another story from yesterday starts with a moment that wasnt mine, but affected me very strongly. paul has a line in the show where he says "more and more frequently ive begun to see my fathers hands at the ends of my arms" which is a beautiful line, and it launches into a beautiful thought process about his character's father. today, when he said the line and looked down at his hands, some strong emotion came rushing up at him. he stopped and said 'whoa, sorry. i just had a moment with my own fathers hands.' and he had to take a minute to collect himself. then he started to laugh and we all said, no need to apologize. and as he recovered, virginia (the director) said 'that's great, really. as actors we are supposed to feel these things and then learn how to harness those feelings when playing those parts that call for them. its good you had that moment. each of the rest of us has had a moment with this show already' (which is true--myself, anne and virginia have all had to wipe our eyes at different points this week) 'so it was your turn.' it was pretty beautiful, actually.
it reminded me of a time in my junior year of high school when i was playing a character named eleanor (my only main role) in a play called 'the haunting of hill house' which is based on the shirley jackson novel of the same name. its a very creepy story and most of the creepy stuff happens to eleanor. there is a moment in the play when she alone is being haunted by the house and hears a baby crying. she knows there is no baby but the sound makes her upset to the point of frantic. in rehearsal one day, when we didnt have the sound cue, i used my imagination to conjure up this sound and pictured one of the kids i babysat for in acute distress. the emotion of 'hearing' this was so upsetting that i actually started to freak out a bit. when i opened my eyes everyone was looking at me very worriedly and i felt really exposed and a little bit unbalanced. id tapped into something no one was ready for, least of all me. i had a hard time being present for much of the rest of rehearsal that day, and never went anywhere near the same place emotionally during that show again.
which was a real pity. such a lost opportunity to actually explore the depth of emotion that i could use some level of in performance to make it feel very real for the audience. instead, i was so scared of falling all the way down into that place, that i refused to even look over the edge of the well again. i phoned in my performance from that day on, and im sure it affected the quality of the show. i was good at sounding and maybe even looking scared and creepy and weird, but i didnt let myself feel any of it. which, in a 100 seat black box theatre, is pretty important, cuz everyone is close enough to tell. the feeling that passes between the actors and the audience in a space that intimate is just that. intimate. and the idea of feeling really emotionally vulnerable in a space that small with so many people so close to you was incredibly intimidating. (also, my junior year was one where i felt really insecure socially and therefore emotionally, already. and the person i was in love with who was dating one of my friends was in that show with me.) it was not a situation where i was going to feel safe enough to freak out in front of all of my peers.
and besides, the director wanted the baby cry sound cue to actually exist. it would have been ten times creepier if no one in the room could hear it except me, instead of everyone hearing it and those with me on stage having to pretend like they couldnt. tho really, it was prolly better to play it safe and not let my imagination run away with me. who knows if i would have been able to handle doing that night after night while not jeopardizing my emotional stability. which is prolly why the director made the sound decision she did.
the point being, i never have figured out how to access emotion for a role and then learned how to utilize it in performance without it feeling really scary and bordering on unsafe to try. maybe it would require being in therapy while being in a show so that the hard self work could happen outside of rehearsal. cuz tho i truly believe learning to act is learning how to be a better human being, working on your issues is not working on your character, and therapy and rehearsal are not the same thing. and accessing that emotion and using it are also not the same thing. one is a tool for therapy, the other is a tool for acting. not all people who call themselves actors believe this, god help them. and those that do have their work cut out for them too. its not easy. and i love my actors in this show and all of my actor friends for their courage to work thru the difficulty and bring their truest selves to their performances. i strive to be as good at being a human being as they are.