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Posts Tagged ‘The New School’

I spend my days in New York. I spend my evenings in Russia.

New York City: Year 2, Day 172

This week marks the third week of rehearsal for Branches: The Chekhov Project. Though I’ve spent a good deal of time in Three Sisters land, it’s been beautiful to watch the worlds start to merge. I’ve grown to love Irina dearly, but it’s also impossible for me to hear Nina call herself “the seagull” without lines from my own show echoing in my head– kind, old soldiers calling Irina a little while bird, Irina speaking of her impending marriage and saying “Suddenly now, it’s as if I had wings.” There are startling parallels, lovely images.

We’ve entered the period of the dark cloud during which many of us can’t remember our own names much less remember how to act (or so it feels). It’s an exciting time, though– a time of discovery. I love the rehearsal hall. We’ll move up to the theatre next week. I’ll miss the rehearsal shoes laced on over socks with ridiculous patterns, the safety pins being tucked into rehearsal skirts. I love the period vests worn over Packers t-shirts and the pockets watches safely placed in well-worn jeans. I’ll miss the early fumblings with scripts in-hand and the moments we all stood around the piano learning Russian folk songs. There’s such excitement in the move to the theatre, yes, but there’s something tatty and breathtaking about the early life of a play. I believe that. There’s magic in the tattiness of the theatre.

It is still winter in New York City. I love it here, though my snowy walks are usually filled with images of whatever my Moscow happens to be that day. Lindsey’s Moscow Variations has been on loop in my brain since I began preparing to play Irina. Today we rehearsed Act 1. This is a good thing. In Act 1, I still believe in Moscow. In Act 1, I’m still going to meet and marry the man I dream of. In Act 1, nobody’s hurt.

I think perhaps the most rewarding thing about this project so far has been watching these amazing characters come to life in the form of my dear friends. I get to go to rehearsal every night and see Daliya’s Sonya, Jessica’s Nina, Jacob’s Vanya, Siri’s Olga, Jeff’s Tuzenbach, Andreas’ Constantine. It’s a cast filled with people I love, characters I love.

Folks, brush up your Chekhov. Come see this.

I hope this puts you in the mood:

(P.S. Because it makes me feel less alone, I want to mention that someone found my blog yesterday by Google-searching “MFA Acting, no sleep”. That is a true story if I have ever heard one. It is 1AM. On that note, I’m off to transcribe a monologue into a Southern Irish dialect, work on a scene from Suddenly, Last Summer and listen to my landlord yell at his dogs. Goodnight.)

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It’s a Sunday evening in early October. The darker half of the year is beginning.

New York City: Year 2, Day 50

Sitting at my desk and watching the sun set over the park, I can smell the pumpkin pie Chris has baking in the oven and I’m anxious for the coming nights of fake cobwebs, fallen leaves, and autumnal ale. I’ve been dreaming of corn husks and scarecrows. I spend my days wishing I could go apple picking. But mostly, I’m eager for the ghost stories that this month brings.

On Friday, our merry band of actors performed Daniel Pearle’s gorgeous play, Three Women Against the Sea. I’d fallen in love with this play, with Ruth, the character who I got to live with briefly. The play opens with Ruth sitting on the beach in the middle of the night smoking a cigarette. She is joined by her sister-in-law, Oli, who informs her she has called the police to help look for Nana, their mother-in-law. We learn that Ruth and Oli were married to Nana’s sons, Ben and Eli, who died in a plane crash three years earlier and that today is the anniversary of their death. The women fight, they cut each other, they comfort each other. It’s a beautiful play– heartbreaking and hilarious and hopeful all at the same time. Daniel Pearle is a genius.

The writer’s next assignment is to take one of the characters from the play they’d written and carry them over into another play.

I spent most of Friday morning working with my sensory choices for Three Women Against the Sea, getting ready for the show. During my brief lunch break between Stage Combat, Clown and our performance, I caught Daniel watching an N’Sync video on YouTube on his computer. When I gave him a What the hell? look he said, “Oh, it’s for my next play. It takes place before the crash. Ruth and Ben and Eli are dancing together.” I burst into tears.

After we performed, Daliya, Angie, and I sat next each other in the theater and listened to the readings of the new plays with the new casts. I rested my head on Angie’s shoulder as Daniel introduced Catherine as Ruth and Jeff as Ben. I had just been living with Ruth, as Ruth, onstage moments before and there I sat, residuals of her in my bones, watching my dead husband sing karaoke with his twin brother. I cried at the memory I hadn’t had before.

It’s a beautiful thing, when the theatre conjures ghosts.

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Something in my dreams tells me I must be anxious about my approaching 2nd year at The New School for Drama.

New York City: Day 350 or 60something. I’m not great with numbers.

This morning, I was having a dream that I’ve had many times this summer. Always, I’m in Co-Lab, the four hours a week that my entire cohort (actors, directors, and playwrights) spend together creating new pieces. Always, one of my professors says, “And now we’ll begin the monologue presentations.” Always, I have no idea that I’m supposed to have a monologue prepared.

In one version of the dream, I ask to use the restroom, hoping that I can recall a monologue I already know, do a few quick bathroom stall runs of the text, and pray that I can redeem myself somehow later on in Co-Lab. I choose to do Nina from The Seagull. But upon returning to the theatre, I hear every one of my classmates (including the men) doing the exact same monologue and all of the them (including the men) are doing a far better job of it than I ever could.

In the version of the dream I had this morning, my entire cohort was in the auditorium of my grade school in Florida. We were all wearing the Catholic school uniforms that used to be so familiar to me. Someone drew the curtain on the stage and there were rows of desks under harsh stage light. After completing a three hour written test in front of a large audience, again a professor announced that it was time for the presentation of the monologues. Again, I panicked. This time, though, I immediately decided to do Chekhov because I didn’t know anything else. In this dream, all I had ever done was Chekhov and, of course, one-by-one all of my classmates proceeded to do Shakespeare while being accompanied on the piano by Kathy and Ellie— Co-Lab 2’s acting and directing professors. Pippin, the playwrighting professor, was nodding Yes or No to large men who carried away students that got the No.

Always, I wake up just as I’m about to perform.

Two weeks from today is the day when, in reality, I’ll be presenting the monologue of my choice for Co-Lab 2. I’m aware of the assignment. I’ve chosen a monologue that I’m excited about, one that couldn’t be further from Nina in The Seagull. So, why the anxiety? I wonder…

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