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.
August 30, 2010.
We are ten days from opening and I want to die. Metaphorically. I’m in the phase where I hate absolutely everything about my character and how I’m playing her. All of my choices and impulses seem flat, boring, tired and repetitive. I feel like there’s no way to fulfill the great potential I saw in the role at the beginning- both because of a lack of time and because of my own limitations as an actor. But even though I feel like this now, I’m not letting myself get sucked in too far because I know that it’s just where I am in the process and that- if I keep doing the work- it will pass. Yesterday I dragged my tired carcass off the couch, broke out the video camera, and worked on my long monologue for two hours. I hated it when I started but made some good discoveries by the end. Then I went to rehearsal and the director gave me some specific physical direction that helped tremendously. I just have to keep forging ahead.
August 17, 2010.
Oh, yes, I’d completely forgotten how it feels to work a day job and rehearse a show at the same time. I’m running on caffeine and sheer will-power but so far have managed to avoid the sugar trap. Pretty much the only thing I’ve done this past week besides work is rehearse and memorize lines. My brain is tired. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is Michelle’s voice from class ringing in my ears… “It takes EVERYTHING to be an actor.” And I think about how I don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life- working nine hours a day for money with only a few hours a day set aside for my passion. I must always be doing the very best work I am capable of and it can’t just be passable; it has to be great. Otherwise there’s no point in living like this.
It’s been kind of a stressful week. I feel pressure to get off-book by Friday and also to have my text and character work done. But there aren’t enough hours in the day so I’ve settled for the memorization… which means I have to tolerate the director asking me to make character choices in rehearsal that I’m really not ready to make. And that’s another area where I have Michelle’s advice in my head- to trust the process and not to rush results. It can be difficult to to trust the process when a director I admire and respect is asking for more but at the end of the day it’s my job as an actor to allow a character to come forward, not to push it.