(I’ll get this out of the way first. Make sure you scroll to the right!!)
That would be this coming week, anyway. Sometimes it astounds me how much discomfort is involved in theatre, which leads me to the conclusion that theatre is thrill-seeking behavior.
You go through hell. Insomnia, self-doubt, severely stressful periods of inappropriate time management, and sometimes people are mean to you. My personal favorite side effect is when I wander around in public muttering to myself, making indistinct subconscious gestures that probably look like the beginnings of a seizure, and facially expressing reactions to things that aren’t there before catching myself and trying to pass it off as “normal”.
Then you’re faced with a certain degree of performance-related terror, and spontaneous rushes of adrenaline that leave you with a racing heart, flushed face, mild wobbliness, and an obnoxiously acute sense of awareness. This gets attributed to nerves, fear, or excitement. Whatever it is, I avoid caffeine like the plague.*
I guess what’s odd is how taxing performance really is, and how difficult it is to take care of yourself properly during that time. It took Sister Mary for me to put this in true perspective. 75 straight minutes under hot, close lights, in a habit. Performing, which is by nature an intensive pursuit.** Sustaining your voice for that much consistent speech (and yelling…) is a story in its own right. (Thanks, years of teaching children’s theatre.) It’s impossible to keep these things out of everyday life. Your body and mind adjust to reflect the work you do.***
Despite all these considerations, you can’t wait to do it again. So what if it’s scary? All the things I’ve listed above are broken up by moments of success, hilarity, community, intellectual epiphany, and sometimes sheer euphoria. With that kind of elasticity and unreliability in physical/hormonal extremes, no wonder people get hooked
My current project is Germaine in Picasso at the Lapin Agile with the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. The role interests me (among other reasons) because I’m onstage for all but the first few pages of the show, but there are many other people at most times to take the focus. The play itself is quite heavily theoretical, with little specified action to take the weight. The challenge will come in finding physical behaviors that are honest, appropriate, and non-distracting for the long stretches when I’m mainly serving as an observer.
Despite growing up here and working in community theatre, this is my first time working with the Civic. Due to my current state of unemployment and lack of Ann Arbor contacts, I think this is one of those instances where it’s appropriate to say “community theatre is saving my life.” So uh…
Community theatre is saving my life.
* I guess I’m one of those small, inexhaustible people. Caffeine will either make me shaky or make me crash out. In the case of a performance crashing is not an option, so…
** Some days my shoulder blades cramped when I sat down for the pageant scene, her first of two “rests” in the entire show. I left every night not wearing my coat, and didn’t reach a “normal” body temperature for a least half an hour. Keep in mind, this was February. I also stashed granola bars in my bag, which I forced down in tiny pieces before each performance. It was tougher than you might imagine; easier to eat a few hours before and after the show.
*** I should qualify this with an explanation but it’s a rather complicated Catch-22, worthy of its own entry.