I’m not quite sure where to start today. This is my first post on WordPress so perhaps I’ll just dive right in, yeah? What I’m to write about feels selfish. Like, who gives a shit really? There are kids out there with nowhere to sleep. Animals and people suffering horrendous abuse. Horrors and atrocities that defy description. Yet here I am with my little bit of me, about to express the crap out of something that has horrified, humbled and humiliated me. And worst of all, I did it to myself.
I can’t control what happens out in the world. I can only control what happens in me and that’s why I give a shit. If I didn’t, I understand that I wouldn’t feel this way.
(Thanks, that doesn’t help)
If I sound angry, I am. I’m angry and disappointed. You have expectations, right? Unspoken ones. You set them for yourself unconsciously and there’s no question that you can meet those expectations. It’s a done deal. There’s no planning for an alternative. But when you fall far, far short of those ideals, landing on your back awkwardly, looking up at life as it swirls and carries on without you, you feel confused, out of control, hurt, indignant…wounded.
(Did I need to be brought down a peg or two?)
I drove down to the Delaware Theatre Association Festival on Saturday, about an hour and a half journey a little tired from the same drive the previous evening for a Tech-in of props, lights, sound etc. I wasn’t feeling too bad though. I listened to the song I always listen to. Like a prize fighter before a fight…getting myself pumped up – Genesis “Turn it on again” Live.l This song has become the absolute necessity before a show.
I ran my lines. They came out just fine.
Everything was fine. Until my cast mate and I got to the dressing room and decided to run lines…again. Here is where the catalyst for catastrophe began. Maybe it’s my old brain, I don’t know, but going over the same ground felt like being on autopilot. You know the road so well, you forget that you’ve just driven the last three miles, gone through two traffic lights and one stop sign.
Just like that, just before going onstage, the lines began to feel wispy, out of reach…just a little.
I was aware of it and should’ve followed my instincts and told my cast mate that it wasn’t necessary to continue with the lines but I didn’t.
(shoulda, coulda, woulda)
A good friend reminded me on Saturday night after the disaster that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You see, the director mentioned trying to find a way to remove a certain prop from the table onstage. I knew when I could do it and said that I would. No big deal, right? Turns out…HUGE DEAL…that was mistake no. 2…planting a suggestion into my already fertile mind that was ripe with so many words.
To be clear, I do not blame anybody…except myself.
Ok. So, there I am. In the wings. Props? Check. Costume? Check. Nerves? Check. My stomach is churning, I’m grinning, I’m telling myself that I got this. Once I get my first few lines out, I know I’m good to go. Lights up….and off I went.
My opening monologue is very long and it’s as familiar as the tattoo on my wrist. But one minute in, I grab the prop (a large can of tomatoes, btw) and suddenly, I am somewhere else in the script…without even realizing what I’ve just done.
(That’s the mentally scary part)
Something kicked off inside though…silent alarms rang. There was a strange sort of splitting in two at that point. One part of my brain desperately threw out whatever came to mind while the other part searched frantically for the script….crazy hair, sweaty, glasses, hyperventilating me…until she just stopped, looked up and threw the script into the air with a horrified expression. Papers fluttered to the floor of my brain.
And, oh my god, it felt like a fucking eternity. Excuse my language. But, it really, really did. The lights were bright, the silence that yawned between my cast mate and me was made more humiliating only by its existence. I kept brushing my hair, my hands were shaking and what I really wanted to do was disappear, to say “It’s all ruined and I have to go.” I even visualized myself walking off stage.
(I would never work in this town again)
Somehow, I managed to pull it together, mumbled something inaudible and grabbed the purse prop, fumbled to open it and decided to find some point in the script to jump to and from. I dropped the ribbon that came out of the purse and believed that the audience could see my entire body shaking as I bent to retrieve it.
After that, the two of us managed to put the play back together, but it was like a precious china plate that had shattered and even though the glue was holding its myriad of pieces in place, one touch and the whole thing would fall apart again. And, when you looked closely, you could see the tiny shards that were missing, fallen into the carpet to be vacuumed up later.
I tried vainly to keep my character but she died on that stage. For the remainder of the play (which had now been cut short by at least twelve minutes) I was doing my best to say my lines in the way I knew how, as the mean mother. I questioned everything. Did I just say the right thing? Is this the line? Is this the line in the right place? The sweaty/glasses/hyperventilating part of me that had now calmed down a bit was on a mission to find out just what the hell had gone wrong, so she was no help at all.
We concluded the play. I was embarrassed at my performance (or lack thereof) and horrified that I had put my young friend through such an ordeal. Poor thing, I knew she was freaking out opposite me but there was nothing I could do. I short-circuited…thwarted by a stupid can of tomatoes.
So. Big sigh.
I’ve been selfish this weekend. Licking my wounds. Hammering out my dented pride. Stunned at my sudden fall from high expectations. Weeping at the loss of …. something. I’m not sure what. This is the first time it has ever happened to me and the cause wasn’t fright, it wasn’t nerves, it was doing something different, just one small thing. I couldn’t bear to think about any of it really, until now. It was raw and thinking of it made me feel sick to my stomach.
But, beating myself up hasn’t helped either. In fact, it made me feel worse. Anecdotes and tales from fellow actor friends didn’t really help either…although I am grateful for kind words in the face of something I *smacks chest* feel was just absolutely awful. Spending time with my family, especially my husband who comforted me, then made fun of me, making me laugh, helped. Getting out into nature in the cold and wind, even for a brief time, helped.
My sails were knocked down but I’m going to hoist them back up again, damn it. I’m strong. And even though I’ve doubted my ability these past 36 hours, I know that I am good at what I love to do. I will not cave into that side of me that wants to hide away. I messed up. Shit happens. I’ll chase down this particular demon and beat him down just like others that have tried to usurp me.
Wow…I felt like this when I opened up my page…
…and now I feel like Artemis, the Greek warrior. I got my bow, I got my arrows, I got my little Patronus charm …
I am bigger and better than one stumble.
And if this is a test, I have learned enough, grown enough and overcome enough to pass it.
So fucking suck it. Again, pardon my language but a little force it necessary at a time like this.