Saturday, March 26, 2016

Playing With Fire (And Winning)

Writing comes to me in phases. And I think it's a sort of feedback loop, too...the more I write, the more I want to write, and the more I want to write, the more I write, etc. And I just haven't been writing as much, so this blog has been quiet. But I'm aiming to change that.

(Although I don't know why I'm blogging right now. I'm having one of those times when my brain is struggling with sentences. This happens to me now and then, when I'm very tired. I just can't quite get English to work right. But f*** it, Ima publish this anyway.)

Anyway, I'm playing Bertha in "Jane Eyre" at HCTO (among other roles), and it's hard. And awesome. And hard. Only because it's hard to go to that crazy place. It's kinda scary. (For those unfamiliar with the story of Jane Eyre, Bertha is mentally insane.)

When I'm in my deepest phases of anxiety, one of my biggest fears is that I'll go crazy. In my early twenties, during the very worst times of panic attacks, I sometimes wished I would go crazy, just to escape my fear of it. I figured that if I was completely out of touch with reality, nothing could scare me. Years ago, during one of my worst anxiety episodes, I read a short story called "The Yellow Wallpaper" for a class, and it messed me up for YEARS. Now that I'm in a better place emotionally, I can appreciate the story for its literary merits, although it still sends shivers up my spine. I re-read it in preparation for playing Bertha. (I also sent a copy to my double, who was equal parts disturbed and appreciative.)

The awesome news is that the wig I'll be wearing is EXACTLY, PERFECTLY what I had envisioned. It's long and black and sort of tangly and big. It's perfect. After getting the wig, I've started wearing a long scarf in rehearsal as a sort of "stand in wig"...something to play with in character. Man, I'm excited to show you guys. Seeing myself in that wig made me feel way more connected to Bertha than I had been, but I was still a little scared.

Then, this week, we blocked a scene with Bertha in it. And it's the last scene we've blocked with Bertha in it. And I feel like I FOUND Bertha in that scene. I felt better about my work in that scene than I did in any of the others, even though in that scene I was the CRAZIEST. Violent and out of touch and sad.

And I think it's because I just allowed myself to just go there. To just go for it, without worrying about what other people will think, or even what I thought. It was sort of the equivalent of jumping into the water when you know it's freezing. You just gotta do it. You just gotta rip off the band-aid. I didn't give myself time to think or be scared. And it was a BLAST. I loved rehearsing that scene. I can't wait to do it again.

Now, of course, I'm trying to figure out how to bring THAT Bertha into the other scenes. There's one in particular that I'm struggling with--partly because I'm having trouble with the direction I've been given...I'm just not able to motivate it very well. I think I can make it work; I just have to sit down with the underscoring and figure it out.

It was a cool little acting lesson for me. Here's what I learned: I was scared to go to that crazy place because it's a place that I'm afraid actually resides in me. And I felt sure that if I reveal it, everyone would quietly turn around and abandon me, because who could ever love someone with something so scary and dark and mad within them? But for all my preaching about the empowering nature of vulnerability, I wasn't very good at it. I saw during that one rehearsal how safe the world of theatre actually can be. I faced that demon and it shrunk. I'm still kinda scared...I think I always will be. Both of being judged (either for the dark craziness or for the crappy acting), and of not being able to get out of that crazy space.

But I proved to myself this week that A) no one is judging me nearly as harshly as I think they are, and B) I can go to that crazy space and totally come back out again. Not only that, but it's THRILLING to do so. And bizarrely, a lot of fun. There's something liberating in just pacing like an animal and trying to scratch faces and being dragged away to a chair with shackles. Man, I love acting.

So go for it, you guys. My fellow actors, just commit. It might be way more fun than you realized.

1 comment:

Nicole R. Hill said...

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