Monday, December 1, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Winter

What a day! I woke to find the first, magical snowfall of the season. No one had started blowing out their driveways yet, so the quiet white took center stage. Michigan Avenue is breathtaking with the trees lightly dusted. Ice storms are pretty amazing, too. The branches bend within inches of the road, and the sun bounces off the ice in all directions, creating sparkling prisms. The first colors in spring and the last in fall make me happy that I live in Wisconsin.
I just had to pull over this morning and take this picture. Two people stopped to see if I was having car problems. Must be "that happy yuletide spirit in the air."

**********Reading? Not much time for that now that "A Taffeta Christmas" is upon us. I decided to start reading books/authors I have missed , but feel I should know about. Anne of Green Gables took most of last week. What a wonderful, weepy story. I'm not sure if I will read the rest of the series. This weekend I spent some time reading a couple Rudyard Kipling short stories. Loved them! Kipling was 100% new to me, and I had no idea how rich and clever his work is. I will read more ASAP. Flaubert is also on my short list, as is a second try at Murakami. However, something tells me that after the show, I may simply settle in with a nice, winter mystery!
**********Dress rehearsal tonight. Full dress/make-up/tech tomorrow with an invited audience. Dark on Wednesday. Showtime Thursday-Sunday. Everyone is ready and anxiously awaiting the reaction from a audience. Yesterday, one of my neighbors sat in on rehearsal for a while. Afterwards, she commented on the quality people I spend my time with, but also remarked that this must be an awful lot of work. Well, she's right. But when you think about some people golf, some people play bridge. My friends and I play make-believe.
A few years ago, Emily Trask, friend and current grad student at the Yale School of Drama (I enjoy saying that!) wrote a telling essay about the relationship between audience and actor. Here it is.
Exit Lines
by Emily M. Trask
The rows are empty now, the theatre dark. Walking the isles, the seats loom lonely for the moment and call out to me, one by one, for a body to embrace. Their velvet is crushed and softly worn on their backs and bottoms from the shifting weight caused by laughter and tears , and the impatient smoker squirming until intermission. I assure them not to worry, and without looking back, am on my way. It echoes, the space that my shoes click through, and ricochets off the dreams and hopes of young, bright-eyed performers like me. Leaving the hollow, quiet walls, I disappear behind the curtain.
Eventually you file in. Peering in pocket mirrors and toying with candy wrappers, not knowing me, I unknowing of you. Your whispers roll through the house like grey waves just before the storm breaks, and I feel it. Costumed, warmed, and lines memorized, I pace - breathe in the dark backstage air that always seems thickest before my cue, and I feel my stomach spin, loop, and fall. The "Fifteen Minute" call seals my fate, and slowly I step into my character, feet first like footed pajamas, zipping up her sides, settling in. Then I walk around a while, getting comfortable in another's skin - smiling how she would, feeling how she might. A feat so marvelously beautiful that, with your permission, I see the world through the tint of another's spectacles, achieved in its greatest effort now, even if only for a few hours. You see, in five minutes, she and I will step out in the puddle of light that spills on the stage and laps over the edge, illuminating the first few rows of faces and fading slowly past the third. And for just an instant I will hover there. In that moment we will meet, we three, and you will know, and we shall become a trio for a time in a dance of exits and entrances, ups and down - a theatrical waltz of audience, persona, and actor. Thebans and Thespians.
That is where I live, those hours where we have the opportunity to surrender, this moment of suspension, in taking you away, being taken away. Knowing something other than the now and ourselves, we meet the fertile ground of believing disbelief. We are all equal makers of this magic and share common roles. I know no other way than that, and never have hoped for different. So, I offer it all up for something I believe in. I give you these hours of rehearsals, the scratching memorization, the sighs of self doubt, the tears of passion and need, the memories of nights long gone, glimmer of curtain calls taken, characters misinterpreted, pauses held too long, the realization that in order to fly, you sometime must fall, the dreams of things to come, the fear that they won't, the hope, the character, the story that is you and me.
There now. I have laid it all on the line, willingly, readily, to be taken or declined. I wrap myself tightly in your hand with the program you roll and unroll in anticipation, and I ask you to step with me into the light here on stage where I almost understand, and split with self-exposure as someone else

And then, when it is all over, I go home, just like you do, run a warm bath, like you might, peel the fake lashes from my lids, wash the make-up from my face, the smoke from my hair, and forget the lines momentarily until tomorrow's dusting. And about that time, I pass the steamy streaked mirror and pause. Wiping the glass with the back of my hand, I make out the lips and the eyes and the ears of a rather plain girl. No Maggie the Cat or Lady Macbeth or Sally Bowles, just me. Yet, as I breathe in the heavy heated bathroom air, it spreads differently through my insides, like warm fingers reaching to something new. Stepped from and unzipped, I realize the world is still tinted a slightly different tinge that when this night began. "Her" shading lingers there behind my eyes, and I see the world, myself, revised after having viewed it from the stage.

Admittedly, I am proud of what it echoes here in this moment of suspension, under too strong bathroom lights where facades are known to melt. Not for the applause that will ring and fade, nor for the smiles or for the handshake, but for the twilight where we lived for a, me, and the story in one shared breath. I am changed and better for it. We are different for having know this and knowing each other in the vaguely intimate way. The fact that you felt, and I might have made you feel, coats my interior even when this hot breathe is exhaled and fogs the mirror of me again. Yet this time I don't bother to wipe the perspiration from the glass. The only reflection which needs seeing in not that of a plain, selectively shy, red-headed girl, but this reflection on and retention of knowing something other than myself, and therefore myself so truly through our collaborative suspension of disbelief.
We each have out own opening nights in life. Some occur every day, others on a grander scale. Time when we open our arms to what lies just beyond where we can see into the darkness of the auditorium, and we wait for our partner, our audience to file in and decide whether to dance or to deny. All we can do, standing isolated in the pool of light, is offer up our all in the chosen form, not knowing exactly why or where it's going, and leave the story behind in the form of our laughter and tears, there on the boards. This I do readily, in each pursuit, and every morning. It is all I know to do, and my life's philosophy. I open yet another "night" with this hymn of hopes of a somewhat foggy future there with you anticipating reaction, and awaiting the next few steps of the dance that will surly be long remembered after the curtain falls.