BREAKDOWN TO BREAKTHROUGH
September 1, 2010.
Had a couple of days off from rehearsal- one unintentionally because my scene partner didn’t show up and one because we didn’t have the space. I used that time to really work on my monologue and my character’s physicality. It wasn’t easy. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch watching Project Runway, drink red wine, and feel sorry for myself. I decided I could do all of those things after I worked on my character.
I can always tell when I’m about to turn a corner in my work because I hit a wall first. I get upset, depressed and engage in long inner dialogues about why I can’t do it or shouldn’t do it right now. And then I do it anyway and finally, after about an hour or two of internal bitching and moaning, I make a discovery that changes everything.
I was experimenting with my physicality, looking for a different center to come from and different places to carry or release tension. In one of Michelle’s classes she did a long exercise about center and that’s been invaluable to me. I used to think that one could only come from one’s head, heart, stomach, hips or knees, for example. It was broad and general. But as I explored where Agnes might come from, I suddenly dropped into something and it completely changed the way I sat, stood, walked, looked at things and even how I spoke my text. Her center, I believe, is the side of her neck. It’s a result of being shy, guarded, defensive, disappointed and exhausted. She also carries tremendous tension in her stomach, her shoulders are tight and caved in and she often has stiff arms with clenched fists. Carrying that kind of tension for almost the entire play is also what enables me to have an extreme physical and emotional release at a pivotal moment in one of my scenes. As I rehearse these physical qualities may become more subtle or refined but for now I’m making big choices.
I also watched a couple of films from 1977 to get a better sense of the clothing because, on the Internet, it’s hard to find photos that are year-specific. I was happy with my jeans and brown sweater but the blouse I’d bought- a cream/brown/orange with an Art Nouveau print- just didn’t seem right. From the films I realized that the blouse was early 70’s and I needed to look for something more subdued. So yesterday, at Goodwill, I stumbled upon the most perfect five-dollar item: a muted rose silk blouse with a neck tie to wrap in a bow in place of a collar. When I got home I tried everything on, pulled my hair back in a plain bun, and it completely clicked. I felt transformed into plain, conservative and repressed Agnes. The blouse also happens to be the exact style of the costume that the original Broadway actress wore in 1977. When I finally “get” the character, it’s a high like no other. At that point I don’t want to lie around on the couch. I want to spend hours exploring this person I’ve found.
I’m leaving work early today for what is supposed to be a quick run-through of the show with lights and maybe sound. We have to be on schedule because Michelle’s class comes into the space tonight. It’ll be my first shot at trying the new character stuff in front of the director and it makes me anxious. I hope I can commit to what I found and that he leaves me alone enough to explore it further.