Life over the last two months became nothing but The Play, going to Beau Monde Beauty College for my daily hair-do with Sarah & Sandy for the show, and cleaning my house for the weekly guests who flocked in from Washington and California to see it. With the sheets, bobby pins, and mp3 player (laden with my recorded lines) flying in all directions at any given moment of a day, it was easy to lose track of time and hard to get everything done in life (dishes, groceries, friendships, letters home, etc.). Sometimes it was even hard to remember that this was a learning process and not just a difficult job.
The big surprise gift I found within myself throughout the run of the show? I somehow managed to find time every day to stop and reflect on the question: What have I learned today?
More surprising was when the inner critic groused "Probably learned nuttin'!" another, fuller voice rose up with an impressive list.
...I could learn all my lines perfectly, and still do them wrong in performance without meaning to.
...I could do the play four days in a row, and how tiring and also satisfying that was.
...that finger waves are pretty, that I look a lot like my grandmothers, and I actually enjoy those big old dome hair dryers. They are so WARM! Yum!
...that I could do it when I was exhausted and I didn't wanna.
...how hard it can become to listen to one's fellow actor when you've heard it all before.
...how to listen anyway and find, to my great joy, that there was something I'd never heard before. The gift of it was being able to respond just a bit more deeply from the heart of the character, and so give back to my partner.
...it's fun to dish at the beauty parlor!
...my skin does not respond well to makeup. My face was inflamed after two shows in a row, my eyes sore and red. My face actually swelled and ached on Mondays. The hair and face products left a metal taste in my mouth that is still there. This made me finally go talk to a skin care person and ask about the simplest lotion and make up remover (since even my regular stuff suddenly caused reactions) and I learned that jojoba oil is the the thing! It's the simplest product and is most like one's natural skin oil, and it's healing my face! It cleans off makeup perfectly and moisturizes! It's just as great as Claire in "Proof" said it was! (I learned that in my audition).
...I like cabbage.
...if I have too much hairspray on I can't sleep from the smell of it.
...I had to recite my lines daily to keep them solid.
...I couldn't sleep on Saturday nights between the evening show and the matinee because I was too wound up and anxious about getting enough sleep for the matinee. Sigh.
...the presence of my husband in the audience made me more nervous than anyone else.
...guest artists will teach you more than you can ever imagine.
...that a 30 minute savasana would shut down my nervous system when I was super nervous and I'd get up refreshed and ready to go.
...I will eat a plateful of pickles if left backstage alone with them.
...that the days I had the lowest energy were the days I could focus best on stage.
...warm ups work like a charm!
...a play is like a piece of complex music with many layers, themes, connections, motifs, and ideas waiting to be discovered, and that there can always be growth and improvement in the performance of it.
...when Connor was present I found myself suddenly going over the top and doing a lot of extraneous and stupid face acting because I was so nervous about "doing it just right" when he was there. Wish I could take *that* night back!
...how many lovely people there are in my life to work with and who came to see me. I am endlessly grateful.
...how to ground myself back into the play when I was tweaking about knowing people in the audience. I had to forget about the audience and go back to the world of the play or I would have derailed. It took a while to do this sometimes, but I figured it out! Phew!
...that the ensemble extends well beyond the actors. Everyone worked so hard to make a great show, and I was proud to work with such dedicated crew, designers and director.
...how friggin awesome it is to rip down the world you played in for 4 weeks! Striking kicked my butt so hard after the weekend of shows that I could barely move on Monday, but I wouldn't take back the satisfaction of working with the cast and crew, and my incredibly strong monster husband and dear friend John to rip down that world and see that simple blank slate again. That beautiful empty stage sitting there, an open mind, ready for the next ideas, the next players, the next show!
...best of all, I learned that I am still learning!