17 November 2006

Stagelight Moth

I had my performances of The Importance of Being Earnest yesterday. I have a call back for another show on Saturday. And as a result, I've been thinking of my "career" as an actress. It's been going on for as long as I can remember, and I've been trying to figure out why exactly I do what I do-why do I put myself through hellish auditions and sleepless nights? What do I get out of it? Do I perform for recognition? Or for some other reason? So this will be an entry run primarily on stream of conscious thought-work with me here.

My first real play was when I was five. I was always a performer though. Ask my mother. I would act out TV shows in my living room. I had Charlotte's Web memorized. Since my early beginnings as a bird in Cinderella-I've risen to more mediocre roles and a few good parts here and there- and based on comments from friends and directors and judges when I did competitive drama, I'm not half bad at what I do. I'm not brilliant-but I do have occasional moments of greatness on stage.

Of course, I also have occasional flops. Or not even flops-but moments of failure. I have been thoroughly torn apart at auditions. I have let my hopes get so high at times, that not getting a part crushes me. Last year at Thanksgiving. A month later. I auditioned for four shows last year, and I made two. One of which doesn't count, because it was a High School production that everyone was cast in. This year, I was put through five hours of a call back for A Christmas Carol before I was sent home hoop-skirtless. It is a hard business. Hard because at least 75% of the time, whether or not you get cast depends on how you look. Or how the other people who audition look. Directors don't cast individuals, they cast ensembles. Everyone has to be able to work together at a similar level. It's hard. People who don't handle failure and disappointment well should never be in theater. It would crush them.

So why do I do it? Why do I subject myself to it? I think-for me anyway-it goes back to a nature/nurture debate. Was I just born this way? Was I-for whatever reason-predestined to stage-work? That's something I'll have to get back to you on after I die. I would imagine that I was though-in a way. Because working on stage has, over the years, given me confidence that I need to handle speaking in church, for example (though I've never really been afraid of that). Speaking in public in any venue then. I don't get afraid of speaking in front of people.

Taking on different roles also helps me change and evolve. There are bits of me in every character I've played. Not all of me-I'm not Polish, or mad, or a professor, or a pig. But I do like to take charge. I enjoy loud spurts of laughter. I'm aspiring to be a teacher, and sometimes I'm too innocent and naive for my own good. When I find parts of me in the characters I've played-I learn something about myself. For me-it's a process of refinement. I question who I am and see how I can alter my flaws or enhance my strong points to become a better me. There are ways to do this outside of theater-but theater is where I have grown.

Then of course, there is the highly superficial part of me that loves the costumes. And the recognition. There are very few professions where you get almost instantaneous responses to a job well done. In live theater-you will know if an audience liked a show. You will know because you will see it in their faces when they leave. You'll hear the laughter or feel the sadness or sense any other emotion that will let you know after two hours of work that you did something good. (Or bad). I love that feeling. I love knowing that for two hours I have given someone something to smile about, or cry about, or feel something for a while.

I do theater because I love going to theater as much as I love doing it. I understand what kind of work goes into making a show successful, so I love imagining the evolution of a show I never saw. The boring first-read of a script...blocking and re-blocking...costume day (which can be very frightening if you have a bad costumer...)...I appreciate it all a little more than those who come and don't think about the time that was put into the show. I love observing a show that can move me just as much as I like performing in one that would move others.

You know...none of this is very clear. I don't think I could pin point exactly why it is that I overload myself with stress. I don't know why I feel desperate and almost more stressed when I'm not in a show. I'm not sure there's an answer at all. But-there you have it. My eclectic attempt to describe why it is that I love theater.

1 comment:

Marisa VanSkiver said...

I heard you did well on Thursday! I wanted to come, but someone *cough*Liz*cough* forgot to remind me like I asked her to. Oh well. Let me know when your next show is!