Thursday October 1st, 2015
Still reeling a bit from last night’s first preview. Four weeks of work all leading up to the inevitable addition of a live audience, went really well. Terrifying and exhilarating, but the audience seemed really with us and with the story. Hearing an audience’s laughter is a big part of this, but also we as actors can truly ‘feel’ when an audience is with us. It’s hard to explain but any good actor will know what I’m talking about.
At the ‘places’ call Tom and I were in our dressing room chanting to each other and ourselves.”Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through this?” and afterwards the answer was clear.
"Because it makes us feel alive. More alive than anything."
I have said repeatedly in this blog that Travels with my Aunt is a very unique piece. A challenging piece for the four actors in it. I think I am beginning to understand why and hoping I can verbalize it in a way that makes sense to you, the reader.
Whenever we actors meet someone not in the field (a layperson) you can guarantee that the first question they ask will be “How do you memorize all those lines? I could NEVER do that!” My response usually is “It’s the job. In your job (whether you’re a banker, a teacher, an IT person, a lawyer, whatever) there are things that you have to learn (or memorize) that are just part of your job. And if you are an actor memorizing your lines is a given.”
However, with Travels, Tom, Dan and I have had found it incredibly difficult to learn the lines. Between the three of us there are many decades of experience in the business but we are all finding this particular play uniquely challenging.
As actors get older we all live in terror of ‘the day’ when learning lines becomes difficult. Since we are all about the same age I think we all felt perhaps like that ‘day’ had finally come. But, I think (well…pray!) that is not the case. In the process of rehearsing a play we ‘learn’ lines by getting them into our bodies. Usually this is tied to the movement (or blocking) and the intent of the character. Through repetition it eventually becomes a part of us in the same way that you just know your social security number, your ATM pin, your mother’s birthday, or which car on the subway is closest to your exit.
But Travels happens on basically a bare stage and we all jump back and forth from playing characters, direct address to the audience narrating what is happening and passing the main role of Henry Pulling around. The transitions from scene to scene and character to character happens instantly and very often. As it is based on a novel the story jumps around in a way unlike any conventional sort of play. This makes it so hard to ‘get it into our bodies’. That is where the particular terror of doing Travels comes in. We have all experienced a feeling unlike any play we’ve ever done. The feeling of “What comes next?” and “Please, PLEASE God, let it NOT be my line”. After an invited dress rehearsal and one preview the terror is minimizing and I know (well…pray) that with a bit more repetition and a few more previews under our belts, we can all start to breathe and trust that it will come.
Each night’s particular random grouping of 99 strangers who make up our audience are such a crucial and desperately needed part of the process. Those 99 people come to the theatre from work, dinner, drinks, school, good days, bad days, wherever. Some of them not even knowing what they are seeing until they open their program five minutes before we start and think “Hmmm…Travels with My Aunt? I wonder what this will be about?” But, we could never do it without you. There would be no point to all the work we put in.
So, as we begin this crazy ride of performances from now until November 14th, we are so thankful for each and every random grouping of 99 strangers. Let us take you on a ride for two hours. Trust us. You’ll be in good hands.
Ciao for now,