it was something new for me to focus on and I found some new gestures and new discoveries of Miss Prism’s world that kept things grounded for me. And by having this new thing to focus on, I was forced to stay in the moment and not check out to the next line or the last scene. It sort of slowed everything down a bit and allowed me to exist in the small, daily parts of my character as well as the larger needs and desires of my character.
Since then, Miss Prism has tried her hat on in a new fashion (hoping to impress the dear Dr. Chasuble, of course), and has been disconcerted at the stained and wrinkled state of her handkerchiefs. Tonight, she may need the soles of her shoes repaired. Who knows? But these little things that only I know will keep me finding out more about Miss Prism and her life. Great fun!
3. Green-rooming sucks for both actors and audience members. If you don’t know what I mean by Green-rooming, that is when a friend or acquaintance who was in the audience comes backstage (or stays in the lobby) to see you after the show. I’ve always been an awkward green-roomer, even as an audience-member. I tend to need more time to think about the show and digest it, so I’m often at a bit of a loss for what to say to someone.
But for the first time, I really understand how the actors feel at that moment. Performers are really at the mercy of the audience and the director for feedback of any kind. I have no way of knowing what I look like onstage, what effect I am truly having (or am not having) on an audience. And so I found myself craving some after-show reinforcement. That’s not to say that I’m not open to criticism of my work, just not right after a show. Some time and space needs to be maintained before dealing with peer to peer criticism.
As a director, I had at least a certain amount of objectivity regarding a show’s positives and negatives. And believe me, I’m usually the first person who can tell you what they are. But as an actor, I really feel like I’m flying blind, and having friends give me the courtesy of a “Good job!” and a “Congratulations” and a “Very funny!” right after the show helps a lot. . . even if what they really thought is far more complicated than that!
4. Performing while sick also sucks. I think it may even be worse than not being able to go on at all. If you’re in a car accident or are bed-ridden with pneumonia, well. . .there’s nothing to be done about that. It is someone else’s problem at that point.
But sick – like I am this week – means that you do everything you can to try to MITIGATE it. Suddenly I’m everything I ever made fun of in actors. I’m worried about my voice and my stamina. I’m hydrating, humidifying, and huddling in scarves trying to keep my throat warm and clear. I’ve got a bag full of throat lozenges, NSAIDs, vitamin supplements. . . there’s even a NETI pot in there for crissakes. I spent all day cursing my boss for not maintaining a perfect 78 degrees in the office because doesn’t he understand that I am a DELICATE FLOWER and I HAVE A PERFORMANCE TONIGHT and I am WILTING?!
How did this happen to me? Oh, yeah. . . I go onstage every night and subject myself to the judgment of a mob disguised as polite theater-goers looking for entertainment. No wonder I’ve gone crazy.
So yeah, I’ve learned a little bit from performing on the other side of the table. It doesn’t mean I’m not rolling my eyes at myself. Trust me. I am.