Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When I'm So Jittery My Knees Buckle

The first audience came. Tonight, that's followed by the second audience. I expect it will be followed by the third audience, but you really never can tell.

Tonight they're the first paying audience. We continue to make changes. I continue to doubt. But I continue to show up every day and keep going, and I think that is something, yes?

Paranoid that people aren't liking me and aren't telling me, but, I guess that is more about me than it is about what anyone else says. I'm not sure though. I'm not sure about very much in regards to this. I am well aware that I know nothing, so maybe that isn't that surprising, but normally I have more to go on. This time...not sure. I guess it's all very new. And scary. And exciting.

Like Charity Hope Valentine, I just am trying to tell myself 'I"m the bravest individual'. All that stuff.

It's World Theatre Day. John Malkovich said this statement below. I really like the part about rigour. I may lack talent, but I don't lack rigour, when it comes to theatre. So maybe there's hope for me yet!

I'm honored to have been asked by the International Theatre Institute ITI at UNESCO to give this greeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day. I will address my brief remarks to my fellow theatre workers, peers and comrades.

May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life's work. And may the best of you - for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments - succeed in framing that most basic of questions, "how do we live?" Godspeed.

- John Malkovich

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Although How Can You Know Who You Are Til You Know What You Want Which You Don't?

This is the last day of tech week, which has brought a lot of changes. Tech, obviously, a set, costumes, and audiences. Slowly trickling in at first, comprised of other team members, who are supportive but still scary in their judgement, and now invited individuals, today a whole invited audience, and then previews.

We can keep rehearsing and making changes throughout previews, so we haven't been set loose yet, but it's still a new level and very scary.

There's a wonderful part of 'Waiting for Guffman', among many wonderful parts, where Catherine O'Hara talks about Fred Willard's encouragement to her as an actor: 'He's trying to get me to change my instincts, or at least ignore them'.

Let's be honest, the whole thing is joy:

That's a little bit how I feel right now. I want to change and ignore all my instincts. I'm so unsure about the whole shebang that I'm not sure what I can trust in myself. It all feels like Jello. I try things and they feel different but I'm not always sure what's good different and what's bad different. And my good is different from what's good for the play, and sometimes that's different than what's good for the director, or good for the script, or good for the audience.

Trust is the most important thing but it's hard to know what to trust. Especially myself. I think I have to have confidence that I will be fine and I will, even, be good, or better, but how can I trust myself when I know what a wreck I really am. How can you believe someone who you see the flaws of all the time?

Trust and doubt in equal measure. Difficult. There are these impossible double things about theatre, that we find the things that work and then we have to find them again, while still letting things be natural and new, that we must question and push but also trust. That we have to have our cake and eat it too.

And then, we strive after something that is untenable, that we can only achieve in glimpses and shadows and gasps that happen once and can't again. And all of these glimpses and shadows and gasps are successful in one way of looking at something that is prismatic in its options, that appeal to one audience member or critic or actor, but that person is only a person, even if they're a person who can ruin your career or break your heart, and what is 'right' anyway, when we're all so deeply flawed.

Last night coming out of rehearsal after three long days I was walking in the rain to the subway and I just started sobbing. Tears wouldn't come out but I felt this intense pressure in my chest that came out as if I was crying. I think it was that feeling of being completely overwhelmed. It's hard to be in a room with so many of the people who made you want to do theatre in the first place, and then to think that you're ruining the play for them, or that they'll never want to let you act again.

I really have been questioning whether I can handle the challenges of this career. I don't know if I have the strength, and I'm pretty sure I don't have the talent. I think, now, that the strength is much more important. I'm fascinated by the questions that this art form raises and what we're trying to do and how we can do it and whether we're successful in it, but maybe I should do it from a different place in the room.... from the audience instead of on the stage.

Doubt. Questions. Tears. Insecurity. Anxiety. Yup. This is what it is before the curtain goes up and we all fall down.

The work today is to work less hard. To let go. To stand backstage and before I go on, just tell myself, 'I'm alive'.

A dance belt and a tube of chapstick:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ma Nature's Lyrical with her Yearly Miracle

We had our last day in our space....

Now we are moved into the thee-ah-tah.

Change is terrifying but so is stasis, especially in acting. Embrace, embrace. Going through moments, after three weeks of work, where I look at myself and go, 'What am I doing? What is this about?' So many things I'm realizing. Tricky.

This is Buddy and he's in charge.

Our room was lovely and bright and the theatre is, still lovely, but distinctly not bright. What a strange thing it is, to walk into these darkened rooms and expect enlightenment. But it's what I do all day. What a weird duck. No wonder I'm not married.

Amazingly, moving on to the set feels like moving home. The play belongs there. This is good.

It's still scary though. This play is about identity, what you make yourself and why you make yourself that thing and the identities that we cling to and the identities we push away for ourselves. The acting in real life, I suppose. What we are pretending to be living so that we don't have to feel the pain of what life is. Which, to me, strikes so clearly at the feeling of being fraudulent.

I felt extraordinarily fraudulent when I was in academia, just that I had no clue what was going on and was to be found out at any minute. Everyone was so smart and I was so very dumb. And really, this is the same. Everyone is so talented and creative and I am still the chorus girl who is in the play out of pity. What I understand about the play, or what I'm doing, is one fraction of the possibility that's there, and one fraction of what the audience might see. There's so much more to find and to know and to show. Everyone must be able to see this weakness in me. I still feel like I'm about to be found out at any minute. Going into the theatre heightens this. I pretend to be a person worthy of this show and this theatre. I act as if my heart isn't jumping out of my chest. I find the identity of who I am in a given room and put it on like a sweater.

I wonder if this stops. Ever.

This play is also about spring. Which it is today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

And the Obvious Reason is Because of the Season....

Signs of spring....

There's been so much sun and warmth and perfect breezes the past few days....of course I've been inside rehearsing, but it has been lovely and you definitely feel that something is coming.

Our rehearsal room has these beautiful huge windows on two walls, so you feel the sun. Tomorrow's our last day in that room and I am both very excited and very scared for going into the theatre and what that means.

We had a small invited audience for our last run in the space, which was scary but necessary. 'Scary but necessary': that sounds like a Conservative party campaign or something. Yech. But, they were very kind and sweet.

Appropriate, and, really, quite lovely that we're doing a show called 'Was Spring' that is about looking back fondly and looking ahead hopefully, and how things end but are reborn, and the memories we hold and why we hold them, and how young we used to be and how spring comes and things change and it is spring, while we are thinking about all of these things.

Trying to simplify and be honest and brave. I don't know if any of its working. Continually knocked out by everyone else and continually disappointed in myself, but the disappointment doesn't feel as bad, just like a reminder that I have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. And really, that's not so bad, if only I can keep the thoughts of never working again at bay.

I feel nervous still, but in a different, less defeating way.

I really just think that it's the spring.

There's hope, right?

Monday, March 12, 2012

'Cause It's a Very Big, Very Fraught, Simple But It's Not, It's a Very Big Undertaking

I've been thinking a lot about why we like the things we like and if the things we don't like are deserving of our attention. What it means if a piece of art doesn't speak to us and how we can make things that speak loudly to groups of people, or individuals, and if it matters if the things we make speak to anyone else. And how we can make art, specifically theatre, that does this, this speaking of things that matter or might not, even in the face of 'Two and a Half Men'.

Maybe we should replace all of those collective pronouns with 'me', 'my' and 'I'. Although I like to think of myself as being as important as several people.

Do we have to do things hoping they'll reach people? Is how many people important? Do certain opinions (critics. Or the people I want to impress, for either professional or dating reasons) matter more? Yes. No. I don't know.

These pictures are all backlogged from a trip to New York in January, when I saw this exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum.

I have no ability to talk about why I liked this piece so much, but I really did. I'm not prepared to talk about my experience with it, but I'm pretty sure I had one.

I used to think that I knew very clearly what I wanted to achieve with theatre, and now I'm not so sure.

Part of this is because I'm at the point in a rehearsal process where I don't know anything anymore, and I don't know how I'm doing. So everything is thrown into a state of confusion, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how I should go to pastry school. Because my chances of being on TV seem a lot better if I could develop some sort of reality television show about me starting a cake business, than if I could develop a pilot about me starting a cake business, which likely would never make it to air, or even to paper, let's be honest, I fall asleep a lot.

I have to trust things. Including myself, maybe? Ugh. I don't want to trust her, that girl sucks.

But I think a trust in the work and in what you're doing and what the people around you are doing maybe makes it less necessary to reach others in a certain way. Allows you to present the work and say, 'here it is, what did you think?' and not fall to pieces when what they think is ZERO STARS. Or whatever it is that I'm afraid of. Empty seats. No one wanting to work with me again. I don't even know what there is to be afraid of. I'm not sure if any of those things is really the end of the world, but whatever I'm fearing sure feels like the end of the world. The Beastie.

The other side of this is, of course, that I desperately do want to reach people, I want communal experiences, shared experiences, that's part of what theatre is. So I have to go out hoping that someone sees something akin to what I see....right? I don't know. Maybe I'm the worst kind of artist and the stuff that I do is worse than 'Two and a Half Men'.

I'm rehearsing something and not writing, wishing I could write more, wishing that I could produce more, too. That I had the balls or the friends or the money, or whatever it is I lack that keeps me from being someone who does things, instead of someone who writes about the things that other people do on the Internet. I do some things, but there are so many more that I want to do.

Working with people who have so much more experience than me and were all a part of the formation of the theatre community that I am now trying to step into makes me feel very green and very old at the same time. They've all done so much, and I spend so much time on the internet. They talk about things and they're like the dreams I used to have of what a life in theatre was like, everything is hard but exciting, and everyone is crazy and everyone knows everyone. They all did so many projects, its like they never stopped. I feel like I never have any projects, nothing ever happens, I have ideas and they are all killed by my own complacency.

Hm. This all became very rambly and I'm not sure how. These are all the things that are buzzing in my head right now, I suppose.

Why am I doing what I'm doing? What is it that I'm doing? And am I doing it the way I should be? Is that the way I want to be doing whatever it is?


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When You Walk Through a Storm Hold Your Head Up High

Yup, I have things to do, so yup, I'm going to obsess on the Internet.

I am working to try and find joy and gratitude amongst anxiety and fear. I am super good at anxiety and fear. I am also good at swearing, eating cheeseburgers, watching 'Survivor', resentment, remembering painful memories, hatred, and walking on my heels. I am not great at being happy. I am very happy. I am extremely honoured and glad to be a part of this show. But I'm also mostly scared.

Everyone tells me actors learn to live with fear, and honestly, I'm not sure that I can do that. I have so much to fear: my solitude, my failure, bear attacks....I don't know if I can handle my career being compromised mostly of it.

Maybe I'm really brave, because bravery is having fear and doing it anyway, and I, on occasion, do things. Or I at least try to do them.

I'm doing it. Or trying. I really am. But I am hoping that this fear goes away: both on this project and in general. And I don't know if I can make peace with it if it does not.

A lot of this fear, for this project, is about doubt. The play is tricky, so I don't always know what I'm doing. I'm green, so I don't always know what I'm doing. And so I have doubt. About myself. And my future. And my abilities. UGGGHHHHHHGHGGHGHGHGGHGHGHGHGH. What a sick profession!

I am writing a play that I'm not in (which, honestly right now seems so dumb, because I feel like I'll never be cast in anything ever, so I have to start writing some good shit for myself), and the first 40 pages of it were read last night and that was scary, but good. I thought I was out of love with the play, and while it's not my usual thing (no trap doors! no musical numbers! WHERE ARE THE FIREWORKS?), I think there might be maybe a tiny bit of almost potential. It was helpful to just hear it. Yup. Do the work. It sets you free. It's so much better than the anxiety. But the anxiety is so much easier, in a weirdish way.

I'm effing sick of those 'Keep Calm and Carry On' variations, but..that's what I'm going to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You Got to Have a Dream, If You Don't Have a Dream, How You Gonna Have a Dream Come True?

So I'm having, as usual, an enormous amount of anxiety about all things. That I'm not good enough, that I'm ruining everything, that no one likes me and that this is the last thing I'll ever do. Blah blah blah, Anxiety and Apple Juice, the Jessica Moss Story.

I'm definitely a very small fish in a very big pond, and on one hand that's amazing, because I am learning so much, and I have to step up and hopefully being scared and being pushed is going to make me a better actor. And that's the goal, I want to be an actor, and I want to be a good actor, if that's at all possible, so

But it's also pretty nervewracking....as we know I turn everything into anxiety, so I have been just a little anxiety factory for the last few days. Does this get easier? Can I handle it if it doesn't?

However...there was a moment today where I looked at the room I went in and went, 'Shiiiiiiiit'. And I was kind of like this on the inside:

(Obviously, this was supposed to look joyful and eeeee, and just looks like I am having a fit).

Because, like, I'm lucky! And this really is a dream that I had and I'm getting to do it, and maybe that will mean in the end my dream is broken, but I've had a lot of dreams that didn't come true at all, so maybe I'll just try and be happy that this one did, even if not the way I thought it would. Or whatever.

I'm working on it. Happiness is hard for me, ok? I'm much better at cowering and tears.

Confidence, confidence, fake it until you make it, don't let them see you sweat, breathe. Right? Maybe I should pay someone to yell inspirational slogans at me for a while. No, I would almost certainly burst immediately into tears if that happened. It would be a disaster. I don't like loud voices unless they're mine, and I'd be sure to misread the situation as conflict and either flee from it like a bunny or charge into it horns first like a bull.

Trying to be simpler and at the same time interesting, and open and at the same time confident, and myself and at the same time better than myself. Maybe I should give all that up and just do shit, but....I haven't figured that out yet.

It's only day 3.