Posts Tagged ‘Chekhov’

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.

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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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June, July, and August seem like figments of my imagination today.

New York City: Year 2, Day 22

The summer feels like something I dreamed of  in the dead sleeps I’ve been falling into after class and rehearsals lately. I’ve only just beginning the third week of classes, but it feels like I never left The New School for Drama.

It’s Sunday and I spent all day at school rehearsing, reading, writing, researching, visiting the vending machine on the second floor. At the moment, I’m sitting in my cozy apartment across from a tired Chris waiting for an order of Chinese food that was placed two hours ago and trying to memorize the Act I prologue in Henry V. “O for a muse of fire” keeps turning into “O for some crab rangoon”. Sorry, Shakespeare.

Papers and classes and rehearsals amass, but good news! In an exciting bit of casting, I will be playing the littlest of the famed Three Sisters in The Chekhov Project, coming to New York City in the Spring of 2011. I’m quite excited to becoming intimately acquainted with Irina, little idealist that she is.

As the weeks become longer and more and more full of work, I need to think of Irina. “Man must work, work in the sweat of his brow. No matter who he is, that’s the whole point of his life. And all his happiness.” Of course, she ends up renouncing work, agreeing to marry a man she doesn’t love who lets himself be killed in a duel, and leaving her sisters to run off to work again and probably become an alcoholic. On second thought, when the work starts weighing heavy, perhaps I’ll think of this weekend.

It was beautiful.

On Friday night, Christopher read a few of his poems at a reading at The Night Owl here in Brooklyn. I’m a proud girlfriend, proud of his damn fine poetry and of his willingness to share it. I may have had one beer too many and shared some words myself, but that’s another story. The Poet and I had a perfect Saturday, forsaking our work to wander bookstores, indulge in ice cream, browse the farmer’s market, listen to some music, read in the park, and celebrate with friends. Here are some photos of the day.

McGorlick Park.

I’m gearing up for a rough week. I need to hang onto these images. Sanity, Health… don’t fail me now.

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Katie and I are in a fight. 

A few days ago, she (being the trooper that she is) sat on the phone with me for a few hours and listened to me detail my anxiety about entering an MFA program in three weeks. She listened quietly as I explained my very-real plan to read all of Chekhov’s plays, re-read a good portion of the Shakespeare canon, and get through the remaining nine books on my reading list before the 22nd of August. In a very matter-of-fact tone, she said, “You’re insane.” 

That’s probably fair. 

But it was her attempt to calm me down that has planted another seed of insanity. With her usual sarcasm she pointed out, “No, you’re right. You’re going to walk into class on the first day and all of your classmates are going to have PhD’s in Russian Literature. You’re screwed.” Do I think all of my classmates are going to have PhD’s in Russian Literature? No. Do I now have my heart set on getting a PhD in Russian Literature? Absolutely. 

According to Princeton’s website, I’m going to need a solid command of the Russian language to enter to program. Anyone who doesn’t believe that I was a Barnes and Noble yesterday looking for  an “Introduction to Russian” CD has another thing coming. Should I be worried that this seems completely within the realm of possibility? “Sure, I can learn Russian and get a PhD. Why not?” I begin my education with this: 



Delusional? Sure. But, it’s really not that out of left field. I’ve had an insatiable love for Russian Literature since taking a course on The Brothers Karamazov my junior year of high school. Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Nabokov, Gogol– bring on the Russians, baby! Unfortunately, I am not remotely well-read in Chekhov. And that, as an actor, is embarrassing. Really embarrassing. 



So, in an attempt to save my eyes from unnecessary strain, Katie convinced me to limit my Chekhov reading in the next few weeks to The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, and Uncle Vanya. She sent me a few articles as supplemental reading. I sent her this message in return: 

“Thank you for the articles. Perhaps they’ll save me from three weeks of manically reading anything and everything I can get my hands on that has the word “theatre” in it. Also, I’m kind of angry with you for jokingly planting the seed of a PhD in Russian Literature. You shouldn’t say things like that. The wheels in my head that are constantly turning are now those of a troika. Thank you.”

But, this too shall pass. Maybe. One week, I want to captain a yacht in the Mediterranean. The next, I’m convinced I should spend my days as a train-hopping vagabond. Every other week, I decide that I’m going to get married, move to rural France, and have babies. But today, I’ve decided that I’m going to be the constant student and just keep acquiring degrees and debt until I’m blue in the face. All things I’d like to do, yes. But when I think about what I need, it’s a life in the theatre, so I suppose I’m doing the right thing. 

Though I can’t see it from my backyard, I certainly have Russia on the brain today. Fur hat and vodka in hand, I’m off to read. Do svidaniya, all! Stanislavski and Chekhov call. 


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