Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Acting Life

So I've hit this strange sort of section in my life lately where I'm really looking back/

assessing things/

trying to figure out what's next/

how to proceed.

I'm a lot less busy right now, which helps to nurture such a luxurious state: I usually can't afford the time to think of such things.

And I've realized I typically work about 12 hours a day: teaching during the day, then a show or rehearsal at night.

In between I'm writing whatever it is I'm writing (last year it was Superheroine Monologues, The Salt Girl and The Hotel Nepenthe plus Grimm and this short play for Emerson coming up).

If I do have free time, I'm either sleeping, shopping for food, cleaning the house or trying to spend time with Tommy.

It's tricky to even keep in touch with friends with a schedule like that.

So I'm really LOVING the free time.
It feels alien and wonderful.

Last year was particularly brutal: I began rehearsals for The Caretaker and teaching pretty much simultaneously.

Once The Caretaker opened, I began rehearsals for The Salt Girl, while still teaching and performing at night.

We cobbled together a rehearsal schedule around our free time. Since I was the only actor, it was a little easier to do that.

The remounting of Superheroines at the BCA was also occurring at this point, but I was so busy, I never even saw it, which really broke my heart.
There was only one performance I could make that didn't conflict with my rehearsal schedule, and I threw my back out during it - completely immobilized. (I have a feeling stress was involved. Maybe.)

I have still never seen the noir Wonder Woman re-write.
Also, The Caretaker only has three characters, so we were always called to every rehearsal.
And such a grueling play, I felt like a truck hit me after every performance.

After five weeks, The Caretaker closed on a Sunday and The Salt Girl opened that Wednesday, so the tech overlapped (I don't think I ate or slept during that period...).

The Salt Girl was even more grueling than The Caretaker. I felt like a truck hit me after every performance, after being struck by lightning and raped by a giraffe.

Once The Salt Girl opened, I began directing The Magic Flute at BoCo (just the first act, but still....) and teaching on top of that, of course.

The Magic Flute is in outer space in my version, with Tamio running around in tights with his underwear on the outside, like Captain Kirk. Such a blast!

Once The Salt Girl closed I immediately starting rehearsing Midsummer.

Midsummer goes into tech during Christmas and opens right about when school gets back into session.

During the Spring semester, I'm teaching full time again at BoCo PLUS a class at Suffolk.

Midsummer closes, and the show I put together with my seniors at BoCo opens. It's an original piece that they wrote/perform themselves, called Cosmic Certainty.
It's about the Zodiac, and seeing into the future, and the Post Office.

I'm directing it.

I'm also the stage manager.
And the set designer.

I also, with Trent Mills, create the lightning design.

They make all the sound effects themselves, which is a relief and really cool.

After this period, I go into rehearsal for Timon of Athens.

Still teaching, with three finals coming up now, which are really one-night performances that I'm curating/directing.

Both grad theses that I'm advising go up: a show about Mary Martin and a show about Gyspy Rose Lee.

Reading of The Hotel Nepenthe with The Village Theatre Project, so I'm re-writing that.

Timon opens.

School ends.

Timon closes.
Somewhere in there I get this weird infection in my elbow (!) which requires two trips to the emergency room.
A week in DC/ visiting T's family.
A trip to NC to see my Granny (she's 93 and sharp as a tack!).
And now I'm here.

But here's the thing: I don't know of any actor who wouldn't be that busy, if they could.
I felt very lucky.
I WANTED to do The Caretaker. I LOVE that play. I will probably never get a chance to play Aston again (I'm a bit old to play him now).
It was such a difficult joy to perform.

And I NEEDED to do The Salt Girl. I've been working on it for years. I don't think I could be more proud of it, or feel more blessed.
I was on board for Midsummer since the summer before, and Timon, well, I LOVE that play too: such a difficult text, and a real challenge.

And that's really part of it: actors jump at the chance to perform, in spite of crazy schedules and the impossibility to make a living or have a life.

I would perform in drag on a moving sight-seeing train for senior citizens, if someone asked me to. (and I have!)

Karen MacDonald put it so well, that we NEED to do this, somehow. It's just a part of us.

But my year coming up looks VERY different from last year.

I don't really have any acting work.

At all.

For the first time in over a decade, I have very little to do, acting-wise.

I'll be performing in The Hotel Nepenthe for 2 weeks in February (which I'm very excited about), and that's it (and that seems like a million years from now).

The landscape has totally changed over the last year and a half.

New Artistic Directors have appeared in theatres where I used to work frequently.

Directors that liked to work with me have gone away, or have nothing for me.

If I was in need of health insurance this year, I would be totally screwed.

But I'm not, thank god.

And, in a way, because my insurance isn't on the line, I feel strangely relieved.
Note: Equity actors need to work 20 weeks out of the year to qualify for their health insurance.

If you don't work the 20 weeks, you get dropped, which is a terrifying prospect, and seems unfair. After all, if you're sick, how can you work?

And acting isn't something you can do well when you're sick, though we all do it, again and again.

(I was SO sick and drugged on cold medicine during tech for The Caretaker that I think it actually helped me understand my brain-damaged character a little better...)

But if I know anything, I know that this happens.

There is no stability in this profession, and we will always be scrambling.

I remember forming a real close working relationship with a theatre company when I was just starting out here in Boston: I did 10 plays with them in the span of 5 years.


Including 5 that I wrote.

That's still more than any other theatre company I've worked for.

Let's see if I remember them:

Fifth of July.
Party Poopers.
Freaks! (in 3 incarnations)
After School Special.
The SantaLand Diaries.
Actorz...with a Z.
Balm in Gilead.
I think that's it. Maybe I'm missing one.
That's a lot of shows for such a short time.
I assumed, given that history, that we would continue working together for quite awhile.
Never assume.
The last time I worked for them was in 1999.

They had a change of programming, a different direction they wanted to explore, and I haven't been hired by them since.

If someone told me that 10 years ago, I would have checked to see which leg they were pulling.

But these things happen, and I feel no bitterness about it at all.

Just bewildered.

There are opportunities.

And then suddenly there are none.

And the company is still doing great, now considered one of the best theatres in the city: they produce wonderful work, and I wish them nothing but the best, now and always.

But as I tell my students, that is the nature of this business: there is no stability, no loyalty, no security.

You will never be right for every role in every production, no matter how versatile you are (though Meryl could make an argument there...)

For Tommy, the situation is even worse: after 30 years with the ART, the new artistic director has let him and the entire acting company go.

It's pretty devastating.

I have a lot of feelings about that situation, but for now, I will keep them to myself.

But I will say that I'm glad that we live in Massachusetts, and that we are married, so he can use my health insurance, if need be.

All in all, I feel like there's been lots of change, but not always for the worse.

I'm just as busy, but in a different way.

I took a new teaching gig.

I'm directing a new musical at BoCo in the fall.

And while I'm working less as an actor, I'll actually be making slightly more money and have much more free time.

Which is a sad state of affairs, but it's just the truth: stage actors do not make money.

And because I'm not in rehearsals/performance every night, I have more time to write and focus on playwrighting.

So Rick Park and I are writing another show for Greg Mariao.

Which is heaven, working with them both.

It's just different.

And it feels weird, to not be acting.

But I guess what feels really weird is that I don't mind.

After all, it's tiring.

It's exhausting.

It's relentless.

God, I will miss it.

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