Friday, February 12, 2010

"Please Process."

In my work as the personal assistant to a Financial Planner ("Insurance Salesman" is the old-school term), I often write up form letters that go something like this:
"So and So:
Enclosed is the necessary paperwork and signed amendments to complete delivery on this policy. I am available if there are any questions. Please process. Thank you.
Warmest regards,
I was driving home from rehearsal for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on Tuesday night and that phrase, "Please process" took on a whole new meaning.
For the devoted readers of my blog, I can say "Secret Garden" and a few of you could then map out where my next thoughts will travel. And since only the devoted ones really care enough to understand me anyway, I'll just say "Secret Garden" and go on.
It's one thing to look back at that experience and see mostly bad; that only the actual being on stage was any good. It's another thing entirely to say, "I was such a beast during Secret Garden" and have people say with a sigh of relief, "Yes, you were."
The reason that Tuesday brought this up is because I engineered a conversation for Shematite. I thought about it for a few days, wore a picture jasper necklace with a large picture jasper donut pendant, and then after rehearsal asked her if we could do an exercise.
For those who are unfamiliar with Seven Brides (though I can't imagine - if that's the case - that you would somehow have managed to turn on this new fangled computer, let alone find and read my blog! :), the two lead characters are Adam and Milly. They get married after knowing each other a few hours. Milly is surprised to find that Adam has six brothers. She's mad. She makes the best of it, because she believes that Adam is something special. She civilizes the brothers hoping that they'll get married and go away. Adam jumps the gun and encourages the brothers to kidnap the girls they are in love with and hold them captive in the Oregon mountains.
It is at this point that Milly and Adam have an argument/fight that ends with Adam leaving Milly (who is pregnant) to go up to the trapping cabin.
It is this argument that was the inspiration for the exercise.
I don't know Shematite very well. In auditions I asked her to argue with the Adam. After a weak attempt (I learned later that she doesn't yell), I asked her to focus on a life situation that she was angry about. What I saw then was encouraging to say the least. So I thought that a little "real life" application might help her in this scene. Because up to that point, she and the Adam were struggling to make a difficult scene work.
Because I don't know her well, but I did know that she - like I'm sure many others - had a problem with my behavior in Secret Garden, that's what I brought up. I hoped I could get her angry and yelling.
But that's not what happened
How it played out was so much better than I could have ever planned!
The experience was/is bittersweet. On the one hand, I felt a lot of feelings and deliberately opened myself up for some pain/hurt. But there's not a lot I won't do to get a play, scene, or character right. :)
Recall to mind the curls for Beatrice.
And then on the other glorious hand, it was marvelous to see what happened to her as the conversation got going. At first she seemed pleasing and deflective - like she really didn't want to talk about this (and who can blame her?!) But then, as I assured her that this was important to the play, she eased into it. My goal was to guide her into telling me what she wished she could have told me two summers ago.
I believe that although we are all told NOT to judge, we do it anyway. We can't really help it. I have had moments where I thought, "ugh, if they would just ask ME, I could fix it/them." (Please note the telling of the dream two posts down. It's a perfect example of how deep down I think a lot of people are dumber than me. Which is funny and sad considering how much work I still have to do on myself!)
I asked Shematite to let this judgement out. I wanted to see how it would change her body language, energy, speech and facial expressions. Because this sort of "I know best" is exactly what I wanted Milly to have with Adam. Many husbands and wives believe they know better than their spouses. Wildman pointed it out to me as "not playing our true roles." Instead of being Adams wife, for instance, Milly is being his mother. A marriage can't work like that - or at least it shouldn't.
So, in this light, I gave Shematite permission to judge me. She had the go ahead to - out loud - tell me how wrong I was and in what ways I was.
It's possible that she should consider a career in Family therapy. She is a very calm and easy teacher. I learned that when she knows what she's talking about, and when she BELIEVES what she's talking about . . . well, suffice to say: it was a whole different person sitting there. The self-assurity she possessed was downright powerful. Her energy was solid and THERE and totally pulled me in. She was sitting, I was standing but her body language clearly said that SHE was the adult. It was awesome!
And the next night was doubly cool, because when she did her scene with Adam . . . yikes. It was like a different girl. It was pretty close to perfect. It looked like Adam was a child throwing a tantrum and Milly, the totally in control parent, was just looking down on him like "What are you saying, you weirdy?" Which is quite a feat considering the Adam is nearly two feet taller than she is! It's going to be a beautiful scene because it reads so TRUE to what some marriages go through!!!
I'm proud of this experience for two reasons.
1) Shematite not only went for it, but then she applied it. That takes guts and brains. She's the whole package and I have new found respect for her.
2) I didn't wig out.
When I was driving home, my personal self and my professional self were arguing. "She only said what you told her to say." "She was mean."
But when it came down to it, there were two thoughts that ruled the others: "Was she wrong?" and "Please process."
Shematite's trust in me was the plea to process calmly and professionally. If I opened her up to that and then turned on her, I would totally suck. Her trust was the salve that eased the swelling on my pride.
I'm so sorry for my behavior two summers ago. I hope and believe that I have changed. Maybe not everything. Maybe not enough, but some. I have changed some. I hold onto that hope with both hands. I'm not a perfect mother. I'm not a perfect director. I'm not a perfect aunt or wife or daughter or teacher or student or actress or dancer or singer or piano player or writer.
But I do better; I process. And that is what matters.


Desertbound said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

WildBound said...

Wow. Now I must go and process this new paradigm. And wow, to you, who can allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to teach/encourage/strengthen. That takes guts and skill and the ability to process. You go girl.

Shematite said...

Thank you! Thank you so much for this experience. I didn't get to ask you what you thought of that scene after our talk, so I'm glad it worked so well!

Fedaykin said...

Huzzah for meta-cognition!

CowboyBob said...

Isn't drama the surrogate learning lab for life? I wish I could write my occassionaly insights as well as you. I am more interested than ever in seeing the play. Thanks for sharing.

Kassidy said...

Please tell this to my theatre teacher!