THE CEMETERY CLUB – North River Theatre, Norwell MA
Waiting to make my entrance stage right, I scan the backstage ‘scene’. Bare boards, partially used paint cans (probably filled with dried up paint), old brushes and pans, plenty of loose screws (we know where those came from!), a discarded living room chair, an ancient flat, folded stack of rags and dust – lots and lots of dust.
Onstage, one of my co-actors struggles with a line. Stops. Asks where’s she supposed to be standing. Tries the line again and flubs it again. Apologizes again. We all do that. Apologize. Of course, we were taught NOT to apologize for “going up” on a line – just say “line!” and hopefully someone is paying attention to the script and will give you what you forgot. A miracle really. I think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were someone out in the shadows ready to come to the rescue when you don’t know what to say – out there in the real world? ”
I’m pretty comfortable with my degree of readiness for the next scene. We’ve been in rehearsal for several weeks and I’ve worked hard. I had trepidation about taking on live theatre again – it’s been almost 20 years since I got on stage. At my advanced age, I truly did not know if I could memorize lines and, I have to admit, it is more difficult now than it used to be when my mind did not have these disturbing cobwebs. So, I work harder to accomplish what once was almost second nature. Ah well.
I know that preparing for a play is almost all-consuming. Well, for me, anyway. Recording the lines. Playing them over and over until every actor’s part is glued into place. Building the character ~Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here – in this situation, at this point in time, with all these other people? Where am I going? What do I want? Then – why doesn’t this scene work? What’s missing? Why doesn’t it flow? Waking up in the middle of the night, playing it over and over , watching it in my mind. How can I make it better?
It’s enough to drive a normal person crazy.
So, why do this to myself? It’s not for the applause, the recognition, the glamour (haha). Truth be told, I would do it all gladly without ever performing in front of an audience. It is the building process that I am addicted to. Creating the world that I temporarily occupy. And, when the process ends, the world goes away and I go away, to return to the real life that has been subdued for a while, waiting for me. Until next time.
Maybe I’m just like every other theatre person. Who knows? I do believe, though, that some people are just born with this – well, if not addiction by birth, then certainly a vulnerability to the disease. Maybe it’s genetic.
Theatre goers everywhere, know this: those people up there on the stage can’t help themselves. They are not normal. Be kind.