Monday, June 25, 2012

Standing In. Being Present.

I have this list. It's a kind of wish list. Things to become. Things to see. Things to do. Things to accomplish. Things to be. It's constantly shifting, growing, adapting. Not all of the things are measurable. Some of them are life-long attempts at being the person I want to be: be a force of positivity; laugh every day; grow in godliness. Some of them are simple: get my driver's license; have tea at the Eckhart House; walk on stilts:

Two of the former sort are at the forefront of my mind this summer:

*Audition whenever the opportunity arises. Enjoy being cast, no matter the role.
*Encourage others and enjoy their success as if it were my own.

(That latter sounds a bit like living vicariously through my friends, but since I've been doing that for ages anyway, might as well call it what it is.)

Summer usually brings with it a musical production. Last year, Cinderella; this year, Bye, Bye, Birdie. Or not. With the cancellation of the summer musical came the realization that it might be months before another performance opportunity came along. Oglebay Institute's Parcel Players is intended for high school and college-aged performers. Brooke Hills is much too far away. There I was, at an impasse of sorts, until Tim Thompson encouraged me to chat with the three Parcel Players directors and offer myself as a performer/stage manager/assistant/etc. should they have need of me. So I read two audition pieces and found myself (as you may have read here) spending the summer with MB Thompson and William Shakespeare's As You Like It.

Let's get this part over with quickly: I'm "Amiens" - a lord waiting on the banished Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden. I have three scenes and one line, and mostly I follow Duke Senior around like a little puppy dog and listen to Jaques et al. wax poetical.

The first week of rehearsals gave me the opportunity to watch these young actors, many of whom I'd not met before, work through the unfamiliar language and begin to bring it to life. It's a remarkable experience to see growth happen right before your very eyes, bearing witness to the possibilities afforded by the simple spending of time. I cherish these hours. They remind me of how powerful theatre can be - to showcase the strength and versatility and humor and so many more qualities brought to the table by a cast. When the commitment is made to step into a role, there is no turning back. There is only the role and the living in it and in the world of the play.

For the last week and a half, I've gotten to stand in for Rosalind, who was on vacation. The real Rosalind is gorgeous and charming and talented and absolutely perfect for the part. (She returned to rehearsal last night and made her way through Acts I & II as if she'd never been gone.) I loved being Rosalind, not least because she's got these great scenes with Orlando and also memorable lines like "Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love". It was a bit of a reality check to go back to being only Amiens. I say "only" not because Amiens is a minor role (although it is) but because my hours at rehearsal were all taken up with being other people, too.

There was constant shifting of perspectives: from Adam, the elderly servant to young Orlando, to Rosalind, melancholy and mooning over her father's banishment and later over her love for Orlando, to Amiens, cheerful servant to the banished Duke, frolicking about in the forest. Being present in each of those roles presented a unique challenge each night, a challenge I relished as an actor.

From here on in, though, I have the great privilege of watching the real Rosalind live in her character. I get to cheer Oliver on as he pitches his tantrum just a little bit louder each night and wraps his mind around the unfamiliar language and lets it become less and less foreign the more he speaks it. Each rehearsal brings moments of clarity and leaps of growth, drawing the show ever tighter and making the world more real - even as it becomes miles more absurd with every musical number.

Now, I'm practicing being present, both in my role and in myself, living in those realities and enjoying a life that is full, yes, of heightened absurdity but also of light and laughter and love.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We (heart) Shakespeare

Being in a play is rather like finding a new branch of your family. You might know a few of them already. You might have seen others out and about but haven't met them yet. Others you might not have known existed at all.

This summer, I have the extraordinary privilege of adding the Parcel Players cast of William Shakespeare's As You Like It to my family tree. Led by the remarkable MB Thompson, we journey to the Forest of Arden every evening for adventures in language, love and laughter.

Of particular enjoyment has been witnessing the growth of so many young actors from day to day: Maguire as Silvius languishing with passion for reluctant Phebe; Adam as Oliver in a fit of jealous rage plotting his brother's untimely demise, the language finding life as it rolls off his tongue; Lexie discovering her voice as the elderly servant and letting the character take over her body. Every night, some new and exciting breath of inspiration sweeps through rehearsal.

It is an honor to be part of this process, this production, this journey, and I couldn't be more grateful to call these folks family.

In the margin of my script, evidence of a passing moment of rest, Lexie drew a heart:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

My dad is a pretty cool dude. He always has been. I've been told I look just like him. It's true. When we laugh, our eyes squint shut.
Fourth of July 2008.
My dad came to Florida every year for four years to help me move apartments while I was in college. Now, he just hires movers to take care of it. (Movers are efficient. My dad likes efficiency.)

Here's what I've learned from my dad (well, some of it . . .)

  • It's important to know how to laugh at yourself. A lifetime of being poked fun at, and I think I've finally learned this . . . maybe.
  • When it rains, it's wet outside. Cows lie down in a field because they're tired. One side of the flying V is longer because there are more birds on that side.
  • Spend time with the family every chance you get.
  • Don't let the bathtub overflow. It's a big mess.
  • Everything I'll ever need is probably in the spare room. Just give him time to find it.
  • I don't really need the cell phone every moment of the day.
  • "I don't feel good" is not a good excuse not to go to work. Go to work anyway.
My dad says nobody ever said he was a nice guy. It's not true. People say it all the time. He's kind and generous and helpful and humble and nice in the most genuine way possible.
At rehearsal dinner for Jena & Adam's wedding. June 11, 2010.
My dad doesn't really do the Internet, but I'm sure Mom will show him this. Right, Mom?

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!