My life—er, the play—is over.
Truth is, I was feeling overly dramatic about it ending and all, but now I’m moving on. I weed the beans and thin the beets—the dirt and sweat help me straighten things out in my head.
Seriously, though, this play was the biggest project I’ve undertaken in years. A friend pointed out that she has never, in the eight-plus years that she’s known me, ever seen me involved in an out-of-the-home project to this extent. I do things here and there, sure. I get really busy for a week or two, yes. But seven weeks in a row, four or five hours most every night? Never.
(Koala Spotting Alert!)
It was so worth it. But when you sink that much time into something and then it’s over, there’s bound to be bounceback.
“I wish I was more stable,” I told my husband the other night.
Emotional Instability Example Number One: I was so grateful to be a part of the play, to get a chance to try acting, and I had a lovely time doing it, but then the play ended and I found myself thinking all the-glass-is-half-empty thoughts, such as, I’ll never have another chance to act again, wah!
Emotional Instability Example Number Two: Someone tells me they liked such and such a scene and I feel great about it. But then I don’t get any compliments for a couple days and I start to think thoughts such as the following: My acting was pathetic, or Everyone could clearly see that I was 15 years older than my character and it totally ruined the play for them, or They only said nice things because they were being polite—WHAT CHOICE DID THEY HAVE, or The director just let me be in the play out of the goodness of her sainted heart. And on and on and on until I’m in the fetal position in the bottom of the pit I’ve just wormed my way down into. But then someone says, No seriously! So and so said you rocked! and I shoot up to the top of Mount Everest and do a little jig, trip on my feet, and slip back down to the bottom all over again. It’s miserable.
Emotional stability is not my forte.
But then another friend told me that her college roommate would curl up in bed and cry for a couple days after finishing a play, and I breathed a little easier. And then one of the other actors admitted she was feeling down about the play being over, and I started to think, Maybe I’m not the only one, after all?
Of course I’m not. I know better than to be that self-involved. But see, acting is new, and I get this way with every new thing I do (especially when it’s public), more or less. The bouncing gets less vigorous the longer I do it. Take, for example, parenting. I’m much more confident as a parent than I was 12 years ago when my son emerged through the sunroof. My confidence in my parenting skills and abilities still spikes and plummets on a regular basis, but overall, it’s on the rise. The same is true with writing and cooking. When it comes to acting, though, I have no footing whatsoever.
Not that all that really matters. Because we’re supposed to do what we enjoy because we enjoy it, period. Here’s a fun TED talk on creativity and skateboarding that provided me with some needed perspective.
I promised I’d give you some of the inside scoop, so here you go:
*The guns didn’t always go off. Once all the bullets (blanks) fell out of the pistol. Needless to say, death is kind of anti-climatic when there’s no BANG. Conversely, when the guns did go off, Reuben and I, who were sitting on our little off-the-bedroom balcony/exit stairs waiting for our scene, would quietly cheer.
*Once a sack got slammed down and instead of just making a loud, satisfying thunk like it was supposed to, it split open and all the chopped-up apples from the apple schnitzing scene (that were being used as filler for the sack) exploded all over the “porch”…
*…and when one of the actors came running on stage to tackle another actor, he stepped on an apple and went skidding across. He still made the tackle and successfully completed the scene.
*Once when I was arguing with Reuben, I backed all the way up to the dresser and then, when I started to stomp off across the stage, my apron loop hooked itself onto the dresser knob and the drawer started to come along with me. I stopped short, quickly unhooked myself, and kept going, while Reuben calmly shut the drawer behind me. The funny thing, though, was my line. As I started to walk off, hooked to the drawer, I was saying, “This wasn’t supposed to happen!” Indeed!
*When Reuben and I were practicing, I got stuck on one of my lines: “…and if the conscription men come, I’ll hide you in the—” and then, instead of “springhouse,” the word “greenhouse” popped into mind. Which was no big deal, except the next time I was on stage, I came to that line and couldn’t remember which it was. …”And if the conscription men come, I’ll hide you in the—” (oh crap, what is it? Springhouse? Greenhouse? Springhouse? Greenhouse?) “—I’ll hide you in the springhouse!” Whew.
*I jumped lines and garbled things at different points, but never once did I blank. That is, not until I got to the very last line, nay, the very last word of the very last play. Then I blanked completely. My last line, “We’ll make it through, Mama,” is followed by me starting the theme song, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand.” Simple, right? You’d think! I started singing, no problem, but then I got to “stand” and all I could think of was “sail,” which does make sense, now that I come to think of it, since I’m standing on the banks of water and all, but I didn’t notice any of that then. All I noticed was that my mouth was hanging open and no sound was coming out of it. I tried to think of all the “s” verbs, which, in my panicked state, boiled down to two—sit, sail, sit, sail—while trying not to look like a deer in headlights. It only took a couple seconds (please, please say it wasn’t longer than that!) before my “mother” joined in and I was like STAND, duh, it’s STAND and then the play was over. My “mother” said she thought I was just choking up and that everyone else probably thought the same thing. I’m not convinced.
We struck the set after Sunday’s show.
I made my husband come and help because wood and tools is what he does. We stayed till nearly ten and the job still wasn’t done. And that was with lots of people helping. It was a complicated set, plus, they were taking down the stage, too.
I wasn’t all that helpful, really. I mostly wandered around and picked screws off the floor, labeled boards (because we’re Mennonite and can’t throw anything away, much to my husband’s dismay), and hauled boards.
About halfway through, I started to fade. My husband took one look at me and bought a Pepsi. I chugged it, revived, started twitching, and then got to work.
I even did an impromptu dance solo.
Afterwards, I asked my husband what he thought about the whole operation. “It’s fascinating,” he said.
I’m glad he thought so, because it’s exactly how I’ve been feeling for the last, oh, seven weeks.
The one problem with acting in this play? I now have high expectations for how a play should be executed. All stage managers must wear stop watches around their neck, all light directors must be so dedicated that they pull all nighters to get things Just So, all directors must be like god—giving you just what you need when you need it—all musical directors have to say things like “you went off a half step in the second measure,” all costume designers have to keep a three-ring binder full of handwritten notes on historical details, all the actors have to be a variety of ages, and the play has to be meaningful—no fluff allowed.
And that’s all I have to say about that.
P.S. I took most, but not all of these pictures. I can not give photo credits, however, because I handed out my camera. So anyway, just saying. (And thanks to you people who took the pictures!)
This same time, years previous: orange-cranberry scones
the domestic fringe
I really enjoyed this – seeing the photos and the "behind the scenes" type of stuff. I can understand why you're experiencing such a big let down now that it's over. It was a really big thing, so naturally it will take time to readjust to "normal" life.
I think it's really fantastic that you stepped outside of your comfort zone and did something new, and as a bonus, you did it extremely well. You're an inspiration to us.