We are halfway through our season, which makes it sound like we still have a ton of shows, but there are only 6 more chances to see Henry V. Last night we were in my hometown of Torrance. And considering we hadn’t done the show since Saturday and we had an understudy going on, it went well! Steph came down to see how the show was holding up and was generally happy with how it has grown and still maintained the integrity of what we created. That’s a very important thing about growing a show. But this is a really good, talented, professional group of people. We all understand that the story is the most important thing, and so when there are subtle shifts they are always done with that in mind. I have been in shows where actors get a laugh and then just try to get a bigger laugh, or they completely change what they are doing because they aren’t “feeling it.” Those actors exhaust me. We don’t have any of those in Henry. Thank god.
Tour really does separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s always hot, we have to drive all over the world, and it’s hard work. But I am happy to report that nobody is broken this year. Except me, but that’s just because I’m old. (Lisa is worried about me because I keep saying how old I feel this year. I’m ok. I’m not really broken). These wonderful people are showing up! People have assumed offstage roles as well as masterfully portraying their roles onstage. Aaron has become the safety captain, and the set isn’t done until he gives it his seal of approval. Aldon is the master of lights. BJ is the upper deck czar, Jane has become the properties mistress, Jonathan is a freaking packhorse, unloading all the heavy stuff. Jon and Paul have made themselves indispensable by being the only two people who know how to put together the triangle platforms. Greg is our spirit leader with the music always playing in his pocket and engaging everybody with interesting conversation. We also found out yesterday that he’s the only one who knows how to put together the Stage Left demi-step. It took four people to replace him for that task…I was not one of them, as I was stymied early on. Ben is always available to help with anything. Which is great, because most of us can really only do the things we’ve done before. Sean is our early bird who does it all. Brendan is our ray of sunshine who does everything with a smile! Of course Olivia is our wardrobe mistress, and expert troll, and truck boss, and carrier of all the things…and anything else that needs to be done. Chris is our understudy extraordinaire who apparently can play any role without rehearsal. It was impressive. Andy and I are the grizzled veterans who have seen it all, and are able to fix what needs fixing. That’s our band of brothers and sisters. I really do adore them! And of course we have the wonderful crew of Sara, Cinthia, Sati, and Sydney (whom we miss, not because she’s dead or anything, she’s just out of town). Steph, Lisa, and all the wonderful volunteers who we couldn’t do any of it without. It takes a village.
And of course the audience makes it all worth doing. It makes me so happy to have so many friends show up to see this thing. I’ve had some really wonderful comments said about everybody in the show. There hasn’t been a performance when somebody didn’t talk to me about how wonderful somebody else in the show is. This delights me, because I think they are great! And I’ve had some very nice comments directed at me as well. Which I do appreciate. I’ve heard a few times about how good a listener I am onstage and that people check in with me to see how I am reacting in the sections when I am just observing as the Chorus.
The absolute goal of acting is to be able to live in the moment as if this is the first and only time you’ve ever done it. And you have to do that and still find your light (and mics), be where you were staged to be, and project beyond what is normal speech between two people. So, there are some obstacles. I would say that it’s a fool’s errand, but The closing night of Macbeth two years ago, I lived in that beautiful channel for the entirety of the performance. In the rest of my 30+ years of acting, I’ve probably been in that lovely spot for another two total hours. It’s really hard.
I’ve been thinking a lot about hearing things for the first time, and how that is easier than saying things for the first time. Listening and reacting is easy if you are interested. And when listening to Shakespeare, how can you not be interested? (This of course means that you aren’t worried about what you have to say next. I’m pretty good about knowing my stuff cold, although there will be hiccups, so I love paying attention to what is happening in the world of the play). But then you speak, and you fall into a rhythm of how you did it the first time (and I’m not speaking against consistency here! I think it is also one of the primary tools an actor has), ora plane flies overhead during your speech and you have to decide what to do about that, or you flub a word and your brain rolls its eyes at you momentarily, suddenly you are no longer in the play. So, the struggle to create that living moment of true art persists forever, and when you capture it, it is the most glorious thing, but (and here’s the rub) if you notice it…it is gone.
But I will keep chasing this elusive beast. For I caught him once, and it was glorious! I catch glimpses of him every time I act.
This got a lot more into the metaphysical aspects of acting than I anticipated when I started it. But when I am blogging, I’m always in the moment and let it carry me where it will.
See us next week in South Pasadena on Wednesday, Whittier on Friday, or Encino on Saturday! You won’t be disappointed.