Friday, February 15, 2008

Mrs. Warren February 15th


Feb. 15, 2008

Nelda and Marie, two tennis playing friends from our town, came to see the show tonight. And they treated us to a fabulous 11 pm dinner at the Green Valley Grill. If you’re in Greensboro, I highly recommend it. The food is fantastic and we just had a splendid time.

On another note: audience members who arrive late to the theatre are usually seated at an appropriate moment during the play, not in the middle of some important scene. It’s to insure that neither the actors nor the audience is disrupted/interrupted. In this particular theatre we were told that they were not put into the seats they paid for, but some seats set aside for late comers at the back of the house. They could always move to their regular seats after intermission.

Anyway, on one or two occasions the ushers did not have them wait in the back of the house but on the sides. Which wouldn’t be too bad if we didn’t have to make entrances from the voms (Vomitorium: A passageway to the rows of seats in a theater.). But Rand and I came down from the dressingrooms for one of our entrances and there were two or three people lined up against the wall watching from the vom area.

How can I describe what an actor does prior to making an entrance and why it’s so important NOT to be confronted by audience members at that time? There is a little ritual we go through - some of us - not all, prior to making an entrance. It’s a very personal moment and very private. You might think of it in terms of those athletes who cross themselves before beginning a game or an event. It’s a prayer to the Muse in a sense, and in such you open your soul to all vulnerability of expression. You are about to abandon your “self” and dive into another “self” instantly. You are preparing your emotional being to become another. You are altering your own mind set and putting on the clothes of another soul. It’s a secret that can’t be described. It’s like you have to change the molecules in your body to dance to a different rhythm that is not you, but that OTHER creature. And you do all of that preparation in those moments before entering.

Jon, the lad playing the juvenile male lead would do push ups against the wall prior to our entrance to pump himself up. I would giggle and say “You’re not going to get me!” in a soft ad lib as we ran on stage together. Toward the end of the run I teased him by doing a couple of push ups against the wall myself. Prior to our entrance, Rand and I would just look at each other in a special way that had 21 years of marriage behind it and all the internal thought processes of the characters we were playing. I would twirl my parasol and he would smirk. That’s all it takes sometimes, and you’re there, in the moment in that instance.

But my point here is that it’s a PRIVATE moment. And it’s not for strangers’ eyes. And when strangers are there - it’s totally off-putting, very upsetting and unsettling because it disturbs your routine. You can’t be YOU. You aren’t free to contact the Muse. I would liken it to watching a magician set up his magic trick. If you see how it’s done it destroys the magic. And what we do is magic.

It’s the same reason I lost sleep over having to greet the audience every night at CentreStage. After the curtain call they demanded that you stand in a receiving line of sorts and meet and talk to your audience. Still in costume! NOOOOOOO. It smacks of community theatre and destroys the magic. Not that there’s anything wrong with community theatre. Not a bit. But it is NOT professional theatre. There is a great distance between the actor and his audience in professional theatre. In community there is less of one, where you’re slapping your friend on the back and saying, “Hey, Bob, that sure was a great job ya did!” It just ain’t the same and there’s no way you can explain this to a layman. You might say it’s the difference between someone doing it for fun and those that make their living at it. The difference between playing pro basketball and playing it in the back lot.

Would you go up to a pro ball player and say, “Yeah, I played ball in college. Boy, I remember that game where I...” As if your experience in any way could equate with theirs. No. You don’t do that with athletes. But you DO do it with actors. The minute you tell someone you’re an actor they say one of three things. Usually at least two. They say, eventually, “I used to act in college. I was in X...production, playing...X role.” (They are attempting to identify with your experience here.) Or - “I have a nephew in NY who’s done very well in theatre. His name is X...do you know him?” Or - “What famous person do you know?” Frankly I don’t care about your college experience in “You Can’t Take it With You,” I don’t know your nephew, and I’m insulted when you ask me what “famous” person I have worked with.

People who aren’t in the theatre - laymen (civilians we call you) - haven’t a clue. Maybe this will give you one.

2 comments:

Dan said...

OMG! This post was cracking me up. can't imagine that they would put people there like that. Fascinating what actors do behind the scenes getting ready to come out.

By the way, did I ever tell you about that acting I had in high school???? KIDDING! KIDDING! .... LOL

Giulia said...

And you don't know the HALF of it. Remind me to tell you about the back stage goings on when I was doing Miss Julie at the Roundabout...

The minute you tell me about the acting you did in high school you're a broker that we USED to work with.....LIAB (laughing in a bag)