Tonight we had our last R&J tour performance. Friday night we’re back in Pt. Fermin for our final peformance. Bittersweet feelings all around. I think I can speak for everybody when I say we really don’t want to load the truck again, and driving to a new location every night is a Herculean task. But at the same time this has been a really great summer. We all really care for one another, and we have a damn good show that we’re thrilled to do.
We performed at the Terranea resort tonight, which is this amazing 5 star resort in Palos Verdes. A stunning setting, and a wonderful audience to end our R&J tour. Many of us had family in attendance, which is always great. Barb’s folks were there for the millionth time (they are the best) along with her darling niece, Sky’s mom came all the way from Long Island to see her Nurse it up, and my wife and her side of the family were there as well. As an actor, I want every show to be amazing, but I really want the shows that I have somebody in the crowd to be amazing. Fortunately, our show keeps getting more and more amazing.
I’ve been working on a few things over the last week, because I believe that you never stop working…that you’ve never arrived at the finished product. (And one of the great things about live theatre is that you keep on finding new things and deeper understandings of the text whether you are seeking to or not). But I do seek, and I keep on finding more and more stuff.
Last week, as I was driving through the hell that was the journey to Chino Hills (see previous blog), warming up and going through my roles, I began to wonder about the completion of the journey of both the Prince and Mercutio. I had an epiphany about Mercutio, which I couldn’t wait to share with Cy and ask for his help to achieve. And this was it: Mercutio is so full of bluster and cover (of his true feelings), but there has to be that moment when he really accepts he’s going to die and the cover is blown. I wasn’t really letting that happen, partially because I detest self-indulgence, but mostly because I didn’t recognize the need to be vulnerable to such a basic human truth as death. By omitting this, I feel that I had short changed Mercutio, Romeo, Benvolio, and the entire audience. So I wanted to rectify this. And I got this idea…and like most ideas actors try to play, it never got out of my head, and left me somewhat frustrated. However, opening myself up to the possiblilty of vulnerability did something quite wonderful for the Prince. Both in the scene where Lady Capulet (Lila) is crying for justice for Tybalt, and Lord Montague (Ben) is chastising the Prince over his wife’s death, I was overwhelmed with empathy.
Lila has been working on her clarity this summer. (And all determined/committed actors are always working on something). Her vocal, emotional, and intellectual understanding of the moment have now come together in a major way, and the loss is palpable. I was moved. Ben’s choice to reprimand the Prince for his wife’s death is a really awesome understanding of the moment, and has given me something really exciting to play off all summer. However, the other night looking down on the dead Juliet, lying atop dead Romeo really hit me hard. I found it very hard to hold it together and get through the end of the play. Some of that is probably because I have a daughter and the idea of her going before me is more than I can stand, but largely I think it is because I have finally been brave enough to bring myself to the role and imagine what it must really be like to be caught in this horror.
Acting is hard. It’s glorious, and amazing, and a joy. But in this line of work, we are constantly asked to give all our intellectual, physical, and emotional selves…and that’s scary. And it can be confusing, when you’re playing roles like Mercutio and the Prince, who live their lives behind masks. (One of cynicism for Mercutio, and duty and status for the Prince).
Sky asked me tonight why it always got such a big laugh when (after stabbed by Tybalt) I say: “Oh, I am hurt.” And I believe it is because the audience identifies in themselves what it’s like to downplay an injury, and cover true pain with bluster. It’s funny because it’s so human. We all know how to hide ourselves from the vulnerablilty of the moment. We do it all the time. Tonight I was finally able to go the extra mile and allow the cover to drop, and in my final moments as Mercutio I feel like I really connected with Cy and Amani, and the audience got more of the truth because of it. There was this sadness and disappointment with Romeo, and this need to hang on for Benvolio. I really love the Benvolio/Mercutio relationship that has been growing all summer. Amani is the kind of scene partner we all hope that we can be. Just in it. Always. I’ve been very lucky to share all my scenes with her this year.
I can only imagine what Friday will bring. I love closing night because something magical always happens. There is also magic to opening a show, but closing is more intense. When you open a show, adding the element of the audience creates purpose and excitement. In closing, there’s this sort of purging, and letting go that really enables the story to play through you while you go along for the ride, knowing you’ll never say these words again, or have these moments. In a lot of ways, it’s easier to believe that this is the first time you’ve ever said these words because it’s the last. Not sure why that’s true, but I believe it is.
I hope to write one more blog to sum up the season, but if not, thanks for reading and coming out and seeing the shows.