Tonight, we put the show on its feet.
New York City: Year 2, Day 173
Tonight, I felt incredibly lost. We ran the show from start to finish for the designers and the only reason I cried in the moments I was supposed to was because I was apologizing to them in my head– “I’m sorry you have to watch me right now. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m sorry.”
Sometimes I feel like I have no business setting foot onstage.
Period of the dark cloud– what did I say?
Two things make this alright.
One: This afternoon, my Scene Study professor handed us copies of a beautiful speech that Robert Prosky made in 1998.
He said, “I was being interviewed and was asked what it was like to be an actor for so long a time. My answer was that on the first day of rehearsal faced with a new script, a bare stage, and the whole panoply of theater surrounding me, the thought would occur that “I don’t know how to do this; I don’t even know where to start.” But, start we would and in the rehearsal process of four or five weeks, I would add a little bit of this or that, a note from the director, a look from another actor, an idea from the subtext, etc. and then the play would open to some success or even failure, but at least I’d gotten thru it. Then the thought would occur, “Aha, I’ve fooled them again! They haven’t found out yet that I don’t know how to do this.” Rex Harrison once said, “I have now gotten to the age when i must prove that I’m just as good as I never was.”
The speech continues, “It has been said that an actor must have the hide of a rhinoceros, the courage and audacity of a lion and most importantly, the fragile vulnerability of an egg. It has also been said and I’m not sure by whom, that the moment of not knowing is the moment that has the greatest potential for creativity. The professional and private lives of most actors are filled to the brim with moments of not knowing.
Actors get recognized all the time in the street or in the supermarket, but sometimes the people who recognize us don’t know why they do. They think we’re a long lost cousin or we sold a used car to them once in Minneapolis. We satisfy their curiosity by saying, “I am an actor,” but I think all actors have some doubt about that statement. We’re not really sure that we are actors, but we are sure that we are lifelong residents in the house of not knowing.”
Reason number two everything is ok: I came home tonight from a 17-hour day, my evening spent in Chekhovian Russia where my fiance was killed, where I never made it to Moscow. I was tired, a little sad, a little frustrated with myself. But there was a letter waiting for me from my dearest friend, Katie The Trooper, who is enduring her own Second Year MFA Acting experience at the University of Iowa. Inside the sealed envelope were temporary tattoos promoting her latest show, a picture of her crazy cat that used to curl up on my stomach in the lifetimes ago that we were near each other, a postcard with a picture of a small French child running down a street, and a letter of encouragement and assurance that she’d join me in New York soon and we’d continue doing the work we love. She wrote, “You need these things.” And I did.
Katie will be here soon. We’ll keep paying rent in the House of Not Knowing together. This thought makes me happy.
Casey is always telling us that where our fear is– that’s where our truth lies. I was scared tonight, but I’m ready to keep working, I’m thrilled that there is work that is frightening me, and I’m eager to find what the truth is.