“You should be worried.”
I’ve been producing live theatre for twelve years now, and I’ve gotten to the point where it takes a pretty big setback to rile me. I wrote about some of the more dramatic disasters in “Art Never Killed Anyone, But It Almost Did…” so I won’t rehash here. But needless to say, stuff that would have pushed me over the cliff even just two years ago doesn’t really get to me these days. Things always go wrong on every show, so I’ve come to accept that.
The other night I made the mistake of telling Olivia, our director, that I wasn’t “worried about the show.” I say this was a mistake because her answer was roughly this:
“I hate it when people say they’re not worried about the show. I’m worried about the show, and I feel like they’re just not as invested if they say they’re not worried about the show. You should be worried.”
I guess what I said was coming more from my role and experience as producer, feeling that things were moving along pretty well and that I wasn’t stressing. I wasn’t really speaking from how I felt about my role – which was of course what she was concerned with.
I will be honest and say my role has me feeling less than confident.
It’s not a big role – Tom is more or less the “straight man” (irony acknowledged) and Durang admits in his notes that Tom is the least developed character in the play. It’s not a long play either. So I come onstage and leave a few times, say a few things and have one big monologue. Easy right?
Yes. Easy. It should be. And to my colleagues who have bigger roles it is, or at least seems to be…because they are good actors! However, I do not consider myself an actor. I’m not being self-deprecating or trying to be humble here, I’m just making a statement. After high school I did not even attempt to act for 13 years. I’ve only been in four shows since that, and they were all clown roles.
Clowning I feel good about. Clowning is not acting, it’s different. Acting kind of makes me feel like an idiot.
I say that because clowns are supposed to be idiots. Non-clowns are supposed to be realistic, or at least believable. When I act, I am trying to be believable, and for me that is not easy. I think of myself as a very genuine person in real life, but when I act I tend to either overact or just come across as myself. It is hard for me personally to just “naturally” be someone else. I am usually thinking way too hard about some insignificant thing I think I should be doing and completely ignoring something else that is totally undermining my character.
Case in point: last night Olivia pointed out that all three of us in the Wingvalley family were now holding our arms weirdly. She pointed out that this does not happen in real life, but for some reason, when we were the Wingvalleys, we had all taken on an affectation that somewhat resembles T-Rex arms. I don’t know who started it, it doesn’t matter. I’m not here to point fingers. We were all playing off each other and somehow this crept into our collective psyche.
What matters – as Olivia correctly pointed out – is that it’s weird.
Non-actors may find this all ridiculous, and they would be correct. It is ridiculous. And yet, actors reading this will know exactly what I am referring to because everyone does this kind of stuff onstage, at least until you are told you’re doing it and then you work like hell to break yourself of the habit.
So holding my arms weirdly is just one of my problems. I am also terrible with lines. I am also not very good at remembering blocking that has changed. And I either overact or don’t act enough.
Last night I had what actors will all recognize as “a rough night.” I couldn’t get into the role, I was entering early, jumping other people’s lines, flubbing my lines, and forgetting to pick up my damn newspaper, which I have been forgetting consistently for the past two weeks. It’s painful to have those rehearsals because you just feel like a jackass and like you’re letting everyone down. It’s painful, and you start to get worried.
I think what Olivia was basically telling me was, “There’s always something that can be better, so keep pushing yourself.”
Or at least that’s how I’m going to take it.
I have to go work on my lines…