Husband and I have been cast in two awesome plays being showcased in the short Women's Play Festival here in town. The Festival begins a week from today and runs through the weekend. Both plays are, as the title of the festival suggests, short. Maybe fifteen pages a piece which would be roughly 20 minutes, at most. The playwright who is responsible for the short that I'm in is Carey Crim, who it seems is off to a stellar writing career (based on the link you see there and some reviews of productions of her plays). I couldn't find much info on Ms. Crim when I was given the script a few weeks ago, but felt a sincere draw to the complexity of what goes on in the play and have been thoroughly enjoying our rehearsals.
It doesn't hurt that my thespian-guitar-teacher-fence-building good friend Rory is the only other character in the play which is directed by yet another dear friend, Kirsten. Truth be told, I haven't actually been in a play in, oh...well...perhaps we shouldn't go there (12 years) and I fear I'm more than rusty in my portrayal of this, what I see as, very complex character, but working with Rory and Kirsten has just been amazing. They're both so helpful and patient.
What I've been realizing, more than anything else, is just how much energy is devoted to acting. When husband was in plays over the last few years, he came home from rehearsal rather exhausted. While I was sympathetic, I couldn't really relate to what he was going through. Now, though, now I get it. Picture this: you work a full day at your regular-paying job. If you're a teacher, you go home for a few hours and prep for your teaching the next day, maybe grab something to eat, then head off to rehearsal. At rehearsal, you transform into another person. This person has her own job and her own life and worries. In my case, she's a maid at a sort of rundown motel and happens in on a set of tragic circumstances, but she's also sort of young and innocent--a student at the nearby university who works this job just to pay her way through school. Before she knows it, she's launched into a series of emotions: shock, rationality, sadness, surprise, disgust, pride, disbelief, then curiosity...and all that within the first three minutes. She keeps going through these cycles of emotions, no one emotion ever taking over for too long. She works through various scenarios and, eventually, has to accept what actually is the truth: that something has happened and no matter how many scenarios she tries out, she can't change the fact of what really is...but she doesn't get there until she restarts the scene various times, tries out various reactions and emotions, and, eventually, accepts it. All in fifteen minutes. (Do you see what I mean about Carey Crim being an amazing playwright?)
But as the person acting this out, you adapt this new, temporary persona, run through the 15-20 minute play, then start again and again to try and get it right every time, tweak moments that are weaker or unconvincing, find something to do with your dust cloth and innocence. It's challenging. You're going through all these emotions and subjecting yourself to them over and over until 2-2.5 hours has gone by and you're off to resume your own life...to grade the papers and prep the class and make up a quiz and feed your family. How could my husband have not been exhausted when you did that times five (his plays in the past have been full-length, 2 hour shows!)?
I've always really appreciated and loved theatre, but I think I haven't fully understood just how amazing these actors are that get out there and do it all the time--that maintain their own lives and identities while consistently costuming themselves up in other lives and identities. It's not hard to get entangled--I know where I start and she ends or where she starts and I end...I know to leave the papers and the grading and the quiz grades at the door when I enter the "theatre" and, even, that this girl and her tragedy stays in the theatre when I go home--but I can imagine that for some people, it can't be as easy. Especially for actors that really feel like they have to be the character they're playing in order to perform that part. And no matter how much we separate these lives out and understand the difference between an individual life and a character's life, at the end of the day, there's no leaving behind the exhaustion of the emotional toil I've lived through and exerted. That's the part of it all that's very real.