Friday, June 25, 2010

Theatre Makes You Forget

How is it that the act of doing a play can make your mind put aside everything else in your life for those few precious hours? It's truly a beautiful thing. I'm not sure how it happens, adrenaline maybe, or the need to focus on what's on the stage or perhaps a combination of the two. But it is an amazing talent the mind has for putting everything else in some closet in your brain that gets shut and locked until you're finished.

This week has been a whirlwind of theater. Twelfth Night opened last Friday and it is truly a magical production. The set and the costumes are beautiful and the actors are incredible. Friends Like These opened last night at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I had to hand it over to another stage manager for tonight and tomorrow night as I am committed to Twelfth Night for those two performances. I don't have children, but I think I now a bit of what it must be like to leave your kid with a babysitter for the first time. I had to really resist the urge to call and check on them. It's not an easy show to run and so as I watched Twelfth Night tonight my mind kept going back to the booth of Friends Like These and hoping they were doing alright.

I go back to FLT tomorrow afternoon and then leave them again for the final Hollywood Fringe Production. Super Sidekick is in full rehearsal mode. It's the coming of age tale of a superhero's sidekick, complete with evil ninja koalas. Super Sidekick is a children's musical written by Gregory Crafts, also the writer of Friends Like These. And so this week I feel a bit like a bowling ball being sent down a lane that has the rubber gutter guards for kids, I bounce from place to place, cast to cast, booth to booth and script to script. I actually caught myself telling myself out loud as I walked to get dinner that I needed to remember to breathe. Then I started to laugh because if I'm unconsciously speaking out loud to myself, it must be something important that my brain needs to tell me. And so I followed the directions given to me by my subconscious. I took a few moments to breathe and remind myself how incredibly blessed and lucky I am to be traveling down this incredibly insane yet fulfilling alley and how thankful I am that I have the rubber bouncers covering the gutters so I don't fall off.

After the show, as I cleaned up, locked up and left, life outside of the theatre came flooding back to me. The to-do lists, the conversation with my grandparents that reminded me that I really do need to get to Indianapolis soon -- a thing I've been promising for two years and it still hasn't happened. The fear that if I don't get there this fall I may regret not taking the time for the trip. The wish that I could fix everything and make a friend completely better, the sadness at the realization and acceptance that I can't. The tiredness and desire to crawl into my bed and sleep for hours and the guilt that my once aloof kitten now follows me everywhere because I'm clearly not home enough and she misses me.

All of these things along with the good thoughts, an old friend is coming to LA this weekend and we get to have breakfast on Sunday, a short term tutoring job that will help me get to NYC for the fringe festival in August, how lucky I am to have amazing friends and to be doing things I love, all of these thoughts came rushing into my head as I left the theatre tonight. I know the spell of the theatre can't last forever, but it definitely is a nice reprieve from normal life. Apart from a four hour version of Hamlet I can't figure out how to get that spell to last longer than it does and I suppose that's a good thing because the longer you stay in that world the harder it is to come back.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coming Home

Tonight in the midst of Twelfth Night and all the other projects, I found myself going to Friends Like These rehearsal. As I sat in an office on the upper floor of a building just down the street from the Kodak theatre in Hollywood I had this overwhelming sensation that I was home. Not home as in that office, I've never been there before, home as in this play, this project, Friends Like These, it is comfortable yet never boring, cozy and intimate yet exciting and challenging all at the same time and I absolutely love it.

Sitting there watching this cast, a mix of original cast members and new ones, rehearse for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, it just felt right. This was were I was supposed to be. All of the stress, and the to do lists of the other projects fell away because I was home. One of the things I love about actually going "home" (I put it in quotes because I do truly consider Los Angeles to be my home, but the phrase "going home" refers to me actually leaving Los Angeles and going to Kansas City where my mom and stepdad live), one of things I love about "going home" is that everything else disappears, you can focus on the good things, relax, have fun and you know that nothing bad or horrible is going to happen while you are there. That's how this play makes me feel.

If you know Friends Like These you may think that's an odd thing to say about a play that deals with the events leading up to a school shooting (if you haven't seen the play, don't worry I didn't give anything away, we tell you that in the first 15 seconds of the show). While it may be an odd thing to say, it's the truth, with this show I am home. Everything else disappears for a while and I can just be there and enjoy it.

I realized tonight I've been actually working on this show for 11 months now. 11 months ago the two directors, Vance and Sean and I put together the casting notices and by the middle of July 2009 we had our first cast. By the time we go to New York Fringe in August, three of our original cast members, Ryan, Sarah and Alex will have been living with the characters of Brian, Nicole and Jesse for over a year.

It's a show I could quite possible run in my sleep, I know every song that plays, have many lines memorized and know the timing for all of the light cues by heart. It's also a show I don't get tired of watching. By my count, including rehearsals I've probably seen it in its entirety close to 50 times! I should be tired of it, I should be bringing a book to read in between cues, I should not be sitting captivated by the words and actions on the stage and yet every night I am. Even in rehearsal I have to remind myself to stay focused on the script as our new additions Matt and Jen are still needing some line help every once in a while, I find I am way to tied up in what is happening in front of me to turn the pages in my script and follow along. I want to know what happens, how it all works out.

The fact that I'm still, even after 50 runs, captivated by this play is a testament to the voices that Greg Crafts, the writer gave these characters and to the actors who lend their expressions, interpretations and actions to those words. This cast is a very different cast from the original cast, different in a good way though. The words and the actions are coming alive in slightly different versions and I love seeing the subtle differences and changes. And yet despite those differences I still find myself settling into a rehearsal knowing I'm home and even though I was only there in that world for three hours tonight, it was a time to be comfortable, let everything else go, relax, and enjoy being "home."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Meltdown

I know, I's been over 2 months since I've sat down to write a real post. So many things happening. It's been hard to find a few quiet moments to sit down and actually reflect and write. So to catch you up here's the summary. The Unserious Chekhov opened and closed. It was a great cast and I can say I learned a lot from that run and truly enjoyed working with all of them. Just as Chekhov closed I jumped into Twelfth Night rehearsals, found out that Friends Like These was accepted to the New York City Fringe Festival, agreed to stage manage a sketch show titled Patriotism Unleashed and a kid's musical, Super Sidekick. If you're counting that means that between now and the end of the summer I am involved in four major productions, five if you count Friends Like These Hollywood Fringe at the end of the month. And I didn't mention Boarding The Mothership, our 24 hour theatre event next Saturday or the Beer Pong fundraiser I'm organizing for July. I am one busy girl. Too busy honestly.

A friend asked me last night why I do this. I could give the "cop out" answers -- "Because I like to" or "Because I can't say no" Okay, well that last one is partially true, but the real answer, why I take on five shows at once, why I don't mind doing everything I do, the answer is that I do it because what I do in some small way gives my friends a chance to do what makes them happy. That's why I do what I do. That's what makes my job worth it, what pushes me to be better.

Don't be fooled, I'm in no way perfect, I have my moments. One came tonight, moments when I do question it all, what I'm doing. For me, these moments come during the most inconvenient times, usually during Tech week. Tonight at 10:36pm I found myself sitting in my car, realizing that the last time I had eaten was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made myself about 10 hours earlier. Then all the things I still needed to do, not just for Twelfth Night, but for all the other ones popped into my head inevitably the feelings of doubt and frustration quickly charge in after the to do list. My brain fought with itself, one side saying it's too much, you can't do it all, the other side pushing me forward, forcing me to find solutions. The two sides took a short timeout as I sat in my pulled over car and let the tears fall from my face, then the laughter set in and the fight in my head resumed, this time the doubting side gets quickly defeated by images of tonight's rehearsal, this cast, the set, the costumes, the other two casts I worked with today and the one I can't wait to get to know and then the conversation from last night came back to me, why do I do what I do. It's not because I enjoy the occasional meltdown in my car, it's because I am incredibly privileged and honored to know incredibly talented people and I get to help them create a world where they can truly shine and be happy.

So as I sat there and the tears turned to laughter I realized how lucky I am, perhaps a bit crazy at times and definitely overloaded and a bit overwhelmed, but all of that will pass, and when it does what I'll be left with are the incredible memories of this specific and incredible time in my life.