Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Yesterday, I had several moments of clarity. My different moods and emotions were playing tag with each other, and I could only be described as a mess.
The day started out well enough. I was spending my morning going through Bob Dylan's canon. I was attempting to take the fifteen albums of his that I own and condense them into a 75-minute mix CD, with emphasis placed on his extremely potent years between 1963 and 1966. The project filled me with excitement, as I got to revisit the music that I have loved for several years.
Suddenly, while swimming in the brilliance of "Subterranean Homesick Blues", I had a sudden attack of what I can only describe as Tech Week Anxiety (it's Tech Week for "Marat/Sade" at Hunger Artists, opening Friday and running through May 29th...shameless plug).
Tech Week Anxiety is not something that I really experience as an actor. My technique during this time is simply to forge through each rehearsal in a busy-but-optimistic state of mind, not giving myself time to complain or get testy. But as a writer, I basically become, in most uncompromising terms, a sniveling, self-absorbed bitch.
I started doubting the script that I had rewritten for the show. I felt that I had destroyed Peter Weiss's original vision while giving the audiences that would come to see the show nothing more than a pretentious, mildly amusing freak show. The show would be, to quote a playwright who knows a thing or two about people ruining his work, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".
I also started doubting my own performance, which throughout the entire rehearsal process felt stale and wooden. Due to prior commitments, I missed the first two weeks of rehearsal, when all of the tablework was done (tablework is my favorite part of putting up a show). As such, I felt like an outsider, someone who was invited to just tag along with the cool kids, rather than be inducted in their group.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dylan's nasal voice was filling my ears, reminding me that by the end of his 22nd year (I'll be 23 in a week), he had already released three incredible albums and had penned such classics like "Blowin' in the Wind", "Masters of War", "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'". And here I was, the same age, and completely incapable of giving a decent performance while acting out my own shoddy material.
I walked into rehearsal with a significant amount of dread. As I donned my costume and grabbed my walking stick, the director gave me a note. Now the notes that I've received have been on a more technical side (increasing volume and enunciation, throwing in a funny bit, etc.). But this note was different and relatively simple: "I'd like to see more at stake for the Herald. We need to see his fear that the show isn't going well. So just higher stakes."
That did it. I went up on stage and immediately connected to the material. Suddenly I felt vibrant and alive, and most of all, I was having a blast. And since I wasn't trying to figure out what I was doing wrong anymore, I was able to focus on other parts of the show. I watched Christopher Spencer running around panic-stricken while reciting dialogue that was written in the 1960's but is especially relevant today. I watched Mike Caban, my new favorite actor, speak his words as if he were tasting a fine wine. I watched as an entire room full of mental patients stood silently transfixed to the two figures that compose the climactic moment. And I realized that perhaps the script isn't all that bad.
Afterward, I received compliments on the improvement in my performance. Then Jessica Beane, one of the greatest people I've ever known, talked to me about how she wanted to do justice to her first monologue, because it was "poetry". Suddenly, all of my Tech Week Anxiety disappeared into a cloud of smoke.
I realized that I'm the kind of actor that needs a director. There are some actors that can simply get by on their own. I am not one of them. This is not a bad thing, just a true thing. I can throw out ideas and add funny bits, but I really need someone to be my eyes and ears toward my performance. The crucial two weeks that I missed meant that I never got to explore my character with the director. But one small note about the core of the character, and I was off.
I also realized that what I said in an earlier post about acting being a chance to escape oneself and try on a new personality is not happening here. I realized that I am, in real life, a less extreme version of the Herald. I have minor compulsions that I choose to indulge rather than correct (label peeling, paper folding, etc.), and this show does indeed have high personal stakes for me (I have not been satisfied with the last three plays of mine that were staged, and I really want this to be a success). So the closer I channel to the character to my own anxieties and compulsions, the more natural and believable my performance will be.
I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't on the fence about this show for a very long time. But now, I can say with the utmost confidence that we have a fantastic show on our hands, and that this is a project that I am extremely proud of.
Now on to another topic. I am getting extremely tired of personal agendas. In the past twenty-four hours, two people that I have great affection for have been driven to the point of exhaustion by other people taking their personal agendas out on them in a theatre environment. This saddens me because they are both extremely hard-working people who only want the best for the respective theatres to which they volunteer their time.
I'm also frustrated because the people treating them cruelly and stabbing them in the back are people that I've called friends. I've worked on shows with them, given them rides, invited them into my homes and now they have shown me a side of them that I never knew existed. I just don't understand why people can't just stop being malicious, jealous, illogical jerks and act like adults.
*PHEW* I'm being really long-winded here, aren't I? I'm sorry. I'll let you get back to whatever you were doing.
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