Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Reason We Should Be Doing Theatre.

Frankenstein has been a labor of love for me. It's a show I've thrown myself into with every bit of energy I could, it's a character I felt a deep connection to, and wanted to do justice to. I've paid for it in wear and tear on my vocal chords, and and near-constant aches and pains. It is, with no close competition, the most difficult show I have ever been involved with.

How can I tell? I've never had to take painkillers after a show before, and I hope to never have to again. My body aches, every inch of it. I feel like my arms might snap off. My head pounds with tension and strain. The act of taking off the make-up and costume is like a feat of endurance after the show.

I'll be honest and say that I've had moments where I wondered if it was worth it. Where I found myself fretting over what the reviews might say, how my peers might react to the show. Anger and resentment over not feeling I was being given the time and space I needed for my preparation. I was, and am, giving everything I can and, somewhere in the dark parts of my mind, I wanted to be hailed for it.

What a stupid, stupid way to think. What a useless mindset.

Not only that, but how hypocritical for me, the guy who constantly rails against creating theatre for other theatre people. The incestuous, deadly loop of diminishing returns and irrelevance.

As usual, some higher power always gives us the reminders we need. After our matinee on Sunday, I took my usual forty-five minutes, or so, to get out of costume and make-up, and headed down to the street. Two women were waiting near the doors of the church, and began to talk to me about how they had been in tears over the show. One of them had recently read Mary Shelly's novel, and was moved by my portrayal of the Creature. They just gushed over the show.

I was even friended on Facebook, and saw that similar comments were shared with her friends.

And it made me feel very small a petty.

Those ladies, THEY are our audience, and no matter how I may feel about "mistakes" I have made on stage, or what Mr. Cranky Critic, or whoever, may write about it. Those ladies took money out of their wallet and put it down so they could see a show, and they left moved and fulfilled. Not only that, but they made the effort to tell other people how much they loved it. How much sweeter that victory is, and how much more we should embrace and seek that feedback.

Thank you ladies.

As for my moaning and groaning about how much it hurts, I can only turn to the Boss, who (paraphrasing liberally here) said a performance should be work, and that if he isn't tired, sore and spent when he leaves the stage, it's wrong. An artist should work as hard as a factory worker. If you don't, have you really given all of yourself?

Frankenstein opens for the press tonight, and I am extremely proud of this show, it's cast and it's crew. I am honored to be playing this role, and I will give everything I can to each and every performance. Tickets available here.


  1. I saw a show recently, name, theater- none of the details are relevant. What is, is that I enjoyed it very much. More than I've enjoyed an evening of theater in a long time. Sometime later, I spoke to one of the cast members about the show, offered my complements, and got as a response, a litany of the issues he felt the cast had suffered that night, and promises that the show had gotten a lot better over the run.

    And it occurred to me that I have had this exact same conversation with most of my theater rat friends after _every_ show they've been in. It occurred to me that I have _given_ this response myself.

    And I have _never_ heard this response given to what we sometimes refer to as civilians.

    Mr. or Mrs. Audience Member seeks us out after, and compliments the show, the performances, what have you- and we sound like the speech about appropriate responses to the press from the movie Bull Durham.

    Well, thank you. Thank you so much. It's a terrific show, everyone is just wonderful. It's an honor just to be part of it. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it.

    Well, thank you. Thank you so much. It's every bit as much fun to do as it looks. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it.

    And so on.

    I find this interesting. It seems to me that, rat to rat, we do forget the ultimate point of what we are doing, we worry that the trained actor or the experienced director, or the old friend has spotted every weakness, every problem and is only trying to be nice, or is overlooking the issues our of politeness or something. We forget how what is tritely termed the magic of the theater works.

    WE are not on stage. My buddy, in the show I mentioned what feels now like several years ago, was not on stage. The story was. The illusion of a character, in a story, created by script and actor and director and costumer and set designer, and so on. And that illusion is a lot stronger than we seem to trust.

    And the audience far less concerned with errors or slip ups. The prop slips, the actor drops two pages of dialogue, the cue is blown. The first couple of nights are raw whisky, compared to the smooth aged fine-ness of the last weekend. None of that shit matters, as it turns out.

    The audience comes in, sits, and waits for a story. It doesn't even have to be a GOOD story, or particularly well told or produced. But- as long as most of the wheels stay on the track, as long as everyone is sincere- it all seems to work.

    Plus, as I have told you many a night whilst snuggling, you're terrific on stage. Even when you've been in crap. I know- I have been in that crap with you.

  2. And I love how Blogger wants you to enter a code to prove that you are not a robot. Because Blogger? I AM A ROBOT.

  3. Ah, our days of glorious...I TELL YOU, GLORIOUS!!!!...Robot crap.