Hello Dear Reader,
Happy All Of The Things! I hope however you celebrated with your families and friends, it was filled with joy, love, and kindness.
Last week, the family play I worked on had its final bow on Saturday. It was a fun run with a wonderful cast. Looking back, I can say there was a lesson in this production. And it was something I learned from the audience. It was a first for me.
I tried to get very comfortable in the skin of someone that was so unlike me. I mean, I have my little quirks, which could very well be undiagnosed OCD. I am not, however, self absorbed or oblivious to other people. I like to think that I did a decent job inhabiting that life though.
I am always looking for lessons to learn or what I could take away from each project. This time around, with this being the first time back on stage in 2 years, what will I learn, I wondered. 2 years is a long time to not put into practice what you know.
Now my Gentle Reader, you might be thinking “there are/were ways to participate with online performances.” To this, yes, I agree and I tried it. My experience doing an online or Zoom performance, while enjoyable in the meeting of people and working with them, was not as fulfilling as an in-person experience. I felt like I was expending way more energy just trying to maintain this sort of distanced connection with my cast mates. Not only that, I was never sure if I was reading my cast mates’ motivations properly because I couldn’t see their whole body, just whatever their head, neck and shoulders were telling me. It was draining. The people were great, but it was draining. I knew it wasn’t the thing for me. And that’s okay!
This time around, I learned that while I was getting comfy in Michael’s skin, I may have been getting a little careless with it too. As this was my very first time working on a thrust stage, (if you are unfamiliar, it is when the stage sticks out a bit and the audience sits on 3 sides instead of just one as in a traditional theater) I was hyper aware that my motions needed to be clear so no matter where one sat, my actions would be understood. This also means that at any given time, the actors on stage will have their backs to the audience at some point. Man, this was hard. It was an awesome challenge though.
Being comfortable with Michael’s mannerisms and actions were what brought he and I together. As long as I understood my motivations behind my actions, I could use those with everything on the stage if it felt right. And I did change what I interacted with… often! You know how they say the show can never be the same each night because of the various factors, like audience participation (their reactions), accidental (or intentional) walking pattern adjustment, forgotten words, costume malfunction, but mostly because of the first thing? I think I was to blame each night. 🙃
During the rehearsal process, as I mentioned in previous posts, I would always make adjustments based on how it felt. I could never recall exactly what I did because I was trying to simply stay in the moment. This meant that I didn’t have a defined track that is set and is always identical to the night before. There were points that I had to hit, but everything else was kind of fluid.
Early in the run, one of those points was called into question and after I reflected on it, I made an adjustment. There is a point in the show that Michael apologizes to his wife for accusing her of only coming back to him because she wants his money. Right after they reconcile, Michael says with hope of upcoming fatherhood and relief that Jill does love him, not his money, that he hopes they don’t have an “Uncle Bob” baby. Bob happens to be the alcoholic uncle who says inappropriate things. The line doesn’t feel like an announcement to the world but rather a secret hope between the couple. Well, I went with how it feels without thinking about the element of the thrust. This meant that the people behind me wouldn’t be able to clearly hear what I was saying. I actually heard someone ask what was said and it hit me that my intention and motivation may be appropriate but delivery needs to be adjusted so it can be heard by the audience clearly. So this point was adjusted and I made sure that I was louder and more clear with that line through the rest of the run. We didn’t have mics and it was a very intimate setting, meaning the audience was practically on the stage with us.
Later in the run, a great actor friend was in the audience and asked why I was pointing to my brother during a point when Uncle Bob says he has a confession for anyone who is keeping score of our contest. One of the reveals later in the show was that the brother was documenting the whole night. 🤭Oops sorry, SPOILERS! 😂! Well, my action is that I am actually pointing to Mom, but because of how I do it, sort of dismissively nonchalant which ends up looking like a hand imitating a fish out of water, the action was unclear. Also, dependent on where people sit, I will look like I am pointing to a different person on the stage. From that performance on, I made sure to keep the intention but to acknowledge Mom in a more focused manner.
So my Kind Reader, for this lesson, I learned that staying in the moment and understanding motivations and intentions are all important, but when audience perspective is shifted to almost all around you, clarity and focus in those things is even more useful to help deliver a more enjoyable performance for the audience.
As this posts, I shall be enjoying the final Sunday Brunch of the year. I eagerly look forward to the opportunities 2022 will bring and hope that you are too. That being said, until next time, Gentle Reader, I hope you are safe and alert and don’t forget to treat people with kindness. Including yourselves.