Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Theatrical Cleanse is done. Time to assess the damage:

Much Ado About Nothing: Beatrice.

I learned that sometimes my strength, leadership skills and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-intuition decision making is very helpful.

I also learned that other times, being a good actress (aka shutting up) is more helpful.

I learned that I can address a theatrical crisis with grace and confidence that calms those around me.
I learned over two hundred lines. Sometimes it pays to watch the Kenneth Branagh version over and over and over between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.

Turns out that I will endure quite a bit of pain to get a specific look for a role. Case in point: check out those curls. Those are mine. And they were accomplished by wearing my hair in sponge curlers for eight to ten hours a day, resulting in pains when I would move my face, a headache and beautiful curls that would go from tight to soft and feminine in the course of a show.

I learned that my optimism is contagious.

I learned when to keep my opinions to myself. Love goes further.

I learned that I CAN shut up when working with my mom.

I learned to trust my mom as a director.

I learned not to fight my mom's battles, or even to secretly want to. It's one thing to theoretically understand my mom, it's another to gain an active testimony of her ability in that light.

I learned that I really CAN let go of things that are not my responsibility. It takes a lot of work, but less work than getting involved and then being bent out of shape that my help doesn't actually help.

I learned that cast members can be absolute beasts backstage toward the director. And they must not be thinking much, either - just spouting off whatever whiny filth enters their mind because quite a bit of it was said to or in front of me. "Hello! I'm her daughter for crying out loud! You think I'm not going to set you straight?" Maybe they really thought they were right. Thanks to Wildman and Dreampacker and Trailblazer for teaching me how to redirect perception without causing hurt feelings. Boy did that come in handy. I was a master at the art of situation diffusion without actually defending anyone or putting anyone on the defense.

I learned that my instincts are good.
I also learned that my mother's direction is like holding up a magnifying glass to whatever talent I brought to the table. The Beatrice I performed was 100 time better and more varied than the one I had intended to play.

I was able to take the fear that used to breed my anger - the fear of being powerless - and translate it into a Beatrice worth playing and worth watching. I understood her as a woman who was powerless whenever it counted. On one hand, it's sad I didn't completely grasp that until closing night, but on the other, how glorious that I had the epiphany just in time to give a performance that will live in my head as perfection. I still cry thinking about it. And I heard - not just saw but HEARD people in the audience crying with me. That's quite the thing.

I really learned grace. But more on that later.

We opened and closed Much Ado. I was Beatrice, and then I wasn't. I didn't have long to mourn the passing however, because on Monday we started in on six hour rehearsals for Into the Woods.

Into the Woods: The Witch.

I learned that I knew nothing about stage makeup beyond being pretty. I was so grateful to Jessica for teaching me!
I learned that although I had very difficult time letting go, I could, in fact, let go when the time came. Explanation: When we began rehearsal, the lady my mom asked to be musical director was about to go on tour with the Tab Choir. So she didn't come. For over four weeks. I knew the music very well, so I offered to help. Suddenly it was a really good thing I had listened to Into the Woods religiously for nearly a year - though had never watched the movie - and could play the piano just well enough.
I was the Musical Director for all intents and purposes for the majority of rehearsal. When the lady stepped back in, I gave her a good talking to about underestimating the music and then, after three days of not getting along I realized that what I needed to do was step back and let her do what she was going to do, right or wrong. It was no longer my place. I did. And it all worked out. I was amazed at my ability to do the job and more impressed at my ability NOT to do it.
I learned that my belief in others sometimes has power to lift them. What?! It's no wonder people fear themselves. We are powerful beings.
I learned that I can still get nervous.
I learned that if I'm really riled up, it's okay to sit in a corner and not talk to anyone until I have myself under control again. This is big, because I used to think that I had to talk things out. That's a load of crap. I so don't have to talk things out. I can contain my hurt, anger, outrage or spite, let my brain go off on a few imaginary conversations, then take a couple dozen deep breaths, redirect my focus and move on. Yeah. I can!
I learned that not everyone is aware of others. It makes me not like Bridezilla's very much.
I realized that I am not the only person who undervalued my mom theatrically. So many of my cast mates believed that unless they told (read "yelled at") my mother regarding a piece of set or costume or character choice, it would go unnoticed and unfixed. Please refer to above when I mentioned that I learned to trust my mother in the first play. Even when things weren't working out, I would do what she told me and wait for her to see that it wasn't working. Because I trusted that she was smart enough to see it. Sometimes it turned out that I was wrong. many times it turned out that the cast members were wrong and mom got to use her "I told you it would work" face. I liked those moments very much.
I learned how to communicate with my mother when we were both under stress that had nothing to do with each other personally. Humor. Humor is such a better tool than whatever the hell we have been using for twenty years!
I learned that Heavenly Father truly loves his performers. Holy Spiritual Blessings! Our opening night was a testimony to that. About an hour before we opened, we were all angry, some crying, most frustrated, and every single one of us scared to death. There were even personal hurt feelings running around. So I asked if I could offer a prayer. Heavenly Father was completely there, completely invested in what we were going through. It helped me see the situation in a new light. He helped me see what I could do, instead of focusing on where I was powerless.
Wow. I learned what truly powerless felt like. And honestly, I held on to that feeling for a while, memorizing the terror of it. I was thinking to myself, "This is powerless. All those other times I felt powerless I was just being a sissy." I wanted to be able to recall the real thing the next time the fear of powerlessness sets in. Then I can say, like John Smith in Pocahontas, "I've been in worse scrapes than this!"

I was reminded that I am beautiful. Physically.
I remembered how much I loved being on stage.
I remembered the sound of an audience loving what I did. I also got to hear and feel an audience who didn't like me all that much. I've missed that unspoken relationship.
I learned that my children like watching me on stage. They didn't like me as the Witch, but both liked me as Beatrice.
I watched Muad'Dib be so . . . incredibly loving. On closing night, someone asked me if he was coming. I said no. They asked if he had gotten me flowers. I answered no. They expressed outrage that he not support me. I laughed and laughed and laughed. No one has any idea what sort of toll this took on him. I don't even. Because he never complained. Three months of not really having me around, of being main parent to our children and still: I never heard him complain. He just let me. He just supported me. He just loved me. Who needs flowers when I have that?
So. This is all said. It is all done. And in the place where I sit now - on the other side of the storm that has been my summer - I have learned so much. I have learned more even than I can write in this one post. Like about Grace. That lesson will have to have a whole post to itself.
I just have to say thanks to everyone who supported me. When I said a few months ago that I needed this, I didn't realize just how much. It was like the final after years of study. I passed. I feel so grateful to my family, my babysitters and my cast. This is starting to sound the acceptance speech at the Oscars. Well, maybe someday. For now, I am packing away TheaterGeek - well used and well worn - and happily return to Sayyadina.


Muad'Dib said...

"Wishes come true, not free."
Plus, I got you an opening gift, remember the shake? Plus I painted your mother's gift for you.
Go you.

WildBound said...

ah, shucks. I'm all allergic to this post.

Lori said...

i'm glad this experience was so amazing. seriously. sounds like it was heaven sent.

Bethany said...

If you can verbalize learning this much from a few weeks of theater, you must be able to write a book about how much you've learned from parenting or other life experiences. When will your books be published?

Fedaykin said...

I really like your rationality, that you would laugh at someone who accused Muad'Dib of not supporting you. Not just agreeing to be polite, or saying that he really did, but laughing. Along the same lines, the one big thing I learned was to withhold judgement. I learned that I never want to show annoyance, anger, or hurt feelings. I learned again how yucky shame feels, the shame that has real cause. Love is ALWAYS the correct response, ALWAYS. Lastly, I learned that Kenunu's got nothing on me. (At least I don't think. We'll just have to wait til I can see myself on stage.)

DreamPacker said...

wow. I am allergic to this post! You have a way of expression that invokes the FEELINGS and awakens the emotions. I LOVED the final performances. You were AMAZING. It was breathtaking to watch the miracles unfold.

little t said...

Here's to talent and beauty...
as you are BOTH.