Monday, June 28, 2010

Time to Breathe

[taken at approx. 2:47am, June 26, mid-rainstorm]

We hit the ground running during tech, and from there on out the weeks have been a blur of eat, sleep, build, repair, rehearse, and perform. There were other bits and pieces in between, but they've been mashed into a confusion of verbs.

What has happened: We opened Love's Labour's Lost successfully, which - after opening night - presented me with an opportunity to begin understudying one of the main characters in lieu of an actor leaving town at some point during our run. Tech week for Romeo and Juliet was filled with morning shop calls, afternoon rehearsals, and evening dress runs of the show - not to mention learning my newly assigned understudy role in Love's Labour's - until opening night when we were rained out and forced to begin our opening night party a few hours ahead of schedule. The thunder and rain may have waterlogged the stage, but proved unable to dampen our spirits as we set forth to drink and be merry into the late hours of the night.

It's hard to recall an accurate timeline of events between our opening night party and this very moment. Needless to say, things went by quickly. I survived understudy line-throughs of both shows, an understudy run-through of Romeo and Juliet, and a performance as Dumaine in Love's Labour's Lost this past Friday. My parents were able to attend, my host family came to cheer me on, and the cast/crew were unendingly supportive. I had a three day notice and rehearsal process before the performance (with only one afternoon to actually rehearse with the cast); it was quite the experience, to say the least.

I have spent more time getting to know members of the company, teared up at Toy Story 3 (according Entertainment Weekly, that's totally acceptable), received a great massage, continued my exploration of yoga, napped in the sun, played in the rain, seen an old friend, spent time with my family, watched some good movies, and purchased several new plays. All in all, the weeks have been full. Trying to recall everything now, though, makes me wish I could add "updated my blog" to the list of things I've done recently...

What I'm feeling: Short answer - happy. Longer answer? ah - it's strange to think that in two weeks I'll be packing up my belongings and heading back to Madison to finish out the summer before I begin my last year of undergraduate classes. Each day reveals new reasons to be thankful for the opportunity to spend my summer with this group of artists; there is so much comradeship and constant giving. Recently I've been reminded of the chapters in The Gift (Lewis Hyde) that discuss the differences between a community and society. I've written about these topics before, so I won't take time to discuss them now. What I will say, though, is that as of late I've become very aware of the importance of a community bond between collaborative artists. It's also nice to be able to say that there is certainly a strong community among our company here at Riverside. We find support in each other in all instances; whether someone is offering to share a meal, give someone a lift, lend a hand, or use their own talents to benefit others, there's a lot of gift exchange between us, and each day it leaves me with richer experiences and ideas to reflect upon. Two of the other acting interns here have recently finished reading The Gift after having it recommended by me, and their enthusiasm for its ideas have made me very eager to reread the book - I look forward to seeing how my perceptions of the book's application to my life may have deepened in the year since my first read.

I do not ever want to work a regular 9-5 job again.
Not for any long period of time.
Not as a way of "making a living."

This summer has definitely solidified my desire to work (and, consequently, live) in the theatre. Earlier in the summer, I wrote about searching for the ability to take chances and make mistakes without fear of failure. Performing in Love's Labour's was the biggest leap in the dark I've ever taken as an actor; I should have been terrified. Or, at least, I would have thought that I would be, given my track record with stage fright when given weeks of rehearsal time for a role. But something about this experience was so freeing and, dare I say it: a complete and total blast. Yes, I stressed about the lines and blocking, and I spent three sleepless nights tossing and turning over the impending performance; but when the costume was on and I waited backstage with the three guys who would be my partners in crime for the proceeding two and a half hours, I felt excited and completely ready for the plunge. For the first time, I understood what it means to "forget" everything you know before stepping on stage for the first performance. I felt present and in tune with the story, I matched the cast's energy and tempo, and I didn't hesitate. Was it perfect? I have no clue - for the first time, I just didn't care or even think about perfection. I thought about having fun and telling a story. It was exactly what I needed: to be pushed off the edge and grow wings on the way down, as Ted Swetz would say.

Today, three days after the big performance, I am caught up on sleep, re-energized for the coming week, and anticipating more relaxing afternoons and playful evenings on the stage. It's been a great day of "me time" with friends, food, and drink, and I hope I'm able to stretch these last two weeks and make the moments last as long as possible.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

thunderstorms and other pleasantries

In the last few days I've attempted several times to update this thing, each time abandoning my drafts because I'm at a loss for words (the proper ones, at least). Today, I've decided screw it, especially since one promise I've made myself this past week is to stop being so damned hesitant about creative impulses. During my second class with Ted last week, he asked us to share any realizations we had experienced in the week between our meetings with him. I shared that I've realized my fear of being wrong can sometimes become so overwhelming that I choose to remain inactive; I avoid making active choices on stage for fear of being told I'm wrong, or the impulse was stupid, or incorrect, or whatever. Ted is helping me to throw away this perceived importance of perfection. He also pointed out, very wisely, that my decision to remain inactive causes me to fail twice: not only am I failing by fearing creativity, but the act of remaining inactive in lieu of that fear is another failure, worse than any perceived failure in being told I've made a choice that "doesn't work."

He's a smart man. (Obviously, this lesson is, as most things with Ted seem to be, a lesson not only in acting, but in life. I won't go into that, though.)

We're quickly reaching tech time for Love's Labour's Lost, and intern schedules are about to get a bit hectic. I'm not worried, though. Two weeks from now, both shows will be opening and life will be free and easy until my time in Iowa City comes to an end. I'm settling in more and more here, in many different respects. Walking through the downtown to get from place to place has been a relaxing and well-needed break from driving myself everywhere I go. My walks are a great time for contemplation and much needed musical interludes in my life - I've busted out my old-school headphones and have been making pretty good use of my iPod on a regular basis. The local grocery stores and restaurants are constantly offering up deliciously simplistic sensory experiences which - as Stella Adler has dictated - I am taking in to the fullest extent. I walked through the rain during last night's thunderstorm and watched the lightning over the skyline, feeling very connected to my environment and the "vibe" of this chilled-out hipster city. I'm getting to know my host family a little more each day, have finally figured out which names belong to each of their six cats, and am feeling more at home in a home that is not mine.

Kalen, an actor in the company at RTSF this summer, has been kind enough to start leading half-hour yoga sessions between rehearsal sessions. I've always had an interest in yoga, but have been afraid to actually jump in and give it a shot (yadda yadda, am I just afraid of everything?). I've now attended three of her sessions and, while short, she does a great job of introducing a variety of techniques and really getting her handful of fellow yoga-ers to relax, reconnect, and find grounding in our bodies. It's been really exciting to work on my breathing especially; this past school year, I was constantly told that I had trouble connecting with my breath on stage. During All My Sons, the anxiety I experienced during rehearsals and some performances lead to horrible tension that closed my body off from my breath almost entirely, and I struggled to understand exactly what was causing all of this to happen. Kalen's sessions have really helped me start to comprehend what good breathing actually feels like. I'm very quickly finding myself much more in-tune with my core and my own breath. I look forward to working more with her on this in whatever capacity possible as the summer rolls on.

Along with swearing off hesitant behavior, I'm really trying to stop being a lazy procrastinator. This is, of course, the most painful adjustment to try and make in my routine. Little by little, though, I'm finding ways of avoiding sitting in front of my computer for hours on end, or laying in bed until the very last second possible, and getting much better at taking on the day's activities in a more aggressive manner. It's definitely not helping that I keep adding to my to-do lists in quantities that seem entirely impossible to complete in a day (or handful of days, or even a week), but the impetus is there. Working with professionals outside of the school environment has definitely changed my perspective of what hard work and dedication to one's own artistry truly is. In no way am I saying that the students I work with at Parkside aren't dedicated; I've simply observed that removing elements such as classes, homework, part-time jobs, and social whatevers definitely changes the way colleagues I am currently working with attack their work and the amount of time in the day they are both able and willing to apply to their craft. It's altogether intimidating, inspiring, and admirable - at times I feel like I might not be cut out (ie good enough) for such dedicated, hard work. Can I reach their level of dedication? Would I be allowed such ownership and creative license? The mere though of being told "no" in response to either of these queries is earth shattering.

But then I remember: If I don't give it a try, then I'll never know.

I think I've said previously that I'm finding joy in my work again. This is definitely still true, and this evolving joy constantly gives way to curiosity and questions - questions I feel immediately compelled to seek-out answers to. This little theatre in this little town has SO much to offer me. I really do feel so lucky to be here with this incredible group of artists, and I don't want a day to go by that makes me feel like I've wasted opportunities to grow, to explore, or even - dare I say it - fail and learn from my own daring.

For now, though, it's time to curl up with The Complete Sherlock Holmes and get ready for another long day tomorrow. Scenic building at the Festival Stage, intern rehearsal, yoga, and R&J rehearsal tomorrow, followed by a home-cooked meal for my host family (Chicken Adobo, don't fail me now.)

3 days 'til tech. 7 days 'til Love's Labour's Lost opening. 14 days 'til Romeo and Juliet.