My stomach was beginning to churn the moment I saw the role that was placed before me. An e-mail announcement was distributed by my friend, Julia - who is, courageously, taking the plunge into developing her own, innovative, interpretation of a modern day Vaudeville. Not only is she upholding the responsibilities of script, music, vendor sections, she and her fellow director, Gus, are also tackling the tasks of sound, props, stage managing, fundraising, budgeting, web design and new media marketing. Obviously, her limited time frame allowed her no opportunities to hold auditions so it wasn't surprising when she asked if she could consider me for the shows she has lined up for her inaugural VaudeVillage tour. We've worked together in the past. We trust each other's work. End of story.
Or is it?
Unknown to her, my last stage performance took place 5 years ago which left me in a mixture of nervousness and curiosity waiting to be stirred.
Am I able to execute the art of storytelling by being the character instead of writing the character?
Will the many chapters I have endured block my ability to be emotionally available in front of an audience?
Although it wasn't surprising to be considered, I was surprised to see my newly assigned role in Julia's e-mail staring back at me. It was the role of WOMAN in The List. This role...this role...not only would it be my first time reprising a role, the objective stemming from this role is all about the art of dating... something I also haven't done in over 5 years! But wait, there's more! When I originated this role I was still in my twenties and now I'm in my thirties! This is complicated.
Where do I begin?
What you're about to see is the opening dialogue of the play during the early stages of our rehearsal. I am WOMAN sitting across from MAN and those who are sitting across the room negotiating the compatibility are our Hearts.
IN MY SINGLE HOOD TWENTIES
Watching this, I am inspire to reflect on what it felt like 5 years ago. I was a Bright-eyed Optimist when I was first given this role - always trying to make light out of every moment of awkwardness, trying to be more flirtatious while masking any potential silence with laughter. My outlook on this scene was more along the lines of, "Hey, at least he doesn't come across as a psychopath and he can hold his own in a conversation. Just try to find something in common with MAN, what do you have to lose?" The Optimist found dating to be a mere moment of fun where anything could unfold.
IN MY MARRIED THIRTIES
Being in the "now" is a far cry from where I stood in my twenties as I've realized that I am more of a Truth-Seeking Absolutist these days. Watching this, I see the only objective for WOMAN is try and survive this train wreck of a scene called "a date". The wired mindset of the Absolutist makes dating very scary because the worst thing she can possibly do is waste her time.
IN MY ACTING ELEMENT
Knowing how committed I am to my craft, the investigation must begin.
What does the dialogue say about WOMAN and how can I relate to her?
The lines, projected by WOMAN'S HEART, reveal a lot about her. She knows what she wants, she devotes her free time to serve as an advocate for human rights and she even rescues a German Shepherd puppy! On paper? I agree with her wholeheartedly! However, the approach that she takes on assessing this date is something that I don't find agreeable, at all.
BUT STRONG CHOICES MAKE STRONGER ACTING
The Absolutist's mentality only raises unnerving stakes that makes it hard to digest reality in this scene and beyond. Think about it, it usually takes more than one first date before an individual finds their life mate. This Absolutist considers herself to be a sensitive person. Personally, I hate rejection even though it is plentiful in my field. I can't imagine going through those feelings on a personal level.
- This is a relatable choice, I'm sticking to it.
END OF REHEARSALS
WOMAN'S Heart (Julia, in red), WOMAN (me in a little black dress) and WOMAN'S HORMONE (Vicki dressed free spirited where anything goes.)
Now it's SHOWTIME! Lights up, WOMAN and MAN enter, HEARTS follow. The date is terrible, MAN HORMONE and WOMAN HORMONE hijack the scene a few drinks later, making it a pretentious happy ending for MAN and WOMAN. Black out, end of play, we all take our bows.
I raced out of the dressing room to meet my husband in the audience.
Scene: Husband and I embrace in the audience as the house lights go up.
I have never felt so awkward in my life.
That's what happens when you are on a bad date.
But it's so uncomfortable!
And that was the most realistic performance I've ever seen you do. You didn't try to romanticize the situation, it's supposed to be uncomfortable and that's what made it so funny.
(End of scene)
The next day, I was emptying my makeup/wardrobe bag, from the show, when the copy of the play fell onto my lap.
The List...a title only too perfect to summarize this play and it's obviously inspired by WOMAN'S ambitions to find her mate. From my character's perspective, I understand her need to discuss the following topics that are of great importance to her:
1) The objective behind this first date
2) The option of parenthood and how the children should be raised
4) Animal welfare
But at the end of the day, what's my personal take on all of this?
I don't believe I'll ever view The List as a realistic approach. Sure, I guess it can provide an outline for whether or not one can share long term goals with a significant other, but what it can't do is provide an outline for measuring how well connected the coupling can be. Through my experience with dating and marriage nothing was ever planned. I didn't plan on meeting my husband that night we first made eye contact - I didn't have a list and a steady future that included having a family of my own. The only thing I had to offer, when meeting my husband, was my heart. I am not convinced that this approach is for everybody, nor do I believe that there is a one size fits all when people's emotions are involved. But I will say that in the end, I am grateful for my Twenty-something Bright-eyed Optimist to have acted on her emotions the way that she did. She was the one that established the foundation so that the Thirty-something, Truth-seeking Absolutist could be born to step in and build on something that is greater beyond an evaluation driven by a list. And one of those items includes building and reprising my presence on the stage.
Yes. I am back!
- Lights up, Butterfly enters...